A Long Story of my Affair with the graphic book *Armchair BEA Week*

Tuesday, May 27, 2014




As any long time reader of this blog will probably know, I am a big fan of books in the graphic medium. Not comic books, but literary fiction and memoirs in the graphic format. I don't know exactly how I came to love this medium.

Which is the first graphic book I ever read? I don't know.

When did I read my first graphic book? I don't know that either.

Did I always love graphic books? Pretty sure, I did not.

I do know that the first graphic book I remember reading is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

For the longest time, I had the misconception that graphic books = comic books, of the Superman and Batman variety. Not that I have anything against them, but they are not exactly my cup of tea. And then, I found the book Persepolis in my best friend's bookshelf. I have to say - that moment was certainly very momentous for me, because that was probably the day I started looking for graphic books actively. I devoured Persepolis in two sittings, and I wanted to reread the book right away. Persepolis was a wonder of a book. A memoir. A war as the backdrop. A teenage girl with teenage issues. Tragedy. Comedy. All in graphics. The facial expressions of the characters were so vivid that I laughed and cried with the characters. Their yearnings and dreams were etched so hard on their faces that I cheered for them every single page.

I didn't read graphics books for a long time after that. Mainly because I didn't quite grasp the uniqueness of what I had just read, but also because I didn't know any other avid book reader with whom I could gush about Persepolis, and try to get more recommendations from. I hadn't heard about book blogs then, and when I finally did enter this sphere of the interwebs, it had not occurred to me that I could talk about Persepolis and similar books.

More than three years ago, I came across a graphic novel challenge that I considered joining. Mind you, even then I hadn't fully embraced the graphic medium, and books like Persepolis were still an exception in my mind. Somehow, by the middle of the year, I had read 14 graphic books - most of which I loved. By the end of that year, I had added about another 10 to that number. I can tell you that by then, I had no doubt in my head,
  1. which genre or category Persepolis belonged to,
  2. that Superman and Batman are not the only books narrated through pictures and aimed at the YA/adult audience,
  3. and that, saying "I love graphic books" doesn't necessarily mean that the person reads comics.

So yeah, it took me a long time to get to a point where I began to live and breathe graphic books. So, if you tell me that you haven't read graphic books because you don't like comics, I can totally understand that. No problem. This medium is one of the most stereotyped media in the book industry, and it doesn't help that there are not many articles out there to refute that false impression. So I am asking you to consider giving this medium a try. Maybe you already did try something in the past, and it did not work for you. Or you never tried it because the only graphic books that are prominently displayed in stores are comic books.



What I have learned since my "induction" into this world of graphic book lovers, is that there is a graphic book for every genre. 

You like crime? Try Green River Killer.
Memoir? Try Persepolis, Maus, Smile, Blankets, Vietnamerica, Stitches, The Arrival, and more!
YA fiction? Try Anya's Ghost, Drama.
Psychological books? Try Lucille.
Historical Fiction? Try Boxers and Saints.
History? Try Anne Frank.
Dystopia or Zombies? Try Walking Dead.
Childhood Classics? Try Baby-Sitters Club (yes, the graphic version)
Fantasy? Try Lost and Found, American Born Chinese.
Humor? Try The Diary of the Wimpy Kid series.

I can give you a lot more recommendations, but I'll run out of space listing them. You can see more of the graphics books I've loved right here on my blog or on Goodreads. If you need different suggestions, comment below and I'll find you one. But just. read. a. graphic. book. (I do understand that maybe in the end, the graphic medium may not be for you. Just like, the verse format is probably not for me. It's okay.)




If you are already a graphic book fan, which one is your favorite in this medium? What is your graphic book history? 

If you are not, why not? Which book failed to win you over?


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40 comments:

Closed the Cover said...

I've actually never read a graphic novel but I know they are hugely popular! One day I may have to give in and check one out.

Michael @ Literary Exploration said...

Great list, I often recommend Persepolis and Maus as good places to start when it comes to graphic novels

Barefootmeds said...

Oooh, if you loved Persepolis you will also love I Remember Beirut. I just reviewed it on my blog today, if you want to check it out. I'm really starting to enjoy graphic novels myself a lot more nowadays!

tanya (52 books or bust) said...

I didn't know that The Babysitter's Club came in graphic form.Intrigued!! Have you ever read any of Joe Sacco's stuff. He and Satrapi were the two who converted me into a sometimes graphic novel/ memoir reader. But i still prefer good old prose.

Laurie C said...

I didn't think I liked graphic novels until I went to library school and tried a couple. Then I wanted everyone to read Runaways by Brian Vaughn after I read it collected in one volume. When that copy got stolen from the library, you know it was good. I still have never gotten into manga that much, but have read a bit. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is another one I was very impressed by.

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you do! They are really like prose fiction, just with less prose and more pictures.

Athira / Aths said...

They are certainly the best books to start with. It's really hard not to love them, and then, it's harder not to read any other graphic books after that!

Athira / Aths said...

I just checked your blog and saw your reviews of three graphic books. All three sound great to me and I'm going to check them out.

Athira / Aths said...

