15 Best Carl Hiaasen Books: Tales of Savage Humor from the Sunshine State

Get a glimpse of Florida with the best Carl Hiaasen books – fast-paced, punchy, easy-to-read, and thoroughly funny novels from the Sunshine State’s favorite son.

We have created a list of the best Carl Hiaasen books for your enjoyment, and we are pretty sure you will enjoy them all!

The 70-year-old Florida-born novelist Carl Hiaasen is known around the world for his biting humor and environmentalist stance. Hiaasen’s books have been published in 34 languages, according to his official website. The London Observer has called him “America’s finest satirical novelist,” while The New York Times has compared him to Preston Sturges and S.J. Perelman, which is high praise indeed. 

After graduating from the University of Florida at 23, Hiaasen went to work as a reporter and investigator at Florida’s Miami Herald. His opinion column, which he wrote from 1985 to 2021, was merciless toward every major politician in the state. 

Hiaasen began writing novels in the early 1980s. His first three novels were written with fellow journalist William D. Montalbano, and his first solo novel was published in 1986. His experience as a journalist and daring writing style permeated his books well. Hiaasen’s go-to themes of environmentalism and corruption hinge on his home state Florida, where he still lives.

“The first rule of hurricane coverage is that every broadcast must begin with palm trees bending in the wind.”

Carl Hiaasen.

With his unique style and humor, Hiaassen carved himself a special place in modern American literature. All his novels are set in Florida. Eleven of them became national bestsellers, and some were adapted for the big screen. 

Below is a list of 15 of his books that are well worth a read. If you enjoy the style, make sure to check out other authors like Carl Hiaasen.

Best Carl Hiaasen Books Ranked

1. Tourist Season

Tourist Season
Tourist Season is Hiaasen’s first solo book

Published in 1986, Tourist Season established Carl Hiaasen as a top mystery writer in the United States. The book begins when the legless body of the local chamber of commerce president is found floating in the canal in Miami. Unwilling to scare off tourists, locals hide the murder but an eager reporter / private detective is already on the case. 

All of Hiaasen’s books take aim at the corruption of officials and the destructiveness of big business developers, but Tourist Season perhaps does so the most, almost arguing for the case of an environmentalist terrorist organization, the Nights of December. 

Dark and rageful, the book barrels toward a suspense-filled ending. Thought-inducing, dark but also amusing, Hiaasen’s first book is a definite page-turner. 

“‘It’s pretty tough to keep the lid on mass murder,’ remarked the Miami police chief. ‘God knows we’ve tried.’”

Carl Hiaasen, Tourist Season
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02/19/2024 05:36 am GMT

2. Double Whammy

Double Whammy
The book introduces the character of Skink, a lunatic eco-warrior who breeds chaos

Written the following year, 1987, Double Whammy is, according to Carl Hiaasen’s official website, “the first (and possibly only) novel ever written about sex, murder, and corruption on the professional bass-fishing tour.” 

Brutally entertaining and wacky, therefore thorough Floridian, the book follows R.J. Decker, an ex-con with a short temper who lives in a trailer park. Corrupt TV evangelists, bass-fishing millionaires, and a pair of redneck murderous brothers complete the cast. As a pro-bass fishing tournament reunites the diverse characters, bodies start to appear. 

Funny, albeit bloody, this fast-paced Hiaasen classic proves to be top-tier entertainment that will be hard to put down.

“In person, the act of fishing was boring enough; watching someone else do it seemed like a form of self-torture.”

Carl Hiaasen, Double Whammy
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02/19/2024 05:42 am GMT

3. Bad Monkey

Bad Monkey
This is the first book in the Andrew Yancy series

After attacking his mistress’ husband, Andrew Yancy is demoted from policeman to restaurant inspector in the Florida Keys. Still, he’s looking to solve a big case and clear up his name by using the human arm he has in his freezer. Hiaasen’s flawed hero is thrust into the midst of unredeemable villains, rascals, and gorgeous women. 

