Tag: Books

Five Graphic Memoirs You Should Read

Five Graphic Memoirs You Should Read

When I first started reading Graphic Novels, I started with memoirs. I loved reading an illustrated autobiographical story. I’m a sucker for personal stories anyway. Graphic Memoirs do read different from autobiographies. Little moments are shared in a way that doesn’t work as well in written novels. There doesn’t always need to be a grandiose chapter of insight into the author’s life. Little moments can be illustrated very easily. And still portray the author’s life.

Graphic Memoirs also tend to be about a particular aspect of an author’s life, rather than a chronological telling. In this way, it’s like reading a very personalized non-fiction story. These can be of travels, family, childhood, mental illness, identity or a number of other specialized topics.

My favorite type of graphic novel are memoirs and I’ve read a lot of them. The five books below aren’t necessarily my favorite. More so, these are a good representation of memoirs and tackle very interesting topics.


Epileptic by David B.

Page from Epileptic by David B
Page from Epileptic by David B

This memoir chronicles the author’s brother’s struggle with epilepsy and how is family handled it. The story itself is actually very interesting. As his family tried lots of different religions, home remedies, and other natural paths to cure their son of epilepsy.

But what truly makes this book are David B’s illustrations. They are very dark. His drawing style is of mostly blacks. Thick lines. Very busy. And very grim. The book has a dark overtone to it all throughout, most of which is depicted just in his style.

His visualizations work perfectly for the story he’s telling. This is also an interesting memoir because it is, essentially, his brother’s story. Yet told from his perspective.


Page from Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

Burma Chronicles was the first graphic novel I ever read. I love traveling. I love reading about traveling. Guy Delisle has written several graphic travelogues of his various experiences traveling as an animator. He is a Canadian citizen, which allows him work visas in countries that us Americans don’t necessarily have access to. This memoir is about his time in Burma. But he has also written about living in North Korea. That one is also very interesting.

Since I have never been to Burma, seeing his illustrations helps to bring the country alive more than written descriptions could. He shares many little moments in his day-to-day life, which really help to show what living in the country is like. Writing this out would become mundane or monotnous. But illustrations are different and even the same drawing can represent different things.

In this one, his family is staying with him in Burma. So it is also a memoir of him being a father and raising an infant, while working in a foreign land. There is a lot to this that written text just wouldn’t do justice. He brings to life his infant son, the country of Burma, and even his work as an animator.

I highly recommend all of his travelogue memoirs!


Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney
Page from graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney

Marbles by Ellen Forney

This is the best autobiography I’ve read on mental illness. Far better than any written novel. Illustrating mental illness makes the feelings visible. Seeing a drawing of someone crawling on the floor in sadness gets the point across better than using metaphors. Having a visual for a manic episode shows the true nature of the disease. These emotions just cannot be conveyed as strongly in text.

I’ve never felt like I could relate to any book on depression as much as this one. Her drawings of sadness clouds, darkness, crawling from the bed to the couch, represent perfectly how I’ve felt in depressive episode. Rather than write in words her feelings while going through mania or depression, we are able to actually see what her feelings look like.

This novel also addressed the Creativity Factor of mental illness. She illustrates the struggle between wanting to manage her mental illness while also fearing she will lose her creativity. Forney goes into this in detail. Even discussing famous artists who were definitely suffering from depression.

Also, in the end she does learn how to manage her episodes through behaviors and meds. Most of the book chronicles her visiting a psychiatrist and how she goes about that. I love her honesty not only in her writing but also her drawings. Lastly, Forney identifies as bisexual, which is always nice to see representation in media.


Page from Tomboy by Liz Prince
Page from Tomboy by Liz Prince

Tomboy by Liz Prince

Liz Prince is one of my favorite graphic novelists. Her drawings are simple yet tell you everything you need to know. Her writing is a perfect balance of wit and substance. I can also relate to her fairly well. So that helps. In the past she has published short graphic novels about a long-term relationship. And then, when that ended, her life being single again. Those are both really great and funny.

Tomboy is Prince’s first long-form graphic memoir. She is definitely ready for it. Instead of focusing on relationships or the lack of relationships, Prince focuses on her own identity. Specifically in the terms of her gender. This is not a LGBTQ novel. It is not a trans novel. Prince falls into this niche where she is both cis and straight, yet is assumed not to be. Her look is rather androgynous. And her personality/interests more masculine. She her struggles with being misidentified in childhood. And being the only girl on the baseball team.

Her illustrations help to show us all of her various phases, hairstyles, and body changes as she grew up. These visuals are key, since we her appearance is the main topic of the book. In the end she finds a place where she can be herself, and be liked for being her. This story’s message couldn’t be conveyed as strongly if it were written in text rather than the graphic memoir style.


My Friend Dahmer by John Backderf

This is a novel I didn’t love when I finished, but was sufficiently creeped out while reading. The premise of this graphic memoir, is that the author went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. He had a few brief interactions with him. And even back then knew that there was something off about Dahmer.