I haven't read Sacco's books. I had them borrowed from the library a couple of times, but something came up each time. I have to read them soon. I actually read the Babysitter's Club books in graphic format, before I learned that their prose versions are incredibly popular. I loved those books.

Athira / Aths said...

I don't think I've read Runaways yet, though I have come across that book a few times. I'm going to request that right now from the library.


Also, yay Gene Luen Yang!

bermudaonion(Kathy) said...

Yeah, for a long time I thought graphic novel meant the same thing as manga. Vance talked me into trying manga years ago and I didn't love it so I figured I wasn't interested in graphic novels. I discovered them through other blogs (like yours) and now I love the medium.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

When I graduated from high school, I was determined to make myself love comics. I bought all of Neil Gaiman's Sandman in trade paperback with my graduation money, and read it over the course of the summer. In retrospect, something like Persepolis would probably have been an easier introduction to the medium -- Satrapi is telling a more unified story and using a simple panel structure, which Neil Gaiman emphatically does not do -- but oh well! It worked! :D

Allison Bruning said...

I remember my first comic book. It was the first edition of the Star Trek:TNG series. I bought it with my grandmother and absolutely loved reading comic books. I was always reading them. I was an advanced reader in school and my mom always thought reading comic books was something I shouldn't do. It was "beneath me." But I couldn't get enough of them. I always wanted to read the comics in the newspapers too. Oh, and when MAD magazine came out. I was reading that as well. Ok, so I was kind of addicted to the graphic novels. Now it's a cool thing to read. I haven't read a graphic novel in years and when I was working on MFA it was one of our homework assignments. We were supposed to read 10 graphic novels. I fell in love with them all over again.

Kristina D said...

I've just started getting in to GN in the past year. Really into the Fables series and enjoying finding all these different suggestions today

SLFiguhr said...

Hi! I love both GN and comic books. You are right, the GN do get maligned. Persepolis is on my to read list for a long time. I might even get around to it one day.

Cici said...

I have just recently picked up a few graphic novels, but couldn't buy them. Not sure if I would enjoy them as much. I think I will give one a try though, so many are fans!

Athira / Aths said...

I wish there was more word going around that graphic novels were much more than just comics. That way, they can get a bigger audience than what they currently have. Still, we are having more people getting convinced everyday, so hopefully, we'll be there soon.

Athira / Aths said...

Yeah, at least it worked! :-) I haven't read the Sandman books yet - I do struggle with fantasy and super-heroism in graphic books, but I'm getting there - I have Sandman, Unwritten, and Fables in my TBR now.

Athira / Aths said...

I remember always reading the comics that come in Newspapers. No matter what the comic, or whether I was even unfamiliar with them, I was reading them for sure.


I am so glad that we have more graphic books now. Plus, they fall in all kinds of genres. That is totally awesome! Glad that you love them as much as I do!

AH@badassbookreviews said...

What fantastic recs. I don't read graphic novels myself, but I know a few kids that love them.

Chrizette said...

I have not read a graphic novel yet - maybe I should try to fine one :)

Cindy said...

I have read a few graphic novels so thanks for sharing the list I will have to check them out this summer.

Allison Bruning said...

Me too. I'm actually playing around with the idea of writing a few.

Priscilla Walter said...

I've read exactly one graphic novel, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli, and I enjoyed it very much. My husband gave it to me as a gift. I've always wanted to read more graphic novels, but to tell the truth I simply forget about them, even when I am in a reading slump and looking for something different. You've made some great recommendations.

Kristen H. said...

Fabulous post and some titles I will have to check out! I remember feeling the same way about comic books - that they were for superheroes only. One of the first graphic novels I checked out from the library was Blankets and I remember feeling how intense the story was. I still have yet to read Maus, but it's on my list to read this summer. Great post!

Athira / Aths said...

I have to read the Fables series soon! It comes with a lot of positive votes!

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you do! That book is one awesome read. I plan to own the book someday.

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you do! If you are looking for a specific genre, let me know. I'll be happy to send ideas your way. It could take a while for graphic novels to stick - really you need a book that makes your reading awesome!

SLFiguhr said...

I've put it on my list already :)

Athira / Aths said...

Thank you!

SLFiguhr said...

I'm getting a lot of great suggestions for GN to add to my TBR list.

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you enjoy them! They can be real fun to read.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! I hope you enjoy them!

Athira / Aths said...

I have read Asterios Polyp too, but in my early years of reading graphic novels. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it much. But I have thought about the book a lot since, that I have been considering rereading it. The book sounded much better to me, in retrospect.

Athira / Aths said...

I remember feeling the same way about Blankets. That book made me believe that the graphic medium can do anything! It was so amazing to see so much emotions in that book. Glad that you thought so too!

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! Hope you enjoy them!

Closed the Cover said...

My husband reads them so I'm sure I'll check them out eventually.

Athira / Aths said...

Thank you! :-)

Bryan G. Robinson said...

Yep. Persepolis and Maus. The two graphic novels that made me change my mind about graphic novels...forever. I need to get back to reading them.

Athira / Aths said...

I've read both books twice and I loved how I discovered new things each time. They are certainly very versatile books!