I’m a fan of graphic novels, and I read them regularly — the connection between a good story and good art is a big draw for me (pun intended). That connection between art and story exists with both fiction and nonfiction narratives and it makes for a unique experience when an artist has her or his own story to tell. I’ve been reading a number of graphic memoirs lately and thought it might be an opportunity to share this interesting subgenre.
All the books in this list have different styles of storytelling and art. Some are funny, others sad, some a mixture of both, but they all show the willingness of the authors to tell their stories in the best way they know how — through their art.
Looking for more graphic memoirs? Here’s a great list of 100 must-read Graphic Memoirs from Bookriot.com. They may not all be available in the Douglas County Libraries collection, but you can request a title or ask a staff member and we’ll work to get a copy for you!
In the depths of winter, we often dream of summer — the magical season of constant sun, exotic destinations, ambitious home projects, and escape from the grind of daily life. We welcome summer with great fanfare and anticipation, seduced by our convictions that it’s the perfect season.
Initially, the allure is a passionate need to embrace all that summer offers. It is that unique moment when everything is fresh and exciting, and the only thing you want is to spend time together. It is you and summer against the world — the possibilities seem endless.
Eventually, those charming, entertaining quirks mutate into unamusing flaws. Summer’s need for adoration, its volatility, and its intensity can become overwhelming. Do you endure what has become imperfect for the memory of past attraction? Or do you sever the connection?
Maybe you just take a welcome break.
Try rebounding indoors with a refreshing drink or pint of ice cream and one of these television series.
Want more? Try one of these other binge-worthy series.
You may have heard that Douglas County Libraries is hosting an evening with Louise Penny at the Lone Tree Arts Center (7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 5) in partnership with Tattered Cover Book Store. If you haven’t heard, buy your ticket now — there are only a few left!
Normally, I get these author event notices and think, “That’s cool. We have fun events.” When this one arrived in my inbox, though, I got teary-eyed. Let me tell you why. Note: If you have sensitivities to mildly sad stories, you may want to grab some tissues.
In April 2014, my siblings and I found out our mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. After we got over the shock, each of us kids came up with things to do to support our ailing mom. My brother bought her lots of cancer-fighting foods and did all the heavy lifting around the house. My youngest sister visited almost daily and did the housekeeping. And my middle sister decided we would all shave our heads when mom started chemo so she wouldn’t be the only bald one in the family.
Me? I buddy-read Louise Penny’s books with mom.
Actually, it wasn’t quite buddy reading. Mom had been reading Penny’s books for a while. She loved them and had been trying to get me to read them so we could have book chats, but I don’t normally go in for those kinds of stories (Penny insists they’re not cozy mysteries so I won’t call them that). But now that mom was sick, I relented and started with the first book in the Three Pines/Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries, Still Life.
Personal bragging right about A Rule Against Murder: Mine is the most popular review on Goodreads. I’ve copied an excerpt from that review because it explains how this project went:
So, here’s a stupid conversation I had with my mom last week while we were sitting in the waiting room between doctors’ appointments.
Me: “Oh, hey, I’m listening to the next Louise Penny book.”
Mom (perks up): “Which one?”
Me: “It’s either the fourth or the fifth. It’s the one that takes place in the lodge out in the wilderness and there are snotty rich people there while Gamache and his wife, Rene Marie, are celebrating their anniversary.”
Me [SPOILER!]: “The daughter is killed by the statue of her father? The rich family had all come together to remember the dad by putting a statue of him in the garden of this lodge? There’s a big storm and, afterward, the gardener finds the girl squished under the knocked-over statue?”
Her: “I don’t think I’ve read that one.”
Me (putting it down to chemo amnesia): “Oh, I’m sure you have. Like I said, it’s the fourth or the fifth one. Ruth Zardo’s duck hasn’t even begun to feature prominently. It was only born in the last book and Three Pines hasn’t even shown up in this book. I don’t know what else happens yet, I’m not that far in so I can’t tell you anything else, but I’m sure you’ve read it.”
We look at Jim. He shakes his head and shrugs.
Mom: “Well…I haven’t read these in order. I probably never read this one.”
Me: “WHAT? You’ve been making me read these so we could talk about them, but you haven’t even been going in order?”
Her: “I just wanted you to read about the duck. The old lady and the duck are my favorite part.”
Alright, well, I am reading these in order and the overall story, it is growing on me.
The mystery in this particular installment was actually kind of weak. I’d give it two stars. I’d come up with a far twistier Who/Why/How and was disappointed in the actual results.
But who cares?
I’m not reading these for the crime-solving element. I’m reading these for a duck, because my mom told me to, and I’ve become fond of Chief Inspector Gamache and his wife and the village of Three Pines.
I want to say that our reading time together fixed everything and she beat stage 4 lung cancer, that she is currently out puttering around in the garden. That didn’t happen. She died in July 2016. Don’t worry, it was a good death; she went with the rain, surrounded by family — and a rainbow appeared afterward.
I want to thank Louise Penny for giving me all that, for providing common ground for me and my mother, for giving me a warm hearth, as it were, to which I could retreat after everything was over. Obviously, I should go and listen to her talk on September 5, but I worry that I’ll just sit in the back and cry, which may not be the best representation of Douglas County Libraries. And, really, what author wants a crier in the audience?
Nevertheless, I hope you’ll go. And if you haven’t read her books, give them a try, even if they’re not really your cuppa. There’s a chance you’ll fall in love with the characters like I did and they can become a comfort to you in trying times.
