Write On!

Do you feel like you have a story to tell? If you have ever thought to yourself, “I think I would like to write a novel someday,” then there are books, events and organizations to help you realize your novel-writing desires. National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the idea that everyone has a story worth telling, and that all stories matter. NANOWRIMO is also the writing challenge that takes place annually during the month of November. Participants commit to the goal of writing 50,000 words (the approximate length of a novel) in one month.

November 2017 could be the beginning of your novel-writing career. This list of motivational and how-to books can help you get ready to share your story during NANOWRIMO.

No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

by Chris Baty
Written by the founder of NANOWRIMO, this is a humorous, motivational guide to writing your novel in a month. This book is not a general “how to write fiction guide,” but rather a guide for successfully navigating the 30-day challenge.

Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days

by Denise Jaden
This is a useful guide for NANOWRIMO participants. There are daily coaching tips along with practical revision advice for the post-30-day challenge. During NANOWRIMO, Jaden completed the initial drafts of two young adult novels that were subsequently published.

Write Your Novel in a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What to Do Next

by Jeff Gerke
This guide can help you prepare and organize your novel. It also covers how to create dynamic characters and narrative structure through the revision stages, as well as what to do with a completed draft.

Write Your Novel From the Middle

by James Scott Bell
According to this bestselling author on the craft of writing, the heart of your novel may be in the middle of your story. Bell, who has published both fiction and nonfiction and has studied writing and personal discovery, offers unique advice on creating a robust novel. This guide can help you prepare and organize your novel. It covers how to create dynamic characters, progress from the story’s creation through the revision stages, and what to do with a completed draft.

The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel: All the Tools You Need to Write and Sell Your First Novel

by Hallie Ephron
This is a systematic, comprehensive guide to writing fiction by a published author. It includes everything from creating memorable characters, to marketing your novel, to finding an agent and pursuing a career as a writer.

Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements into Your Story

by Steven Harper
This book contains insights into creating a paranormal novel, as well as exercises to fuel the writer’s imagination. It includes information about the nature of paranormal fiction and techniques that authors can use for world building.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel

by Lisa Cron
This groundbreaking book discusses the difference between what a story is and is not, and why stories are so integral to the human experience. Based on brain science, Cron offers a blueprint to get to the essence of a story and to make it one that readers will not be able to resist reading.

Helpful Resources for National Novel Writing Month

Parker Guessing Game

Most people have a favorite genre. Take me, for instance. I usually stick to sci-fi and fantasy. It’s not that I don’t read anything else, but those are the genres I reach for first. I know I’m most likely to find the feeling I’m looking for there. Other people may prefer literary fiction, historicals, romances, or young adult novels. But all of us come across reads outside our favorite genres that are surprisingly satisfying.

Perhaps you’ve come to one of us in the Adult Services department at Parker for reading advice before. You might even have a good idea what our favorite genres are. So here’s a little puzzle to test your knowledge of us! We’ve each picked one book we enjoyed that we don’t think people would associate with us. Can you guess who picked what?

I recommend reading each of these fascinating books. Then, when you return them, come on up and discuss them with us.

The Girl With All the Gifts

by M.R. Carey
The children live in cells, only allowed out for medical examinations and schooling. Between the cells and their classroom, they are strapped down and heavily guarded, though the children don’t know why. This is a tense but heartwarming post-apocalyptic tale. The staff member who picked this novel especially loved it as an audiobook.

Get Well Soon

by Jennifer Wright
A darkly humorous exploration of plagues throughout human history. The author explores both the effects of the diseases and the people who learned to fight them. This is devastating history written in an entertaining, yet educational way.

The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald
In this charming classic children’s tale, Princess Irene is almost isolated in a mountain castle with her nursemaid. Her adventures begin when she is rescued from goblins by a young miner. Now they must discover what the goblins want and how to protect her kingdom.

World War Z

by Max Brooks
This is written as a series of firsthand accounts from survivors of the Zombie War. It traces the plague around the world, explores political and geographic causes, and so on — a deeper exploration of the world than most zombie books. This does not mean it is lacking in darkness or tension, though!

