Check It Out Category: Lists

List: Our Staff’s Favorite Graphic Novels

Whether you are an avid reader of graphic novels or want to try one out for the first time, look no further than this post for a list of 15 of our library staff’s very favorite titles! This eclectic mix offers fiction and nonfiction, science fiction, steampunk, humor and the avant-garde. It is sure to provide more than a few gems for your reading pleasure.

For those of you just starting out with graphic novels, here are four good places to start:

Persepolis book coverBoth Denise T. and Carol M. suggest Persepolis, the graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. Carol says, “I remember watching the Iranian Revolution in 1979, but Marjane Satrapi’s story gave me the perspective of someone about my own age who lived through it. The graphic novel format was an inspired way to show how society changed after the Islamic Republic came to power.”

Donna S. recommends the conclusion of U.S. representative John Lewis’s true story of his personal experience of the civil rights movement. Donna says, “I found March Book Three an interesting reminder of the early civil rights movement in America. This is a National Book Award winner.”

Donna C. recommends the YA title, Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino, which uses Thoreau’s own writings to tell the story of his time experimenting with living an unconventional life in the woods. Donna says, “This is a lovely and very accessible way to approach both the writing of Thoreau and the graphic novel medium, for teens and adults alike.”

Anne S. recommends The Gettysburg Address by Jonathan Hennessey. “Hennessey uses text and pictures to illustrate the complexities and beauty in the Gettysburg Address while also giving a clear and concise overview of the driving forces which helped to develop the United States during its first 150 years. P.S. It’s also a great graphic novel for the person who ‘does not read’ graphic novels!”

If you’re looking for something further off the beaten path, try one of these staff suggestions:

Cathleen B. recommends Descender, Book 1, by Jeff Lemire, the sci-fi story of a robot boy whose life is in jeopardy in a universe where androids are forbidden. Cathleen says, “This series start is inventive and suspenseful and sad and sweet, but the gorgeous watercolor art is what truly won my heart.”

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman is a metaphysical tale of mythology and history, following the mistaken capture and imprisonment of Dream, who controls the dream world. Janine S. recommends this, saying, “It’s smart, emotional, and relevant with some of the greatest and most interesting characters I’ve encountered in all of my reading.”

Kelda G. suggests Stitches by David Small. “A best-selling and highly regarded children’s book illustrator comes forward with this unflinching graphic memoir. Remarkable and intensely dramatic, Stitches tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who awakes one day from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he has been transformed into a virtual mute―a vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot. From horror to hope, Small proceeds to graphically portray an almost unbelievable descent into adolescent hell and the difficult road to physical, emotional, and artistic recovery.”

Joe C. recommends yet another science fiction story, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn. This is a story about a world in which only two males exist, Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Joe says, “It is a brilliant and clever alternate history premise: what would happen if all the men died?”

 

Mary S. suggests Adulthood Is a Myth by Sarah Anderson. “A very funny portrayal of the everyday occurrences that plague us.”

 

 

Chelsea L. says, “My more recent favorite graphic novel is The Flintstones by Mark Russell. It is remodeled for the 21st century, hysterically funny, and grown-up version of the quirky Flintstones and their town of Bedrock.”

Anthony A. suggests Blankets by Craig Thompson. “At once powerful and tender, this beautifully rendered autobiographical coming-of-age epic graphic novel grapples with the intense emotional transformation of a young man experiencing first love, disillusionment, spiritual awakening, and the growing realization and acceptance of all the things that are beyond his control.”

 

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke is the suggestion of Jenny M. “While there were moments where I could see myself so vividly in Radtke’s memoir and it felt strange to see pieces of me on someone else’s page, this was also an impressionable exercise in peeking into seeing how someone else comprehends and makes sense of life.”

 

Mary D. suggests Grandville by Bryan Talbot, saying, “Grandville is a steampunk, Victorian noir, suspenseful graphic novel full of anthropomorphic characters and beautifully drawn artwork.”