The book then goes into detail about Dahmer’s childhood. His early homicidal tendencies. And other high school interactions with him. But the fact that it is revolving around the author’s own personal experiences, really makes this one. Hearing this from a personal perspective is very effective at increasing the creepy factor. Reading about a serial killer is creepy enough. But to think that this person was once considered just a regular high schooler, is even creepier.

Although Backderf’s illustrations aren’t overly dark, these visuals really make Dahmer’s actions feel more realistic. And, yes, creepier. It’s interesting to see him transform from an awkward teenager into, well, a monster. Having visuals for this is really effective.

Must-Read Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Books

Must-Read Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Books

empty grocery store

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014) is one of the best post-apocalyptic novels I’ve read in a long time. Unlike most novels in this genre, the villain of the story are human beings. Much like they are today in a pre-apocalyptic world. It’s not us vs them. It’s us vs us. And humans can be really fucking scary.

The novel also explores what living in a post-apocalyptic world will be like. Not just one year after, but 20-years later. Mandel skips right over the first year+ of the breakdown of civilization. This could be interpreted as lazy writing, but I didn’t mind it. Most other apocalypse stories solely focus on these years. We don’t need another rehash of the lootings, killings, escapes, and deaths. We can assume that this will happen. Instead, we get to learn how civilization tries to restore some semblance of sanity.

Also different in this story is the cause of the end of the civilized world. Much like Stephen King’s The Stand, there is a highly contagious fast-acting flu. You can catch it by just being near someone with it. And it will kill you within 24-hours. Just a flu. Something that starts with a little coughing no big deal. This feels more realistic to me than some other plot devices. I also prefer to have something simple like a flu end the world to nothing at all. Many novels just skip right over that part.

The Stand can be a bit of a trudge to get through. Especially the second half. But the beginning is one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had reading. The killer flu, Captain Trips, starts with an innocuous cough. Then the coughing gets more fierce. And by then it’s likely you already have it. And your chances are slim to none. It is set in New York City. And that is where I was living when I read it. Do you know how many people cough on a subway train? In stores? While walking on the sidewalk? Every time someone coughed, I thought about Captain Trips and twitched a little. That is why using a realistic apocalypse device is so important.

Instead of focusing on survival, Station Eleven focuses on living. You know, what we do every day. Because there comes a point where you are surviving. All your needs are being met. But now what? There is no electricity. Little communication. No fast transportation. No running water. The flu has ran it’s course so you are no longer afraid of it. But now what? What about entertainment? The novel focuses on a traveling theater that performs for various small towns around Lake Michigan in the Mid-West.

You learn about many of the character’s though there are some main ones. And the narrative thread used to connect everyone is brilliant. This is an emotional story, not one about fighting. Much like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. The story also spans decades so you get to watch character’s grow up. This helps the reader to feel a closeness to the main characters. Even if we never find out about certain parts of their life.

Station Eleven is a welcomed change in the post-apocalyptic genre. Reading about the human condition in a broken society is just as interesting as reading about humans surviving.

Read This If You Like: Stephen King’s The Stand and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.


post apocalyptic sci fi desert

Inverted World

Christopher Priest wrote The Prestige in 1995 and it became a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in 2006. Both formats of the movie are great. But back in 1974, Priest wrote the classic sci-fi novel Inverted World. This is frequently found on Best-Of lists and is well deserved. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I hadn’t read anything like it.

The first sentence of the novel is, “I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.” This sets the tone for the new world you will be entering. And Priest’s writing style. The dystopian society he creates is openly strange. Yet many nuances are subtle to the point of going unnoticed until later on in the story.

The main character lives in a city named Earth that is on rails and needs to be continuously moved. It reminded me of A Handmaid’s Tale because the society is broken into classes. There are many rules. Many secrets. Men and women are separated. It feels very rigid. In this way, it is also similar to Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. One group of people gets more information than others. This bothers some, but not everyone.

Priest builds a world that will engulf you. Learning more and more about this strange society only makes you ask more questions. And the build-up absolutely pays off. This is one of the best endings I’ve read. Remember, it was written in 1974. So you may predict it now (I didn’t) but that doesn’t mean it was predictable in it’s time of publishing. Inverted World keeps a perfect pace, never letting the reader get too confused or frustrated. After all, dystopian secret societies are what post-apocalyptic civilization is all about.

Read This If You Like: Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale and Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451.


dystopian cold

World War Z

Max Brook’s “oral history of the Zombie war”, World War Z, is a non-narrative fiction novel of various people’s experiences. This is also the first book I’ve ‘read’ as an audio-book. And I couldn’t recommend a better one. The novel is set-up in a fictional world where a Zombie war happened. And the author interviews numerous different people, in different countries, to get their understanding of it. We talk to civilians and soldiers. Some interviewees multiple times.