The Reason You’re Alive

by Matthew Quick
After he is diagnosed with a brain tumor, a 68-year-old man searches for his Vietnam War “nemesis” to return something he stole. He feels that the world today is far different than the world he’d protected in the ’70s, and this quest may be the only way to create some sense from the chaos.

Whiskey & Charlie

by Annabel Smith
Whiskey and Charlie, twins, were inseparable as children. As they grew older, Charlie faded into the background and the brothers grew apart. Now Whiskey is in a coma and Charlie isn’t all that upset. But as the coma continues and Whiskey’s chance for recovery becomes more grim, Charlie begins to wonder if his reasons for resenting Whiskey are important.

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

by Richard Bach
Some consider this to be a life-changing book. It follows Richard Bach during a low point in his life. He meets a man who calls himself a messiah and who endeavors to teach Bach about the truths and illusions of life, and that teachers can be found anywhere.

The Couple Next Door

by Shari Lapena
The disappearance of a baby begins to unravel the secrets of the parents and the couple next door. This tense psychological thriller is described as “a twisty rollercoaster of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives.”

Beauty Queens

by Libba Bray
A satirical novel about teenage beauty queen contestants marooned on an island. They must learn to survive each other and the island’s many hazards, including giant snakes, secret agents, and so much more.

The Hexed

by Heather Graham
Devin arrives at her new home only to find that someone was just murdered nearby. It turns out that this is only the first. A ghost leads her to another body. Meanwhile, a paranormal investigator finds yet another body. As the two strive to solve the mystery, they are drawn to each other — and the dead seem to approve.

Irene

by Pierre Lemaitre
The Novelist is a serial killer who bases his (or her) murders off classic crime novels. Commandant Verhoeven is on the case, but is also concerned with the birth of his first child. Be warned! Some of the murders are not for the faint of heart.

State of the Onion

by Julie Hyzy
A White House chef stops a fleeing intruder with a frying pan, embroiling her in an assassination plot. Meanwhile, an old rival competes with her for the Executive Chef position.

 

Fabulous Females of Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year. It’s when tons of new books hit the shelves. I am always searching for fabulous female characters who leave a lasting impression. Books that stick with me — or even haunt me — long after I have finished them are exciting finds. Here are a few of the books I have enjoyed. These all feature fabulous female characters and were written by women with something to say. Check out this complete list for more!

Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions

by Amy Stewart
Stewart is widely known for her nonfiction titles like The Drunken Botanist. After coming across a 1914 article about the Kopp Sisters seeking damages after their buggy was struck by a motorcar, and how thugs tormented them for a year because of it, Stewart decided to write this series. Six-foot-tall Constance Kopp and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, don’t shy from confrontation. Constance becomes the first female Deputy Sheriff eventually. Start with Girl Waits With Gun and then Lady Cop Makes Trouble. In this third book in the series, it’s 1916 and Deputy Sheriff Kopp seeks to improve women’s treatment in the legal system.

The Bloodprint

by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Colorado author Ausma Zehanat Khan is known for her Khattak and Getty mystery series, which follows the careers and cases of Toronto detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty, beginning with The Unquiet Dead. The Bloodprint is the first book in Khan’s new fantasy series. It is a tale of religion, oppression, heroism, political intrigue and hope. A dark power called the Talisman rules the land and seeks to suppress knowledge and subjugate women. A group of powerful women fights against this evil by protecting the one symbol that could destroy the Talisman: the Bloodprint text.

Join Douglas County Libraries for an evening with this author! Khan will be speaking about this book and her others at DCL in Lone Tree on Friday, October 27, at 6:30 p.m. Click here to register.

