If you’re anything like me, the seemingly never-ending reading assignments for class can make it hard to pick up a book for leisure, and although winter break is a good time to get back into reading for fun, burnout from the quarter is very real, making even a fun prose book feel like too much work.
To that I say, “Have you tried graphic novels?”
Graphic novels are a great way to enjoy a story and engage in the ritual of reading without committing to 200+ pages of pure text. For some, reading graphic novels for the first time may be daunting. I often hear people say, “Well, sometimes I don’t know what order to read things in” and, “There’s just so much to look at on the page that I get overwhelmed.” These are natural responses when encountering narrative in a new format. Just remember–like with any book–you read left to right, top to bottom, focusing on one panel at a time. It’s also okay to pause for a moment and take in all the artwork on the page. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be whipping through a graphic novel in less time than it would take to watch a movie.
A misconception I hear a lot is, “Reading graphic novels isn’t really reading; you have to read a ‘normal’ book.” Statements like these aren’t true and delegitimize graphic novels as a valid narrative format. Reading graphic novels is real reading and they offer many benefits, including:
- building textual and visual literacy;
- improving reading comprehension; and
- exposing readers to diverse settings, cultures, and voices.
“Aren’t graphic novels just about superheroes?” is another common misconception I often encounter, and no, they’re not only superhero stories. Graphic novels are a format, not a genre, and they feature stories of all types including contemporary fiction, sci fi, fantasy, horror, non-fiction, memoir, literary adaptations, and so on.
If you’re looking to get back into reading before the winter quarter, DePaul’s John T. Richardson Library has an extensive graphic novel collection that you can check out for your break. Below are some personal favorites from our collection.
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
For those who want a quick, fun way to learn the terminology of graphic novels and how to read them more closely, McCloud’s work is essential.
Nimona by ND Stevenson
Featuring an outcast knight accused of a crime he didn’t commit, a mischievous shapeshifting sidekick, and an over-controlling institution with dubious intentions, Nimona is a heartwarming story about loving those who are different and fighting to protect them. Recently adapted as an animated Netflix film featuring the voices of Chloë Grace Moretz (If I Stay; The 5th Wave), Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal; Rogue One), and Eugene Lee Yang (The Try Guys), Nimona is an absolute must read.
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Eric Bittle is a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and a talented amateur pâtissier, but none of this prepares him for the dangers of college hockey. Bittle knows he can skate, but is less sure he can survive body checking, which usually leaves him a crumpled heap on the ice. Bittle has a lot to figure out in college, not to mention his attractive but moody team captain.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This graphic novel masterfully weaves together three seemingly unrelated stories:
- Jin Wang is the lone Chinese-American at a new school who just wants to be an all-American boy, so he distances himself from a new Taiwanese classmate.
- Danny is an all-American boy who’s school reputation suffers due to his disruptive Chinese cousin’s annual visit.
- The thousand-year-old Monkey King has mastered the arts of kung fu and seeks a place in heaven among the immortal gods but faces rejection.
Together, these characters must find a way to help each other and mend the disasters in their lives.
This is another of my favorite graphic novels that has been adapted for the screen as a mini series on Disney+, featuring the talents of Ben Wang (Sex Appeal; Chang Can Dunk), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once; The Goonies).
Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal
This humorous collection of Instagram webcomics tells the story of a group of women who have rallied together under the flag of “Beyonce’s Thighs” after the planet’s entire population of men is wiped out. Dhaliwal’s short collection will warm your heart and leave you laughing as a diverse cast of women work together to rebuild the world.
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill
Horror and graphic novels go together like peanut butter and jelly. In Joe Hill’s Locke & Key series, the three Locke children find themselves relocated to their family’s old New England mansion after their father is murdered. While trying to recover from their family tragedy, they discover old keys with incredible abilities that they must keep out of the hands of the hate-filled, relentless creature who haunts Keyhouse.
Locke & Key has been adapted into a three season series on Netflix starring Connor Jessup (White Lie; Closet Monster) as Tyler Locke, Emilia Jones (CODA; Nuclear) as Kinsey Locke, and Jackson Robert Scott (It; WandaVision) as Bode Locke.
My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame
Yaichi, a work-at-home suburban dad in contemporary Tokyo, and his daughter Kana’s lives are upended when a Canadian named Mike shows up at their doorstep, claiming to be the husband of Yaichi’s late estranged gay twin brother. As Mike slowly becomes more and more like family, Yaichi has to confront some long-held cultural prejudices in Japan’s largely still-closeted gay culture.
This heartwarming story is easily one of my top graphic novels, however it is a departure from the other works in this list as it is a manga, meaning it is a graphic novel from Japan and is read from right to left.