How has your Bookish Bingo Challenge been going? We’re approaching the halfway point of 2021, so it is by no means too late to finish up a row, or start completely from scratch to reach your bingo goal. Not sure what the Bookish Bingo Challenge is, or need a copy of the bingo sheet? Click HERE. Also, take a look at past installments of Bookish Bingo blog posts for inspiration HERE.
This week’s post focuses on the “read a graphic novel, graphic memoir, or manga” square. My public school experience happened to line up with the place in time when we stopped saying “comic books” and started saying “graphic novels”. Really high-falutin’ and academic types might even have uttered “sequential art” when trying to frame comic books as a serious literary and artistic medium. My seventh grade english teacher quickly did an about-face at my proposed book report on Art Spiegleman’s seminal Maus, when told that it had won a Pulitzer Prize that year; a first for any comic. Anyone familiar with this remarkable title will understand how Spiegleman’s work helped usher in a truly golden age of graphic novels, manga, comics, comix, funny pages, or however you know the medium. Take a look at the list below for some additional high-chroma recommendations.
Black Panther: World of Wakanda (2017) written by Roxanne Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates; gone are the days when comics were known for shoddy writing. Gay and Coates are some of the country’s greatest living authors, so we should all take a moment to appreciate the depth of talent at work in all aspects of contemporary graphic novels.
Check Please! (2018) by Ngozi Ukazu; there’s a trope in queer fiction in which gay protagonists are subjected to unceremonious deaths, overt gay-bashing, or some other violent consequence of homophobia. I’m begging you to read this book not only because it is an absolute delight, but gay characters are defined by their thoughts and actions, not by their trauma. Also: PIE!
A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) by Will Eisner; widely considered the first modern graphic novel. Eisner is so important to the medium they named the award for industry achievement and innovation after him. Take a look at the list of Eisner award-winning work HERE.
Love and Rockets (1981-1996) by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez; I, personally, cannot talk about American comic history without mentioning the Hernandez brothers. They gave voice to minorities and women in an industry that still isn’t always welcoming to these populations, as well as define the post-underground generation of comic artists.
Usagi Yojimbo (1987-present) by Stan Sakai; follow masterless bunny samurai Miyamoto Usagi around a 17th century Japan populated with anthropomorphic animals. This long-running series is packed full of awesome action, Japanese mythology, folklore, and humor. Does Usagi seem familiar? It might be because he has been known to join the Ninja Turtles on adventures, as well.
Here’s NPR’s list of 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels from 2017 for additional reading recommendations.
El Deafo (2014) by Cece Bell; perennial favorite of middle-grade readers, and rightly so. Full of heart, humanity, and humor.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2007) by Alison Bechdel; you may also recognize Bechdel’s name from the eponymous “Bechdel Test” which is a simple if imperfect way to evaluate female representation in fiction. Read more about it HERE, because honestly it’s fascinating.
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1991) by Art Spiegelman; aforementioned as perhaps THE book that helped comics reach mainstream notoriety.
Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood (2004) by Marjane Satrapi; I learned more about the 1979 Iranian Revolution from this book than the entirety of my formal education. See also: the animated movie adaptation.
Your Black Friend and Other Strangers (2018) by Ben Passmore; named one of NPR’s favorite comics of all time.
Need even MORE excellent graphic memoir recommendations? Take a look at the list assembled over at Bookriot.
Akira (1984) by Katsuhiro Otomo; the manga that launched a thousand obsessions. As with many middle-Americans, Akira was my first encounter with anime which then extrapolated into my first encounter with manga. The influence of both film and book on modern media cannot be overstated. Watch the movie and marvel at its late 80s technical excellence and totally badass soundtrack.
High School Debut (2004-2013) by Kazune Kawahara; beloved romance series known for its straightforward charm.
O Maidens in Your Savage Season (2017-present) by Mari Okada; this one comes highly recommended by fellow librarian Carol, and if one can trust anyone’s opinion, it’s hers. This is a great title for women and girls who are tired of seeing themselves objectified from hell to breakfast in manga (and plenty of American media as well, to be fair).
One Piece (1997-present) by Eiichiro Oda; this long-running, best-selling adventure series will publish its 100th volume later this year.
Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror (1998) by Junji Ito; horror manga tends to be filled with super gross, intense depictions of gore and violence. This three-volume series goes easier on the reader without scaling back the genuine creep-factor.
I will admit manga is a personal blind spot for me, so please take a look at THIS list from Bookriot for further recommendations. One thing I love about manga is that many tend to be published as long-running series, so if one book is appealing there are likely to be dozens more (looking at you, One Piece).
For a great introduction to the main genres of manga, take a look at THIS excellent guide published by the New York Public Library.
At one time the word “comics” might have conjured the blurry, three-color lithography of Sunday papers, superhero rags made famous by DC and Marvel, and not a lot else. Superheroes and newspaper funnies are still valid and important, but the form has come a long way over the years, which benefits us all. Framed as a gateway to broader reading, many reluctant readers morphed into avid book lovers after connecting with a graphic novel they loved. My gateway comics were Archie Comics and Herge’s Tintin; these were the first books I ever read on my own & cemented my positive relationship with reading. Hopefully, the books and lists above will provide Bookish Bingo players ample inspiration of their own. All titles listed above are available via the Monarch catalog. For help requesting materials or additional book recommendations including but not limited to bingo square challenges, we would love to hear from you via phone (920-459-3400), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), chat, or in-person.