Manhattan Beach

by Jennifer Egan
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan strikes gold again with her first historical fiction novel that is also part noir thriller. Young Anna Kerrigan accompanies her father to see Dexter Styles, his shady boss. Soon after, her father disappears. Years later, the country is at war and Anna works for the Navy Yard to provide for her mom and disabled sister. She becomes the first female diver to repair war ships. It is the most dangerous, elite job there is. She sees Dexter again and begins to understand what might have happened to her father. The book draws readers into the world of sailors, gangsters, strong women, unions and war.

The Best of Us

by Joyce Maynard
This memoir from New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard might make you cry, but it also portrays the joy of true love and partnership. Joyce and Jim Maynard found one another online in 2011. Both in their 50s, they fell in love and married. As a couple, they lived every day to the fullest, went on fabulous road trips, and experienced amazing events. Just after their first wedding anniversary, Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. They seized each day and lived boldly until the end 19 months later.

Who Will Get the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature?

Books written by authors representing different backgrounds and cultures always pique my curiosity. I enjoy the various perspectives, forms of expression, literary forms, and genres. We will learn who the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature is in early October. Poets, essayists, novelists, even songwriters are among the past winners. Here are a few foreign authors who might aspire to this prestigious award.

Julian Barnes

As we get older we tend to reflect more on our past. For some of us, past experiences bring joy, but that’s not true for everyone. Many think about the past with regret. Is it because our perspective changes over the years, or maybe because life hasn’t brought what we expected?

The Sense of an Ending is about a middle-aged man facing divorce. From his new perspective, he looks back to his past, recalling childhood friendships and a significant college girlfriend. Nothing looks the same anymore. His current perspective, so different now, brings different answers to the story of his life.

As the main character feels: “Perhaps it’s that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent. We live in time, it bounds us and defines us, and time is supposed to measure history, isn’t it? But if we can’t understand time, can’t grasp its mysteries of pace and progress, what chance do we have with history — even our own small, personal, largely undocumented piece of it?”

Surprisingly, The Sense of an Ending has a positive outcome.

Paulo Coelho

One of Coelho’s fans said about the author that “he understands women like no one else.” As it is, his last novels focused on women characters, showing the incredible richness of feminine spirituality. The Spy, as in his previous novels The Witch of Portobello, Brida, and Adultery, focuses on a female character and shows the complexity of feminine inner life. Written in diary form, the novel tells the story of Mata Hari and her struggle as a woman who raises herself up from poverty to become one of the most famous and mysterious characters in the 20th century.

Haruki Murakami

Murakami is well-known in the literary world. Japanese and international readers are fascinated with the surreal worlds Murakami creates in his works and some Kafka-like darkness that is deeply rooted in the inner lives of his characters, as well as in the realms they are surrounded by. His new work, Men Without Women, is a collection of seven short stories. The seven tales, portraits of men who for assorted reasons are alone, give readers an analytical view into human nature.

Salman Rushdie

Rushdie’s new novel tells a story about a mysterious billionaire, Nero Golden, and his “three motherless sons” who immigrated to New York in the time of Obama’s presidency. The family is full of secrets: their true names are unknown, their past is a darkness, the reason for their arrival in the U.S. is not revealed. A mystery doesn’t last long, though, especially in the internet era. The Golden House is a story of America in our time, a thoughtful commentary to the events we all have been witnessing. The intelligently written book raises questions about the human condition, good and evil — which each of us must answer ourselves.

Yann Martel

Martel is well-known for his novel Life of Pi, which was turned into a movie in 2012. Published in 2016, The High Mountains of Portugal tells three stories of people who mourn the deaths of their loved ones. There is a young man, Tomas, who mourns the death of his wife, son and father, and who finds an ancient diary that sends him on a quest to look for a treasure. There is also a pathologist who mourns his wife and who finds mysterious objects, and a Canadian politician who withdraws from life after suffering the loss of his spouse. Their stories, like puzzle pieces, get together at the end of the parable to reveal spiritual wisdom that most of us search for in life.

