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!
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, 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.
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.
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.
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!