 

Claire B.’s favorite is Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown. Claire says, “I thought this book was beautifully illustrated and a thorough, fascinating explanation of what happened in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.”

 

David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp follows a middle-aged teacher and architect who relocates from New York City to Midwestern small town. John M. recommends it “because of the elegant way form mirrors theme throughout.”

Fiction: Comfort Reads

We wouldn’t be readers if we didn’t find respite in our books. Though stories may be opened in the hope of thrills, experiences, or discoveries, often a well-chosen book is claimed as a port in the storm of tough times. The next time your spirit hungers for cozy and reassuring, try (or revisit) one of these comfort reads:

I Capture the Castle book coverI Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith
Story of a bright 17 year old girl living in semi-poverty in an old English castle, told through her journal entries. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”– and the heart of the reader– in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.
Little Prince book coverThe Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
An aviator whose plane is forced down in the Sahara Desert encounters a little prince from a small planet who relates his adventures in seeking the secret of what is important in life.
Cranford book coverCranford
by Elizabeth Gaskell
A comic portrait of early Victorian life in a country town which describes with poignant wit the uneventful lives of its lady-like inhabitants, offering an ironic commentary on the separate spheres and diverse experiences of men and women.

 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull book coverJonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach
More concerned with the dynamics of his flight than with gathering food, Jonathan is scorned by the other seagulls in this story perfect for those who follow their hearts and who make their own rules.
Princess Bride book coverThe Princess Bride
by William Goldman
A classic swashbuckling romance retells the tale of a drunken swordsman and a gentle giant who come to the aid of Westley, a handsome farm boy, and Buttercup, a princess in dire need of rescue from the evil schemers surrounding her.
Pride and Prejudice book coverPride & Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Human foibles and early nineteenth-century manners are satirized in this romantic tale of English country family life as Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters are encouraged to marry well in order to keep the Bennet estate in their family.

 

At Home in Mitford book coverAt Home in Mitford
by Jan Karon
Longing for change in the face of burnout, Episcopal rector Father Tim finds his lonely bachelor existence enriched by a stray dog, a lonely boy, and a pretty neighbor.
the Hobbit book coverThe Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to take part in an adventure from which he may never return.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie book coverThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley
Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, begins her adventure when a dead bird is found on the doorstep of her family’s mansion in the summer of 1950, thus propelling her into a mystery that involves an investigation into a man’s murder where her father is the main suspect.

List: If You Like Ready Player One

Ready Player One coverWe’re just six months away from the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 dystopian novel, Ready Player One. The story takes place in the not-too-distant future, 2044, in a world that’s been blighted by environmental excess, forcing most people to live in poverty. The only respite is the online virtual reality of Oasis, which is a world unto itself. It is in this Oasis that Wade Watts searches for a real-life treasure left posthumously by an eccentric businessman. But the closer he comes to finding it, the more dangerous Wade’s life becomes. If you enjoyed the book, here are three others you may want to check out as well.

 

 

For the Win by Cory Doctorow is another novel set in the near future and also centers around a multi-player online world. In this story the the world economy has gone online. Goods such as gold are mined virtually, then sold and traded around the world. The gold farmers try to assert their rights, but the wealthy elite are not willing to let them go…at least not without a fight.

Widely considered to be the original cyberpunk novel, William Gibson’s 1984 classic Neuromancer is another story of people living impoverished lives in a high tech world. Henry Case capitalizes on his advanced computer prowess by earning a living hacking into systems to steal information he then sells. But when he crosses the wrong line he pays for it dearly, violently thrust from the virtual world seemingly for good. Danger, crime and subterfuge consume the cyber world once again in this book which still resonates on all levels more than three decades after it was originally published.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is set in a 21st century United States no longer united, but instead divided among corporations, with varying degrees of safety and freedom. Blurring lines between the virtual world and the physical one, people and their computer avatars are beginning to be infected with a mind numbing virus that affects them in both worlds. Seemingly average guy Hiro Protagonist is in fact a highly evolved warrior prince in the virtual world, and he along with equally tech savvy YT must track down the source of the infection before it’s too late.