Adam Zagajewski

Zagajewski is a Polish poet, essayist and translator. His deep understanding of history as well as his philosophical perspective make him a sensitive observer of our modern times. Zagajewski talks about many aspects of our existence, political and sociological problems, and transiency of life with clarity and poetical beauty.
Please see our International Literary Champions list for more foreign authors and their works.

Rule Britannia

I have a secret. I’m addicted to BBC television. Why? I’m glad you asked! I can’t resist well-written stories with memorable characters and developed plots that engage watchers. I especially enjoy stories with endings that are more real life and gritty than safe conclusions. That is more common in BBC television than general TV.

A great example is The Last Kingdom. Who would think a series about the conflicts between Saxons and Danes (Vikings) in 872 England would be must-see TV? When I first heard about it I thought, really? Fast-paced, political maneuvering, interesting characters. Think Game of Thrones without dragons, dire wolves and wights. And season two is even better than the first. The series is based on Bernard Cornwell’s book of the same name.

Luther is the series that launched my love of BBC television. If Idris Elba is starring, I will watch, no matter the reviews. He is that good! Luther is about a brilliant detective attempting to navigate a corrupt world while trying to hold his own. It’s dark and edgy, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.
If you want more BBC shows, click here.

Kindness Rocks Your Community

Have you heard of the The Kindness Rocks Project?

Toward the end of 2016, I started seeing friends on Facebook showing off their painted rocks. At first, it made me feel nostalgic; I remember painting rocks as a kids craft, both as a kid, myself, and then later as a babysitter. And then it made me curious. Why the uptick in painted rocks again?

Decorated stones have long been a crafty staple, from hippie rock gardens in the ’60s and ’70s to rainy-day afternoon crafts. They’re used as door stops, signs and markers, and now they’re being created to share inspiration and kindness with friends, neighbors and strangers.

This project has taken root in many communities across America. Instead of watching TV after dinner, families have taken to gathering around the craft table to paint. They take their works of art with them when they run errands or go on walks during the weekends. They hide their messages for others to find and often find messages left by others. Sometimes, this kind of project becomes therapy. Take Kat’s Rocks, for instance. A community came together to honor the memory of a young woman and to try to help others in her situation by sharing positive, encouraging messages.

Of course, there are concerns. Well-shaped rocks are taken from landscaped areas; paints and sealants aren’t environmentally friendly; and rocks are taken (i.e., stolen) from federal or state lands, where people also leave them (i.e., litter the grounds). There are also health concerns when people start leaving rocks near raw foods, like in the produce section of a grocery store or near an open salad bar or restaurant buffet. There are definite drawbacks to decorating rocks and placing them in public areas.

You can argue that the benefits of this movement outweigh any negative consequences, and perhaps you’ve already joined a rock group and have been painting and hiding your artistic stones for months, possibly years! If you’re on the fence, though, and want to participate in this project but are worried about any negative impact it may have in your community, you can do some research, first.

Join a local rock group

Rock groups are often found on Facebook. In the Douglas County and Denver areas, you can find 303Rocks and 5280 Rocks. El Paso County is just south of us and you’ll find their rocks — 719Rocks! — all along the Front Range. Most of these groups have guidelines on how to properly obtain rocks if you don’t have your own (e.g., there are often group members who are redoing their landscaping and giving away river rock for free!); the types of paints and sealants to use; and where you should hide rocks and where you shouldn’t, like in green, grassy areas where the rocks will likely be thrown away because they’re a hazard to lawn care equipment. So join a group and read its guidelines to familiarize yourself with local rock rules.

DIY paint rocks!

Most people paint rocks with acrylics because they stick well and the paint lasts a long time since it’s polymer-based (i.e., plastic). But not everyone is comfortable supporting the petroleum industry, and some don’t like contributing more plastic into the environment, even if it is in small amounts on brightly colored rocks. For those people, there are options, like making your own paints. Douglas County Libraries cardholders have free access to articles through the EBSCOHost database (aka Journals, Magazines and Newspapers on our Research page) on how to do just that. Here are just a couple: “Milk Paint… The Shabby Chic Look” and “Make Safe, Natural PAINT.”

