Confession: I used to avoid graphic novels.
I didn’t have anything against them, per se. I mean, I liked fiction and I liked art, but the combination of the two of them just never occurred to me as something I’d want to read.
I changed my mind about graphic novels after reading Art Spiegelman’s classic Maus and also Gris Grimly’s adaptation of Frankenstein.
It’s still not a genre I read widely in, admittedly, but now, whenever I hear that a book is a graphic novel, my first instinct is no longer to automatically assume it won’t be for me.
To that end, if you were like me a few years ago and think graphic novels aren’t your thing, here are some recommendations that illustrate the great variety within the genre.
If you like upbeat romances:
Ananth Hirsh’s Lucky Penny (2016)
Ananth Hirsch’s YA romance Lucky Penny follows its hapless protagonist as she bounces from one zany misfortune to another. Along the way, she might just find romance and something resembling her being a responsible adult. Based on a popular webcomic, this book received a lot of acclaim when it was released earlier this year for its sense of humor, as well as for Penny’s inherent likability.
Recommended for those who enjoy Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work.
If you love science fiction:
Jeff Lemire’s Descender Book 1 (2015)
The first in a series, Descender is set in a universe where robots are outlawed and pursued by bounty hunters. Obviously, complications ensue for the robot protagonist of the story as he tries to stay one step ahead of the people chasing him. This book won Lemire a lot of praise for its engaging main character and the quality of his artwork.
Recommended for those who enjoy work by Brian K. Vaughan and Jeff Smith.
If you enjoy atmospheric noir:
Daniel Alarcon’s City of Clowns (2015)
Set in Peru, City of Clowns focuses on Oscar Uribe, a young tabloid reporter who is struggling with the recent death of his father, as well as devastating revelations about his father’s personal life. In the middle of his pain and confusion, he also finds himself fascinated with the street clowns of Lima, Peru. This story originally appeared in one of the author’s other works as a short story, but Alarcon revamped it into this stunning, haunting graphic novel.
Recommended for those who enjoy Roberto Ampuero’s and Carolina De Robertis’s work.
If you love history:
Jonathan Fetter-Vorm’s and Ari Kelman’s Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War (2015)
Not interested in reading a fictional story right now? Consider instead this vivid re-creation of the American Civil War. Ranging in focus from life at home to the battlefields themselves, historian Ari Kelman and illustrator Jonathan Fetter-Vorm bring this historical period to life.
Recommended for those who enjoyed Sally M. Walker’s Secrets of a Civil War Submarine.
If you prefer alternative history:
Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (2015)
If Battle Lines sounds too grim, you might try Sydney Padua’s whimsical The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. The book is inspired by Padua’s webcomic, which envisions a world where Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage actually built the computer they wrote about in the 1840s. Of course, adventures ensue.
Recommended for those who enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602.
If you want some literary fiction:
Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor (2015)
David Smith is a gifted sculptor, but that doesn’t stop him from making a literal deal with the devil–in exchange for being able to create anything he wants with his bare hands, David only has 200 days left to live. Initially, David thinks it’s a pretty good deal because he only lives for his art, but he quickly finds that the deal he made isn’t much of a bargain when he can’t decide what to make with these amazing new skills. On top of all that, as his time ticks down, he also finds love for the first time.
Recommended for those who enjoyed Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, David Mazzucchelli‘s Asterios Polyp, and Craig Thompson’s Blankets.
Do you read graphic novels? What are some of your favorite graphic novels and novelists? Tell us in the comments! As always, visit our online library catalog for more information on any of the featured books.