School Days…

School is back in session, and there’s no better way to remember your own high school hi-jinks than by watching a movie. Check out these high school classics set in Chicagoland.

Cooley Vocational High School (in a 1964 version of Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood) is the setting for Cooley High, the fictional story of best friends Preach and Cochise. Preach is studious and has his sights set on a writing career; Cochise is the star of the basketball team, and both are ready for a fun adventure whenever the opportunity arises. Sometimes that opportunity presents itself as a chance to skip school and hang out at the zoo, or crash a party, or pursue a girl. But when a group of troublemakers begin to target them, adult realities start to collide with teenage innocence.

Breakfast Club dvd coverDirector John Hughes’ name is synonymous with teen drama films, and 1985’s The Breakfast Club is a big reason why. Students at New Trier High School in suburban Winnetka dubbed early morning detention “breakfast club,” and this movie, (filmed in Des Plaines at the former Maine North high school) perhaps more than any other, gave a closeup look at five teen stereotypes of the 1980s – the popular girl, the jock, the geek, the punk and the loner. They find themselves awkwardly thrust together on a Saturday morning, but come to learn some deep things about each other and realize they may all be more multidimensional than their stereotypes would suggest.

Teen ballerina Sara Johnson’s life is struck by tragedy, and she decides to give up dance and return to high school in Chicago in 2001’s Save the Last Dance. She soon finds herself learning hip hop, and pairs up with a hip hop dancer named Derek. Romantic feelings develop between them, and Sara confides in Derek about her tragedy and her dream of attending Julliard, while Derek confides that his dream is to attend med school at Georgetown. Their interracial relationship causes backlash from others, and they ultimately must decide whether to follow their dreams or settle for a lesser path that seems predestined.

It’s the senior year of high school for North Shore student Joel Goodson, and with his exceptional grades and bright path ahead, he feels he deserves to let loose a little while his parents are out of town. Things quickly spin out of control, and Joel must find a way to cover his tracks after a weekend of partying, call girls and criminals results in thousands of dollars in damages to his parents’ Porsche and lavish home (an actual residence located in Highland Park.) Senoritis definitely takes a unique spin in the movie classic, Risky Business.

Hoop Dreams is the true story of two high school basketball players, William Gates and Arthur Agee, trying to make it to the NBA. Both teens make more than hour-long commutes from their homes in Chicago housing projects to the same high school in Westchester, Illinois that Isaiah Thomas attended. Both teens must find their places within the social structure of the school, which is predominantly white and very different from their own community, and find ways to remain athletically elite while surviving in abject poverty.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is another John Hughes’ classic teen drama. Ferris’ idyllic suburb (based on Hughes’ hometown of Northbrook) provides the launching off point for an epic decision to ditch high school (Glenbrook North, circa 1986) and tour around downtown Chicago. To the chagrin of his sister Jeannie, Ferris’ faux sick day garners him the sympathy and support of not only their parents, but almost everyone in their high school, and by the end of the day a full-fledged Save Ferris campaign has engulfed the school. His whirlwind tour takes him and his friends to the Art Institute, The Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and even the German-American parade marching down Dearborn.

List: Solar Eclipses in Fiction

While you wait down the days to August 21, check out a novel that counts a solar eclipse as a major plot point. Choose from classic, thriller, science fiction, general fiction, historical mystery, or a whole lot of horror. Maybe it’s the dark? 

Strength of the Sun book coverThe Strength of the Sun
Catherine Chidgey
Dolores Claiborne book cover

Dolores Claiborne
Stephen King

He Said_She Said book coverHe Said/She Said
Erin Kelly

Geralds Game book coverGerald’s Game
Stephen King

Eclipse book coverEclipse
John Banville

Nightfall book coverNightfall
Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg