The beauty of graphic books (or in which I celebrate completing one challenge)

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The Sunday 
Salon.com

Well, technically, I completed two challenges - the Middle East reading challenge and the Graphic Novels challenge. For the Middle East challenge, Helen required just one relevant book to be read, and I did that in January with a book set in Iran - The Good Daughter (which I absolutely loved). But, that was far less than the number of books that I wanted to read for this challenge, which is why I keep feeling that I haven't read much for it. Let's just say that my reading over the last one year was very experimental. Ever since I started blogging, I've been reading the kind of books I wouldn't have read pre-blogging. So, most of the books I usually would read didn't feature much in my reading over the last one year. Now that I'm comfortably settling into my reading tastes, I should be able to visit more of the books I've previously wanted to read (another reason why I set up the PIE list).

It was as part of this experimental reading that I discovered the graphic novel medium. Years ago, I had read and loved Persepolis. But, I didn't step out to find more similar books. It's mostly because I used to think the graphic medium was for "comics" as in super-hero stuff that run as series, and mistakenly assumed that Persepolis was more of an exception to the rule than a trend. It was last year that I discovered more of such books with Embroideries (delightful yet with a big focus on women issues), Chicken with Plums (a unique way to tell a story), Asterios Polyp (Didn't like this when I was reading it but for a long time, I kept revisiting it), The Arrival (speechless!), and Blankets (one of the best). When I joined the Graphic Novels challenge this year, my worry was mostly whether enough graphic novels existed. I wasn't much for manga or superhero or scifi/fantasy comics or anything that runs as a series. I typically prefer graphic memoirs, or the graphic equivalent of literary fiction. Something that leaves the same effect on me as literary fiction.

But joining the challenge made me step out and explore and find more such books. It helps that my library and local bookstore both have shelves upon shelves dedicated to the graphic medium. It was through exploration of these shelves that I found some of the graphic books that I loved. At this half year point, I've already read 14 books in graphic format, and I'm looking for more.

When I reviewed Lucille last week, many of you told me that you have not read a graphic novel. I will confess that I said the same thing this time last year, but within a year, my impression of this medium has changed drastically. I would love to see more of you try this medium, and the Graphic Novels challenge is a great place to start. Now I subscribe to plenty of graphic novel newsletters and am forever looking for recommendations. My worry is that some day I will extinguish all possible options and will sit waiting for the next one. I think I'm in that soup right now, so I have a question for you at the end of this post.

These are the books I read for this challenge. Although I've officially completed this challenge, I know I'll read at least another 14 books (hopefully) before the year is up. If I do, I'll sum them up in another post by the end of the year.
  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
  2. Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón
  3. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and Randy DuBurke
  4. Fist Stick Knife Gun by Geoffrey Canada and Jamar Nicholas
  5. Stitches by David Small
  6. A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (Maus, #1) by Art Spiegelman (WOW!)
  7. A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began (Maus, #2) by Art Spiegelman (WOW!)
  8. The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds (Liked this graphic retelling of the original Odyssey)
  9. Vietnamerica by GB Tran
  10. Nicolas by Pascal Girard (Liked it but didn't love it)
  11. An Elegy for Amelia Johnson by Andrew Rostan (This was an okay read)
  12. Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme
  13. Gingerbread Girl by Paul Tobin (Started out okay, but turned to be better)
  14. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (Really delightful)

Until now, I've mostly found graphic novels by discovery - checking out shelves at my library and bookstore, scouring through newsletters and blogs. Now, I want to try out some recommendations. If you have read a graphic novel that you loved, please let me know in the comments below. If you have ever done a post listing graphic novels you've read/loved (eg: as end-of-challenge posts), I would be thrilled if you could share the link with me. If I choose a book from your list to read, I promise to let you know somehow.

18 comments:

Helen Murdoch said...

I felt like you last year when I discovered graphic novels... wow! I wish more students would read them. You have read most of my favorites, but I would also recommend the Aya series. They are set in the Ivory Coast and follow Aya and her friends and family. The authors are Abouet and Oubrerie, a writer/illustrator couple.

Misha said...

Congrats on completing two challenges!Like you, I have read books that I never would have before blogging. I have tried the paranormal genre, and even though not all my experiences reading this genre have been good, I did like some of them. I think I would like to try graphic novels too.

Harvee said...

I've read Hakakure Manga edition and American Born Chinese, graphic books. Recommend them.

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I was going to suggest Persepolis, but you've already read that one.  I did enjoy The Shiniest Jewel too.

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I have never read any graphic novels...and it sounds like I have lumped them into the "comics" category, too.  Something to explore!

Thanks for sharing.

Here's my Sunday Salon:


http://accidentalmoments.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/the-sunday-salon-family-reunions-july-17/

Lisa said...

So interesting that just yesterday I was looking at graphic novels since my book club is reading Persepolis as their July pick. I did find a series that intrigued me as well as the follow up to Persepolis and Maus once again caught my eye. But my only previous experience with graphic novels didn't wow me so I'll have to see how Persepolis goes. If I like it, you've given me a great start on more books.

Nina Happyendings said...

Yay, new books to add to the list! I like graphic novels. At the beginning of this year I read a few of them and comic books aswell, but I stopped because the library didn't had a lot of them. Well not the ones I wanted to read. ;) I have heard a lot about Persepolis.

Jennifer G. said...

I just added several of these to my to-read list.  Thanks for the recommendations!  I'm pretty sure that Maus was my first introduction to graphic novels and I was blown away.  I still haven't read a lot of them, but I've enjoyed the ones I've picked up.  You've already read the ones I would recommend!

Lena said...

I am so intrigued at the books you read, you find books that are obscure to me, but I'm delighted because I learn something new every time

Athira / Aths said...

I remember reading the reviews of the Aya books in your blog. Unfortunately my library doesn't have them. I really hope to read them somehow. Thanks for reminding though, I realized that I didn't have them in my TBR list.

Athira / Aths said...

I love it when a genre we don't usually read becomes a favorite. It's so hard to jump into a new boat, but sometimes the journey can be so much more rewarding.

Athira / Aths said...

Thanks for the recommendations! I haven't read either, so I'm going to add them.

Athira / Aths said...

I hadn't heard of The Shiniest Jewel, but I've added it to my TBR. It does sound good!

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you do give them a try! I realized they are so different from what we typically consider comics!

Athira / Aths said...

I hope so! I really want to hear what you thought of Persepolis! It's one of my favorites!

Athira / Aths said...

That's just the problem in my library too! They have just a limited selection and that's so sad. I hope you give more of them a try!

Athira / Aths said...

Maus was just amazing! The subject matter is very powerful and I was surprised how well it worked in the graphic medium. I hope you give more of them a try!

Athira / Aths said...

Haha, thanks! I really enjoy graphic novels a lot and seem to be reading so many of them lately.