I’ve become one of those parents who criticizes their kids’ musical tastes with the refrain, “This isn’t music!” or “Music was so much better back in the …” And while I’m not using the Beatles or Beach Boys as examples (though I could), I am thinking about the music of the ’80s, music that immediately takes me back to another time and place. And it seems those musicians are now looking back as well, because a number of them have recently released memoirs that provide a behind-the-scenes look at this wonderful time. Just leafing through the books to check out the pictures of some of these groups is good for a giggle.
If you lived through the 1980s, here are some books, music and movies to help you reminisce. And if you’re too young to have memories of this time, the books below will help you understand why this decade was so awesome … at least musically.
When I have a young adult request for fantasy reads, I have a few go-to picks that I have always loved and love to recommend. All feature a quietly determined main character who is fixated on pursuing his or her quest. There’s no flashiness, no drama, just tenacity and cleverness — and when cleverness fails, resolve. The writing is beautifully descriptive and full of imagery, without being overly flowery or dense. These books all rank among those that consistently receive positive feedback.
In a culture that often disregards older people with life experience, it is sometimes easy to feel that creative potential is higher when you’re younger. All of these female authors have dispelled that myth by publishing first novels after the age of 40. They prove that you do not need to succumb to cultural expectations of aging. Their tenacity and spirit confirm that the creative spark within continues to be a vibrant force as we age.
Following are some favorites from such authors, plus a few more in this book list.
No doubt you’re familiar with, or have at least heard of, the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music. You probably even know about the Man Booker Prize. Those are the big literary awards, and you’ll often find some overlap between their shortlists. You’ll also often find that your friends have some of those finalists on their end tables and Kindles. But what if you want to read books that get nominated for lesser-known awards?
We can help with that.
The following literary awards will be presented this month. Let’s take a look at six books that are shortlisted for recognition, shall we?
As in this BAILEYS, because Irish cream and books go hand in hand in the U.K.
You might have noticed many of these books contain similar themes. Maybe that’s the nature of contemporary literature or maybe I have a superpower that allows me to choose random books that tie together really well. I enjoyed reading these simultaneously and consecutively because I was allowed the pleasure of comparing and contrasting character experiences, especially the coming-of-age stories, as well as how past affects present and how written stories can influence generations to come. However, if you feel you’d be bored reading the same themes over and over, there are plenty more shortlisted titles from which to choose. Douglas County Libraries doesn’t have all the finalists in all the award categories, but these are available for your reading pleasure.
Let’s kick off summer with award-potential literature!
A couple of weeks ago I came across an article about poisonous plants and their role in medicine. Not only was the article interesting on its own, but it started me on a kick of medical reading. No, no, I don’t mean dusty old anatomy books or the latest diet craze how-to’s. I’m talking about true medical stories that offer intriguing and unusual insights into both the human body and the medical industry — the stuff that reads like fiction because it just doesn’t seem possible or probable.
Check out these five true tales and see if you agree.
One day, Susannah Cahalan is going about her business as a reporter working in the heart of New York; the next, she is waking up in the hospital with no memory of the past month. Diagnosed with a myriad of different, and sometimes contradictory, medical issues, Cahalan was identified as having everything from bipolar disorder to Alzheimer’s disease. The author shares her own story, which is as much a mystery as a medical tale, narrating her own attempt to piece together what happened in her missing month.
So many medical stories are written from the outside-in that it was nice to find one written by the person who lived through the whole thing. Cahalan is a good writer who doesn’t shy away from sharing her tough story. While this memoir might inspire some readers toward paranoia (I know I had my moments), it’s also a story about coming out on the other side and getting your life back together.
I want to encourage some interactive “vandalism,” something I typically wouldn’t do as a library professional. But, please, hear me out. It’s for the sake of good mental health.
Jenny Lawson is one of my favorite people. Her popular online persona, The Bloggess, has overflowed the internet, spawning two humor-laden memoirs and a third book that is a little different: It’s both a coloring book of pictures she drew on a book tour — because it gave “my hands something to do so they don’t destroy me” — and short essays and affirmations, written simultaneously to herself and to everyone during a particularly heavy depression. It’s called You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds, and it’s really a form of therapy created by a person who knows therapy because she’s been there. Like, probably this week. Twice.
Since the release of You Are Here, Jenny has been re-tweeting pictures taken by her fans of pages they’ve colored. One picture tweeted by @dustmote_, a member of #thebloggesstribe, is of a note she’d written in a library copy of the book.
(Photo courtesy of Sarah Ohme, aka @dustmote_, used with permission)
Lovely penmanship, right? But it’s that message, the acknowledgement that the next person holding the book may feel fragile, may feel like an outsider, may feel overwhelmed and lonely, but even so, that person is not alone. There are others in that same space, unseen, perhaps, but there nonetheless. That’s important. That message inspired me.
In some Douglas County Libraries copies of this book, there are stickers inside the front covers that ask you to not write in the books. In other copies, there are messages asking you to join the celebration that is You Are Here. Those are the interactive copies. I invite you to help those books undergo a journey. Color in them, share your stories, help each other through tough times, offer encouragement and support. Look at what others have done and gain inspiration or, at the very least, the knowledge that you’re here, we’re here, and you’re not alone. That is, after all, the intent.
Let’s make these books into living documents, each one unique. They will become a representation of Douglas County, and we’ll archive the copies once they’re out of circulation so they can continue to help, guide and inspire the next generation.
If you’d like to re-create what Jenny did, whether it be for your own mental health or just the fun of it, we have useful resources! Check these out.
If you need something beyond the items Douglas County Libraries offers, these resources can provide additional help.
Remember: You are here, but you are not alone.