Bad Monkey takes the reader from the Keys to the Bahamas, sprinkling it with zany characters and even zanier plots and subplots. With that much material to work with, it is no wonder that Apple TV+ is currently producing a series based on the book. The show stars Vince Vaughn and is being developed by Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence.

“The victim’s hand was contracted into a fist except for the middle digit, which was rigidly extended.”

Carl Hiaasen, Bad Monkey
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02/19/2024 05:45 am GMT

3. Razor Girl

Razor Girl
The book is the second installment of the Andrew Yancy series

Razor Girl, published in 2017, follows Merry Mansfield, a.k.a. The Razor Girl, a swindler who intentionally crashes into other people’s cars for insurance. Her signature move is asking for a ride after rear-ending people’s cars, adding that she was rushing off to a date. 

Her nickname comes from her preferred excuse – namely that she was shaving her private parts with a razor when the accident occurred. This time, however, she targets the wrong guy. Enter Lane Coolman, a Hollywood agent who provides much of the book’s satire. 

A top-notch plot featuring the Mafia, rednecks, and crooks, not to mention the detective Andrew Yancy, and more than enough paragraphs that will have readers laugh out loud, round off Razor Girl. In the background, Hiassen’s social commentary and importance given to environmental protection in his home state of Florida add more weight to the story. 

“Her given name was Lucinda but she’d called herself Juveline since age fifteen, when she’d been caught selling knockoff Burberry totes and a cop at the booking desk misspelled the word “juvenile.”

Carl Hiaasen, Razor Girl
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02/19/2024 05:46 am GMT

5. Squeeze Me

Squeeze Me
The book was a 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for Best Humor

Published in 2020, Squeeze Me is a New York Times bestseller and typically Hiaasian, with its hilarious cast of Palm Beach’s geriatric high society, US presidents – who bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain real-life Florida-dwelling president – Burmese pythons, and wildlife wranglers. 

The book starts with the unlikely disappearance of aging presidential supporter Kiki Fitzsimmons. The president, codenamed Mastodon by the Secret Service, immediately blames the socialite’s vanishing on immigrants. Meanwhile, wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong is determined to prevent Diego, an innocent illegal immigrant from Honduras who was blamed for Fitzsimmons’ disappearance, from languishing in jail.

A product of the pandemic and the Trump years, the book’s take on a murder mystery, sprinkled with political puns, makes it an enjoyable read. 

“Mastodon railed on a while longer, making air quotes with his stubby doll fingers whenever mentioning the name Diego.”

Carl Hiaasen, Squeeze Me
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02/19/2024 07:33 pm GMT

6. Wrecker

As well as brutal adult novels, Hiaasen also wrote numerous books for young readers

Published in 2023 and set in Key West during the Covid era, Wrecker is one of Hiaasen’s Young Adult novels. It deals with grave robbers, smugglers, and a daring 15-year-old young boy, Wrecker. 

Left by his musician father, Wrecker lives with his mother, step-sister, and step-father, earning money by keeping a grave at the local cemetery clean. 

The central character, Valdez Jones VIII, calls himself Wrecker because one of his ancestors salvaged shipwrecks for a living. When Wrecker comes across a speedboat that has run aground, the men in the boat first want him to keep quiet, then serve as their lookout. 

Introspective and full of disturbing history, the book offers an exciting YA mystery for older teens. 

Wrecker is full of Floridian local history, interwoven with racism, environmentalism, and COVID-19. It is a captivating story. 

Fans of Wrecker should check out our list of the best young adult books.

“The code of the sea says you don’t leave fellow mariners stranded.”

Carl Hiaasen, Wrecker
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02/19/2024 05:42 am GMT

7. Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip
Skinny Dip is the fifth book featuring the character known as “Skink.”

