What make a great summer read? For us, it’s a book that takes its readers on some kind of journey, is short or can be read and understood in brief bursts and if we learn or experience something new, it’s a bonus. Above all, it had better be highly entertaining: You’ve got to distract myself from the fact that you're stuck in Phoenix for the summer. Here are 10 recent graphic novels that fit the bill.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
By Allie Brosh
This has been out for a while, but we just got to it a few weeks ago. Then we sucked it up in one can’t- put-it-down session. Warning: If you’re not alone while reading this, your companions better be okay with your reading aloud to them. Because you will. Repeatedly. It is snort-drinks-out-your-nose funny.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
By Stephen Collins
The title lured us, the beautiful black and white drawings and wry allegorical tale caught us. Dave is a hairless fellow, content with the orderly world of Here, until he starts thinking about the parts beyond, the There. As his thoughts keep escaping the edges of the known, the titular villain begins to take over Dave’s life and those of his fellow residents of Here. Archly amusing.
By Richard McGuire
McGuire explores a whole other Here in this mind-bending book, 25 years in the making. Here’s Here is the (sometimes) corner of a room in the Northeast United States. McGuire, with spare, yet evocative, art, takes us back, forth, and through millennia of time while keeping our vantage point confined to the space set forth in the opening panels. A real trip.
Museum of Mistakes: The Fart Party Collection
By Julia Wertz
Wertz’s online autobio comics were previously collected in two volumes of Fart Party. She now draws NYC history comics for The New Yorker, which could explain the classed-up title for this expanded work. With pieces titled “I Wish You Were Ugly,” “Dustpan Sexuality” and “Assholes Are Alright,” the name of the venue may have changed, but it’s still a fart party. And that’s a good thing.
By Scott McCloud
Scott McCloud knows how comics work. He wrote the books on the subject: Understanding Comics and Making Comics. His new fiction tackles capital letter Issues: Love, Art, Fame, and more, with breakneck pacing that careens over nearly 500 pages. Still, when you close the back cover, you want to go right back to the beginning to catch all that you missed in the first race to the finish. A great graphic novel in every way.
By Bryan Lee O’Malley
Talented chef Katie has run into problems on the way to opening her new, namesake restaurant. Then a mysterious girl appears to Katie to tell her a way to get a do-over: 1. Write your mistake 2. Ingest one mushroom 3. Go to sleep 4. Wake anew. She leaves a drawerful of magic mushrooms behind, which Katie uses with increasingly distressing results. Turns out life-mulligans aren’t easy to manage in this entertaining hour’s read.
This One Summer
By Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
A Caldecott (children’s lit) and Printz (YA) honoree, this book is in the running for more well-deserved awards, as it’s nominated for an Eisner to be presented at Comic Con. This One Summer is a strong story of childhood’s end, the pleasures and perils of summer and lovely art. Not a children’s picture book as the Caldecott might imply, it's a young-adult graphic novel that can be appreciated by anyone who is or once was a young adult.
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The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
By Sydney Padua
The true: Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of "mad, bad, and dangerous to know” Lord Byron, to suppress any inherited poetic tendencies, is raised to be a mathematical genius. With Charles Babbage, they publish a paper that outlines the first appearance of general computing theory. The (mostly): Lovelace and Babbage actually build their Difference Engine and use it for various sorts of social good, including crime fighting. This is one-of-a-kind entertainment and erudition.
Through the Woods
By Emily Carroll
This is the print debut of the dark storyteller whose webcomics are some of the loveliest art you’ll see on your screen. The book collects four new pieces along with one of her most popular online tales, “His Face All Red.” Carroll’s drawings are lushly atmospheric right down to the lettering and the storylines are genuinely frightening. Through the Woods is so eerie you may feel a chill run over you in the summer heat.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
By Randall Munroe
There are far more words than pictures, but it’s included here because its creator also created the stick-figure webcomic xkcd.com. You could just read the quirky comics – but I dare you to turn away from the answers to questions like “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?” It's full of fun and funny ways to take in complex subjects in physics, genetics, probability, and more.