For the audio-book version, this was just like listening to an interview. The voice-acting was top notch featuring some big name celebrities. I will listen to anything narrated by Henry Rollins. It was easy to become absorbed in the descriptions of the war. Even though the apocalyptic event is being described in the past-tense, Brooks does a great job at making the reader feel like they’re still in it.

In an over-saturated genre, World War Z really stands out. It takes a wide range of stories from so many different people. This allows you to hear about a soldier describing “all-out war.” Thinking about facing an enemy who doesn’t need to eat or sleep. Doesn’t need any comfort. Doesn’t even need shelter. Framing a zombie battle in that way was interesting. There was a hopelessness involved; despite knowing that this person survived.

Unlike the other two novels mentioned, this one spans many regions. It’s interesting to hear how the war affected people in different parts of the world. How the first few days were interpreted differently. And how varied people’s responses were. Even though there is not one main character, other than the interviewer, I still felt emotionally close to many of the speakers.

I am not one to typically read a book on zombies. But if you’re going to read (or listen to) one, this is the one.

Read This If You Like: Non-narrative fiction. And zombies.


Repeat Favorites: Rewatching & Rereading

Repeat Favorites: Rewatching & Rereading

Enjoying a book or movie/tv show so much that you can experience it repeatedly is the biggest compliment I can think of. It’s interesting to think of what keeps us engaged despite already knowing the story, the characters, the plot devices, and the reveal. Not all works hold this ability for repeat viewings/reads. And it’s not always because the media is necessarily good. Sometimes it just as a particular association for us.


the hobbit book versions

Winter Read: The Hobbit

For the past three years, I’ve read Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit in December. This started because I wanted to re-read the book when the first movie came out. Then I just continued it each year. Even last year when I didn’t see the last movie, I still read the book. December is a mixed month of celebrations and loneliness for me so I tend to read light-fiction for the month. The Hobbit definitely provides a comfort. Even though I know all the battles, story-lines, and characters, I still love the thrill of the conclusion. I still love Bilbo’s desire to go home and drink some tea.

The first time I read this book, I was in my late 20’s and didn’t think I’d like it. I wasn’t interested in LotR, though I had seen the movies. But I thought the books would be too much. And I wasn’t very familiar with The Hobbit. A boyfriend told me to read his copy and I ended up loving it. This is always a reminder for me to keep trying new things and branching out to new genres. I imagine this is a book I will continue to re-read and enjoy for a while.


christina applegate

Movies for Sick Days & The Holidays

I have several movies that I like to watch when I’m home sick but this is my favorite. I always go to Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead first. This is not a movie you really have to pay attention to. The premise is totally silly. Christina Applegate is hilarious/fantastic. It also has decent “real world” concepts like sitting in rush hour traffic and complaining about taxes. Also, it has my all time favorite quote, “I’m right on top of that rose!” Watching this movie is definitely comforting and I won’t feel guilty falling asleep during it. I guess at it’s heart, this is a coming of age story and I am such a sucker for those.

Then from November-January I have a whole rotation of movies I love to re-watch every year. Most are classics. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Holiday, The Cutting Edge, Love Actually, Planes Trains and Automobiles. Those are the must-watch ones. Sometimes I slip in others that I only watch every few years or so like The Family Stone. It’s not that these are the best movies by any means. But they provide a comfort in the dead of winter.


finding nemo star fish

Can’t Get Enough: Finding Nemo

Several years ago while recovering from a surgery, I spent four days going in and out of sleep. I wasn’t keeping any type of regular hours. Sometimes I could hold a conversation and sometimes I would nod right off. I didn’t have the energy to sit at a desk or stand up for even a short period of time. So laying semi-upright in bed watching tv was the only thing I could do at the time.

For some reason, I decided I really wanted to watch Finding Nemo. I would put the movie on, then doze off shortly after. A little bit later I’d wake up and watch some more of it. When it ended I would just play it again, watching different parts this time, and nodding off again and again. I’m pretty sure I had Finding Nemo playing on repeat for at least 2 days straight while I just dozed in and out.

Like the rest of these, it was a comfort. And I have this very specific association with the movie now. It’s not my favorite movie, I don’t know it by heart, but I do know that when I’m half conscious and in pain, Nemo and his friends can provide some relief.


futurama lego set

Television Favorites: Futurama & Freaks and Geeks

Serial media doesn’t always keep my attention. So liking a tv show enough to re-watch it is a big deal for me. I have only done this with two shows: Futurama and Freaks & Geeks. Although the latter is just a single season so that is easy. And Futurama is just so good. This is the only show that I can quote most of.

Freaks & Geeks is rewatchable because I can relate so much to the main character, Lindsay. I was very much like her in high school and relish in the second hand embarrassment I feel when watching her transition through the high school caste system.


What are your favorite tv shows, movies, or books to read/watch over and over? What makes them so special?