10 Best Graphic Novels to Read During the Holidays

We know you’re busy, maybe too busy, during the holidays. But still, you deserve some time to yourself. Time for you to leave the holiday hysteria behind to slip into another world. Graphic novels provide the perfect portal through which to make your escape: New, old, and in-between, here are 10 treats to revel in this holiday season.

The Alchemist
By Paulo Coehlo, illustrated by Daniel Sampere
Published by HarperOne in 2010

The Alchemist is a worldwide best seller and, according to Guinness Records, the most- translated book by a living author. Twenty-two years after its original publication in Portuguese, Coehlo called this translation into graphic novel form the fulfillment of an old dream of his and “a beautiful manifestation of what I originally imagined.” It's lovely way to re-experience a favorite book.

Ann Tenna
By Marisa Acocella Marchetto
Published by Knopf in 2015

Hands down, it's the most fun of this fall’s crop of graphic novels. The title character, a gossip blogger, dies, is reunited with her higher self (SuperAnn), then reenters her body with a mission to make the world a better place. Marchetto’s art is delicious and her speech balloons are a delight: SuperAnn’s dialogue is designated with a cleverly celestial font, and a young female character speaks in text message-ese.

Craig Thompson
First published in 2003; Drawn and Quarterly in 2015

Blankets is a classic in the genre, but also transcends the form. A nearly 600 pages, it’s a big book, but its sheer mass is part of its appeal. The main characters in this first-love story meet at Winter Bible Camp and to enter these pages is akin to entering a hushed, vast and snowy landscape where everything seems freshly made.

The Doubtful Guest
By Edward Gorey
First published in 1957; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 1998

If it just doesn’t seem like Christmas without a little Victorian sensibility and Dickens isn’t your thing, take a look at Edward Gorey. We’re not cynical enough to suggest you indulge in The Gashlycrumb Tinies over the holidays, but this small volume, relating the tale of a mysterious guest who arrives “on that wild winter night” might hit just the right note.

Encyclopedia of Early Earth
By Isabel Greenberg
Published by Little, Brown and Company in 2013

Two years ago, when it was first published, this one somehow fell off our radar. Now that we found it, we can say it’s one of our favorites of the past few years. It lands on the holiday list because 1. It’s funny, mythic, and charming. 2. It features lots of snow and ice.

Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One
By Bill Willingham
Published by Vertigo in 2009
Fables, a series from 2002 to 2015, made characters we know from storybooks into fresh creations: Bigby Wolf (a.k.a. Big Bad Wolf) is married to Snow White; Prince Charming‘s a womanizer on his third wife, the shrill Cinderella; Goldilocks is a gun-toting agitprop who seduced Boo, the now-grown Baby Bear. You’ll want to enter (or revisit) the fun at #1 so you can go along for the full and fabulously entertaining ride.

The Graphic Canon, Volumes 1-3
Edited by Russ Kick
Published by Seven Stories Press in 2013

Yes, this is a cheat on the 10-book count. Try to slip out of your holiday obligations long enough for all 1600 pages and you may not have to worry about anything next year: You’ll be disowned. But it’s hard to resist any of these volumes, which interpret great literature of the world from the beginning of human narrative to the 21st century with a vast range of graphic artists.

The Juggler of Our Lady
By R.O. Blechman
First published in 1952; Dover Publications in 2015

This new edition of “a sort-of Christmas story,” has a foreword by Jules Pfeiffer calling it a miniature masterpiece and an introduction by Maurice Sendak. Sendak rhapsodizes that, with his “fetishistic” love of beautiful books, holding Blechman’s original binding, with its “peculiar, sprawling calligraphy” on the dusty blue and gold spine “sprung the trap. . . the aesthetic essence of the work has been quietly stated.” We’re in.

The Rabbi’s Cat
By Joann Sfar
Published by Pantheon, English Edition in 2007

A talking cat who wants to learn the Torah from his rabbi owner and then be bar mitvahed (begging the question what age will be appropriate? Feline years or human years?) is just the beginning of this story. Set in Algeria and France in the 1930’s, you will not read another story like it, unless it’s one of the subsequent volumes. Take us away, Rabbi’s Cat.

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel
By Madeleine L’Engle, adapted by Hope Larson
Published by Square Fish in 2015

In its first 50 years, we never got around to actually reading L’Engle's book, but we sort of knew the basic outlines of the story and what a tesseract was. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of AWT, L’Engle authorized this first-ever graphic adaptation and we bit. Now we know why the original stayed in print all these years. This is one you can share with the younger members of your clan this holiday season.  
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Cynthia is a freelance writer/artist living in Phoenix. Reading comics has been a lifelong pleasure for Cynthia; creating comics is a more recent pursuit. Cynthia's other job is framing art.