This is the first Top 5 Wednesday category that I’ve really struggled with, to the point where I considered either skipping it or changing the category slightly. For a long time, I was a bit of a book snob when it came to graphic novels or audiobooks. I still don’t enjoy audiobooks very much, and I haven’t read a ton of graphic novels or manga. However, there are a few that I can think of that are worth recommending.
For the sake of variety, I am not going to mention some of the amazing graphic novels I’ve already recommended in other posts: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, and the With the Light series by Keiko Tobe.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and the official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
I first found out about this graphic novel through a museum exhibit about it that I saw several years ago when I visited New York. This book is a very intense graphic novel about Art Spiegelman’s father’s memories of the Holocaust and his time in the concentration camps. Characters are illustrated as different kinds of animals to represent different groups, such as Jews and mice and Nazis as cats. Alongside this story, the novel also depicts the difficult relationship between Art and his father, and it was this aspect which actually stood out to me even more than the Holocaust story itself. I loved how the author chose to give a very raw, honest portrayal of his relationship with his father, without glossing over any guilt, resentment, or arguments there may have been. It is not an easy book to read, but it is well worth the effort.
2) The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
When I did my reading challenges last year, I purposely pushed myself to try more graphic novels, and this was one of the first that I decided I wanted to try. This graphic novel is an autobiographical account of Marjane Satrapi’s life, growing up in Iran and moving away when the wars started. I knew very little about Iran before reading this book, which made some of the story a bit confusing to me. For someone who hardly read graphic novels, and almost never reads non-fiction, I thought this book was very compelling and I really liked reading about how Marjane tried to find herself. Like with Maus, I appreciated how she did not try to sugarcoat the rough times in her life. I thought the honesty was very refreshing, and made it so easy to relate to her story.
3) Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba
Aside from the With the Light series, I had never read any manga before this year. I’ve watched quite a few anime, and Death Note was one of the first I’ve seen as well as one of the best. I have only read the first volume of the manga, but judging by the anime, I would highly recommend this series. It is a story about a young man named Light Yagami who discovers a “death note,” a book dropped by a shinigami (death god), which gives him the power to kill people whose names he writes in the book, with some very specific conditions. Light decides to use the Death Note to rid the world of evil, but when the authorities start noticing that criminals are suddenly dropping dead, they start to investigate. The majority of the story involves the battle of wits between Light and L, an eccentric detective hired to figure out who is behind all of the deaths. The anime seems to have stuck pretty closely to the manga, so I would imagine the story is just as compelling in this format as well.
4) The Graveyard Book (Audiobook) narrated by Neil Gaiman
As I mentioned above, I never listen to audiobooks unless they are specifically called for as part of my challenges. The main reason for that is I have a really hard time keeping my attention on the narration the full time, unless I have something else to do at the same time. I listened the audio version of this book performed by Neil Gaiman himself last year because of a challenge prompt requiring an audiobook, and I was very impressed. Although I would still say that I did not get as much out of the story as I would have by just reading it in written form, it definitely caught my attention. Gaiman’s narration was very captivating, and I loved how he altered his voice for each character. Some of the writing style reminded me a bit of Harry Potter. This is definitely a book worth reading in any form, but the audio specifically is worth a listen if you enjoy audiobooks.
5) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This one may be a bit of a cheat, since a lot of the book is actually in written form, however about as much of it is told through comics and illustrations. This book has been the highlight of my year so far. I’ve been meaning to read this book for quite a while, ever since seeing Allie Brosh’s comics about “the Alot” and her dinosaur costume. Her style is an excellent balance of humour and insight, ranging from hilarious stories about her childhood to very meaningful chapters about her battle with depression. I thought she did an amazing job of handling serious topics in a way that makes them very accessible without minimizing the importance of the subject. I’ve recently learned that Allie Brosh has another book due out later on this year, and I am really looking forward to it!