11 Books You Never Thought You'd Read (but Will Fall in Love with Instantly)

Like most of us, you've probably heard of graphic novels—but haven't read too many. Here are 10 new titles (plus one classic) that make you think, feel and daydream just like any other book.

What It Is

What It Is

209 pages; Drawn and Quarterly
One of the most moving and emotionally direct forms of the whole graphic genre is the memoirin part because it allows for all kinds of inventive approaches to telling life stories, such as using the drawings to show how people look and feel to the writer (a huge, tall, monstery dad, for example). It also helps to have thoughtful, deeply poignant writing, which is exactly what you'll find in Lynda Barry's What It Is. This memoir of a young artist came out in 2008, but it's the one to start with if you've never read a graphic book before. (Note: Graphic novels can be novels, memoirs, biographies or anything in between.) Barry uses text, drawings and even collages to re-create her violent, TV-saturated childhood, describing how she used art as her way out of the trailer park. "We don't create a fantasy world to escape reality," she says. "We create it to be able to stay." Discouraged at every turn by her parents and teachers, she grew into an adult who felt that she had little to say creatively and, further, that she couldn't say that little well enough. That is, until she rediscovered an imaginary game from childhood, one that required her simply to sit very still in the corner of a room and wait for inanimate objects (say, the pattern on the wallpaper) to come "alive" and move. The magic of that moment and of all Barry's self-examinations is that her ideas apply to just about everybody. We've all had those moments when we think we're not good enough or original enough. Her transformation belongs to all of us.
— Leigh Newman