Skinny Dip follows beautiful Joey Perrone after she is tossed off a cruise ship by her husband, Chaz. A strong swimmer, she survives by holding onto a floating bale of Jamaican marijuana and is rescued by former cop Mick Stranahan. Joey hatches a scheme to get back at her homicidal husband. 

The book, published in 2004, features another set of whacky characters that populate Hiaasen’s books, from pain relief patch addicts to Minnesota cops hardly surviving the Florida heat. The author sprinkles information about the Everglades throughout the story, criticizing the government for its failed attempts at protecting the Sunshine State’s swamps.

Hiaasen’s books are all humorously grim takes on human nature. They are full of vile villains and imperfect heroes, but under the satirical veneer and windy plots, the Floridian author imbues his stories with an unmistakable moralizing tone that the reader can resonate with and enjoy, and Skinny Dip is a perfect example.

“The detective had moved to Fort Lauderdale from St. Paul because his wife had inexplicably yearned to experience humidity.”

Carl Hiaasen, Skinny Dip
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02/19/2024 05:42 am GMT

8. Strip Tease

Strip Tease
The movie Striptease (1996) was based on Hiaasen’s book and featured Demi Moore as the central character

The at-times perplexing plot, quirky characters, Hiassian humor, and good old-fashioned skilled writing are enough to entice any reader to keep flipping the pages of Strip Tease.

Stripper Erin Grant is at the center of a big cover-up. One of her fans offers to blackmail a congressman, who is in attendance at one of her shows, to help her get custody of her daughter. The former’s body is later found by Florida detective Al Garcia. 

A series of twists and turns follow, leading to one of Hiaasen’s most complex and beloved stories despite a disappointing screen adaptation. Readers will also witness the transformation of Erin, a helpless victim at first, into an unstoppable go-getter. 

“Garcia wondered why people with JESUS stickers on their bumper always drove twenty miles per hour under the speed limit. If God was my co-pilot, he thought, I’d be doing a hundred and twenty.”

Carl Hiaasen, Strip Tease
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02/18/2024 06:56 pm GMT

9. Hoot

Hiaasen’s children’s book debut was a Newberry Honor winner and #1 New York Times bestseller

Written in 2002, Hoot is one of Carl Hiaasen’s books directed at younger readers, but it can also be thoroughly enjoyed by adults. 

Hoot can be best described as an ecological thriller mystery, offering the perspective of youngsters on the law, adults, and the environment. Most importantly, parents and children can read it together for a change.

The story follows an awkward kid and his feral friend, along with run-of-the-mill young bullies, pranks, and owls – all nestled in Florida’s hidden nooks and crannies. 

“Sometimes you’re going to be faced with situations where the line isn’t clear between what’s right and what’s wrong. Your heart will tell you to do one thing and your brain will tell you to do something different. In the end, all that’s left is to look at both sides and go with your best judgment.”

Carl Hiaasen, Hoot
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02/19/2024 05:42 am GMT

10. Basket Case

Basket Case
The book offers scathing social commentary directed at the author’s home state, a Hiaasen trademark

Quirkiness is the central theme in Carl Hiaasen’s 2002 novel Basket Case. Humorous and wild, bordering on implausible, the book offers the usual colorful cast of characters that always populate Hiaasen’s Florida, all mixed in a captivating plot. 

The book follows Jack Tagger, a reporter who got reassigned to the demeaning world of obituary writing for being a loudmouth. Now obsessed with his own death, Jack comes across the death of rocker Jimmy Stoma. Realizing something is off, he begins to investigate and stumbles upon some real trouble. Darkly funny and high-speed, Basket Case is Hiaasen in his prime.

“Nobody with a living brain cell goes into the newspaper business for the money. They’re in it because digging up the truth is interesting and consequential work, and for sheer entertainment, it beats the hell out of humping product for GE or Microsoft.”

Carl Hiaasen, Basket Case
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02/19/2024 05:41 am GMT

11. Nature Girl

Nature Girl
According to the New York Times Review, Nature Girl “gets off to a promisingly nutty start.”

