Graphic novels: what they are, why they’re awesome, and where to start

Howdy, readers!

Ever hear the term “graphic novel” and not really know what someone is talking about? Or maybe you do know, but aren’t sure how to start reading them? Have no fear, the Bibliophile is here… to show you around the wonderful world of graphic novels!

What the heck is a graphic novel?

First off, know this: the term “graphic” in “graphic novel” does not mean “graphic” in the sense of violent and/or sexual in content. “Graphic” refers to graphics, like “graphic” design or computer “graphics.” Why? Because graphic novels are made up of illustrations rather than prose writing. Think comic books!

But what makes graphic novels different than comic books?

In short, they are longer and aren’t necessarily part of an ongoing series. Think any regular novel, but just in illustrated form.

So what are they about?

Anything. Everything. All the things. The graphic novel is a form, not a genre. Meaning you can have graphic novels that are science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, literary, memoir, nonfiction, etc., etc., etc. They are most definitely NOT all about spandex-clad demigods saving the world from robots and the like.

Cool. Where do I start?

Well, I am so glad you asked! Here’s a variety of titles from different genres that can get you started!


Blankets by Craig Thompson

Often considered a classic of the genre, Blankets is a coming-of age story that grapples with first love, religion, and growing up. It is a long read, coming in a 582 pages, but it is a thoughtful, evocative, and emotional book that will show you the intense emotional power of the graphic novel form.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis, a novel in 2 parts, is a memoir written by Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian woman who grew up during the Iranian Revolution of the 1980s. The book describes her life during this time. The illustrations are simple, yet pack a powerful punch. This book is great for those interested in history, politics, religion, or just heart-felt, true-life accounts.

The Gigantic Beard that Was Evil by Stephen Collins

This book is just as zany as it sounds. If you want a more quirky introduction to the graphic novel form, go no further. On an island where life is prim, trim, and perfect and everyone is clean-shaven, what happens when one man’s chin hair grows into a ginormous, evil beard?? It sounds ridiculous (and it is), but the book has an honest underlying message about change and accepting differences.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson

Yes, I am sneaking in a comic book series, but this one is too good to pass up. If you want an introduction to superhero comics without the genre’s stale cliché’s, this is the one. This series challenges the old comic book stereotypes of women as damsels and puts a strong Muslim teenage girl with extraordinary powers front and center of her own adventures.

Game of Thrones by Daniel Abraham

Yes, you read that correctly! There is a graphic novel version of Game of Thrones! In fact, there are MANY graphic novel adaptations of works originally in novel form, from classics like Sherlock Holmes and Pride and Prejudice to young adult books like Artemis Fowl and Maximum Ride. The Game of Thrones novels are 4,228 pages long in total, so maybe reading the graphic novels is a better bet for some!

As always, stop by your friendly neighborhood reference desk for even more recommendations!





Graphic Novels – Not just for kids anymore

I remember as a kid getting ready to go on a family vacation included a trip to the store to get comic books to keep us entertained on the long drive. Wait – a librarian (and the daughter of a librarian) fondly reminiscing about buying books? My mom’s view was that it was better to buy books and comics for vacation so if we ruined or lost them, then we weren’t responsible for library books. So – back to the comics.

What did we buy? Mad Magazine and Cracked Magazine for my older brother, and Archie Comics and classic stories in comic form for me (my favorite was Black Beauty). I read the comics until they just about fell apart. As I grew up, so did the books. Chapter books turned into teen books which turned into novels.

So what do I read now? The latest bestsellers, debut authors, and recommendations from coworkers are pretty much the standard fare. Some of my favorite authors are James Patterson, J. D. Robb, Kathy Reichs, Linda Fairstein, Laurell K. Hamilton just to name a few. But my guilty pleasure is still comics. Well, maybe the comics’ older sibling the graphic novel. What? Graphic novels? Aren’t they about samurai sword-wielding avengers, average high school kids suddenly falling into another world or developing super powers? Well, yes, those are some of the graphic novels that are out there. But there are others.

For the horror fan there are such titles as Zombie Tales 3: Good Eatin’ and Fall of Cthuluh: Apocalypse.

For the science fiction fan the is Halo: Helljumper and Doctor Who: Fugitive.

Not into zombies and aliens? Are classics more your style? Try Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, the Canterville Ghost,  or The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976.

Popular authors are now being released in graphic form. Books such as Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, Dean Koontz’s Fear Nothing, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and The Stand, Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight have just been released.

So where can you get these great graphic novels to try? Stop by the Fountaindale Public Library, or call us at (630) 759-2102 and we can place holds for you!

– Lynnette