Top graphic novels EVERYONE should read

Comic books have always been essential to the literary world- from Tintin, Asterix and Obelix, Calvin and Hobbes, to the Peanuts comic strip in the newspaper, everyone has read some or the other form of a comic. Comics seem to be a form of reading that have kept up with the times, be it digital comics available on social media platform or meme culture, the visual aspect of comics can never go out of style.

Enter graphic novels, considered to be a bridge between comics and novels, a visual journey that utilises graphics to communicate a story. Graphic novels are even hailed as the best tools to improve children’s reading journey, especially for those with learning differences.  

For designers and artists, while reading in general serves as a great form of inspiration, graphic novels in particular can help spark creativity. While this list does not cover all the amazing graphic novels out there, we have handpicked a few that everyone should read (not rated in any particular order).

1. Asterios Polyp : David Mazzucchelli

Asterios Polyp is a middle-aged, semi successful architect and teacher, whose life is upturned when his wife leaves him and his New York City apartment goes up in flames. The book paints an exciting, and harrowing story of this condescending, ego-centric and mildly dislikeable character.

The novel follows Polyp’s story through a modernistic visual journey. David mazzucchelli breaks all the rules of design and provides a different art style, colour and font to each character, helping build their different personalities.

2. Maus : Art Spiegelman

Maus is a non-fiction graphic depiction of the author’s interview with his father about being a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The book represents Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, Americans as dogs, the British as fish, the French as frogs, the Swedish as reindeer, and the Roma as gypsy moths

The novel broaches a really serious and dark subject in a comic style, making the story relatable and allowing the reader to develop a connection with the characters.

3. Slaughterhouse-Five : Kurt Vonnegut

Its always daunting picking up a remake of a favourite novel, but slaughterhouse-five the graphic novel does nothing but justice to the existing book by Kurt Vonnegut. It adds a personality to the characters, and helps better visualise the story.

The novel is an anti-war story about a character named Billy, who was in the city of Dresden the day it was bombed in WW2. It is a weird, remarkable, sci-fi story about time, love, loss, war, aliens and everything in between.

4. Blankets : Craig Thompson

Blankets is an auto-biographical, coming of age story. It captures a look into the author’s childhood, his first love, child and adult sexuality, spirituality, and sibling relationships. The author uses flashbacks as a literary and artistic device in order to parallel young adult experience with past childhood experience.

The book is sentimental, heart breaking, sexual and sensual. It makes you feel everything young Thompson is feeling, you grow up with him, you fall in love with him, you have your heart broken along with him.

5. Habibi : Craig Thompson

Set in a timeless Middle East, that fuses exotic legend with grim modernity, Habibi follows the fortunes of Dodola, an Arab girl sold into child marriage by her illiterate parents. 

The book has been met with a lot of criticism, especially for being a story about an Arab girl, written by an American man. The author’s handling of sex is also considered highly problematic. The book however is an artistic masterpiece, and is even considered to be an ‘obsessive orgy of art.’

6. Akira : Katsuhiro Otomo

Akira is a cyberpunk manga, based in post-apocalyptic and futuristic Tokyo. The author uses conventions of the cyberpunk genre to detail a saga of political turmoil, social isolationcorruption, and power.

The visual journey of this book is overwhelming and magnanimous, with a very limited use of dialogue and narration used to tell the story.

7. Footnotes in Gaza : Joe Sacco

The book is a journalistic graphic novel about the war between Israel and Palestine, during the Suez Crisis.

The book is said to be “truly unique” in “combining as it does oral history, memoir and reportage with cartoons in a way that, when he started out, most people – himself included, at times – considered utterly preposterous.”

8. Building Stories : Chris Ware

The unconventional work is made up of fourteen printed works—cloth-bound books, newspapers, broadsheets and flip books—packaged in a boxed set. The work took a decade to complete, and what makes it exceptional is that it can be read in any order.

The intricate, multilayered stories pivot around an unnamed female protagonist with a missing lower leg. It mainly focuses on her time in a three-story brownstone apartment building in Chicago, but also follows her later in her life as a mother.