Nature Girl centers around the lovable Honey Santana, a self-proclaimed “queen of lost causes.” 

We first meet Honey as she is angered by a telemarketer interrupting her dinner and decides to take revenge on him by luring him to a face-to-face confrontation in the Everglades. What Honey doesn’t know is that she is being pursued by her obsessive former employer, who in turn is being pursued by Honey’s ex-husband and their son Fry.

The situation quickly becomes explosive, with mutilations, cheating, and sex mixing in a classic, whacky Hiaasen fashion. The action takes place on Dismal Key off the Gulf Coast of southern Florida. 

“Hey. Sometimes life is a shit-flavored Popsicle.”

Carl Hiaasen, Nature Girl
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02/19/2024 05:56 am GMT

12. Skink – No Surrender

Skink - No Surrender
The book is the seventh to feature Skink, one of the most memorable of Hiaasen’s characters

Published in 2014, Skink – No Surrender is a YA adult novel featuring the crazy, feral, one-eyed eponymous ex-governor Skink. The story begins when 14-year-old Malley runs away from home to avoid being sent to a boarding school in one of the colder states. Her cousin Richard decides to track her down with the help of 72-year-old eco-warrior Skink. 

Together, the two scour Florida, going through several misadventures involving snakes and gators as they search for Malley. 

Complex and charismatic, the character of Skink carries the book, making it another worthy read. 

“My father used to say that you live most of your life inside your own head, so make sure it’s a good space.”

Carl Hiaasen, Skink – No Surrender
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02/19/2024 05:41 am GMT

13. Star Island

Star Island
Star Island is acclaimed as Hiaasen’s most hilarious, gripping novel to date

Carl Hiaasen is a master at conveying humor with a sharp veneer of moral outrage. In Star Island, he takes aim at the celebrity culture of the day. It follows talentless pop star Cherry Pye, who spends her days in a daze of booze, sex, and drugs. 

After an initial success, Cherry’s star is fading, and her musical future is riding on a new CD. The young singer, however, can hardly mobilize herself, so her handlers hire a look-alike to stand in for Cherry at events – who is then kidnapped. 

Readers of Star Island will no doubt catch themselves laughing at Hiaasen’s unbeatable humor, but the underlying pointed critique of contemporary obsessions with the famous will also be hard to miss. 

“A quick puke, two rails of blow, and she was solid.”

Carl Hiaasen, Star Island
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02/19/2024 05:42 am GMT

14. Team Rodent

Team Rodent
The book is one of Hiaasen’s non-fiction works, and it is only 96 pages long

In Team Rodent, written in 1998, Hiaasen asserts that there is a dark underbelly to Disney. His accusations, collected from several of his essays focusing on Disney World and its effects on Florida’s environment and culture, are made with humor but remain, nevertheless, scathing.

As Hiaasen writes, “No scandal is so delectable as a Disney scandal.” The Floridian writer’s known hatred of the company is evident throughout Team Rodent

“If anything is more irresistible than Jesus, it’s Mickey.”

Carl Hiaasen, Team Rodent
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02/19/2024 07:41 pm GMT

15. Lucky You

Lucky You
Lucky You was first published in 1991

In Lucky You, veterinarian assistant JoLayne Lucks plays the same lotto numbers she’s played for five years. Each number represents the age at which she dumped a lover. This time, however, luck is on her side. But she won only half the prize. 

The other half was won by a rapist and white supremacist named Bode, who feels like he should not have to share. Together with other scum of the earth, he decides to attack JoLayne and steal her ticket. 

Violence, humor, and luck mix again in a legendary Florida tale told by one of the state’s favorite authors. 

“It was inevitable that the poacher and the counterfeiter would bond, sharing as they did a blanket contempt for government, taxes, homosexuals, immigrants, minorities, gun laws, assertive women, and honest work.”

Carl Hiaasen, Lucky You
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02/19/2024 05:42 am GMT