Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Recommendations: The Graphic Novel Edition

For the past few months, I've been on a graphic novel bender.  I know some people hear the words "graphic novel" and immediately think "crappy comic book for adolescent boys."  Not so!  The graphic novels I have been reading rank among some of the best books I have ever read.  I kind of want to go back to school, get a PhD in English, and then teach a seminar about graphic novels at a small liberal arts college in New England. 

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is one of the best books I have ever read.  It's the story of a middle aged architect/professor who starts over and moves to rural America when his New York apartment burns to the ground.  Every drawing adds something to the story.  Mazzucchelli uses different drawing techniques throughout the book to show how the characters feel and to show how different people have different perspectives about the same thing.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.  I want to lend my copy to everyone I know, but I also want to keep it safe at home because I need to reread it every month, for the rest of my life.    

Blankets by Craig Thompson is a contemporary story about growing up and falling in love for the first time.  Except it is so much more complicated than that.  It's 592 pages, and I was sad when I reached the last page.

If Pride & Prejudice married Lord of the Rings, their graphic novel baby would be Castle Waiting, Volumes One and Two by Linda Medley.  Castle Waiting is set in a medieval fantasy world, but a fantasy story usually involves a quest or a villian that must be overthrown.  But not Castle Waiting.  It's a collection of stories about the characters living in Sleeping Beauty's old castle.  I wish there were more books like this.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is a graphic memoir.  It's about the author's childhood and her fraught relationship with her late father.  Bechdal learned that her father was gay shortly after she came out as a lesbian in college.  A couple of weeks later, her father was hit and killed by a truck.  This memoir unravels Bechdel's relationship with her father and explores the question as to whether his death was suicide or accident.  It is honest and raw but funny. 

If you are interested in reading a graphic novel/memoir, I highly recommend any of these books.  If you are not interested in reading a graphic novel/memoir, I still highly recommend all of these books.