Eco-friendly? Even better! 

You don’t have to paint rocks to make them lovely. You can use chalk or make collages from paper scraps or engage in mixed media. You can wind wire and glass beads around rocks or create yarn work for rocks. There are plenty of eco-friendly ways to decorate a rock that don’t involve paint. And we’ve got those resources too.

Chalk on the Wild Side

by Lorie King Kaehler
What could be more wild than chalking rocks? Probably a lot of things, but this book will give you some fun ideas as well as tips and tricks to make decorating your stones a cinch.

Collage Paint Draw

by Sue Pelletier
Are you intimidated by paints? Are your drawing skills primitive, at best? Try collage! It’s papercraft that will make you feel like an artist.

Making Wire & Bead Jewelry

by Janice Berkebile
Many of the techniques used for making wire and bead jewelry can be applied to rocks, too! Learn to make intricate wire designs that you can wrap around any shape of stone.

“But what about things that require sealants?” you ask. A quick internet search for “eco-friendly stone sealant” will give you lots of tips on finding products that are “green.” If you’re not comfortable with those results, find a landscaping company you trust and ask for recommendations of stone/masonry/concrete sealants that are the least harmful to the environment. Or, again, skip the sealant and find other ways to decorate your rocks.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — it’s the perfect time to spread love. The point of this project is to share joy, inspiration and kindness, with no expectations, to make the world a more beautiful place. If you want to join the Kindness Rocks movement, find your comfort level and start hiding art in your community!

This handy list of helpful books can help jump-start your artistic rock endeavors!

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Super Librarian Suzanne LaRue for hunting down articles via EBSCOHost.

Unconventional & Undiscovered

One of the advantages of working for Douglas County Libraries (DCL) is seeing new materials arriving daily. Some are from the expected bestselling authors, while others are a little more unconventional, demanding notice upon first sight. Is it the cover or title that catches the eye? You stop in your tracks, turn around, and quickly grasp the latest discovery, triumphant in your new find.

Sometimes it is difficult to get out of a reading rut. You might stick with what is familiar, safe and known. What began as a promising connection to an author settles into boredom. Recently, I decided to try a couple new authors to break my reading slump. It paid off in spades!

She Rides Shotgun

by Jordan Harper
This adrenaline-fueled, sharp, addictive thriller features a newly released ex-con and his daughter who are on the run from an issued kill warrant ordered by the president of the Aryan Steel prison gang.

Devil’s Call

by J. Danielle Dorn
This unusual Western combines horror and fantasy. The main character, Li Lian, goes on a revenge quest to hunt down her husband’s killer. As the tale progresses, an overwhelming sense of dread fills the book. Give this one a chance!
Looking for more suggestions? Check out these materials, hand-picked by DCL staff in Parker.

Graphic Novels: Horror

Maybe it’s a little early for Halloween reads (is that possible?), but my excuse is that most of the chilling graphic novels on this list are the first of a series. The Walking Dead is in volume 29 already, and that’s if the TV shows and video games are ignored! It’ll take a bit of time to catch up on them all.

Here are a few of my favorites, but please see the list if you want more suggestions. I stuck to these because we have physical copies on our shelves, but remember that Hoopla has a great selection of digital comics.

Nailbiter, volume 1 cover

Nailbiter: There Will Be Blood

by Joshua Williamson
The mystery makes it impossible to stop reading no matter how high the tension ramps up. Buckaroo, Oregon, has spawned generations of serial killers … and now someone knows why. He vanishes before he can tell NSA Agent Finch the secret, causing Finch to team up with the local sheriff and Buckaroo’s most recent serial killer. They are stalked, manipulated from the shadows, while Buckaroo creates its next killer. The serial killer theme means the series can be gory, but not excessively so. As a bonus, volume six is the final volume, meaning that no reader needs to be left with a cliffhanger.
Locke and Key, volume 1 cover

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft

by Joe Hill
Don’t expect Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, to pull any punches — even with the story of siblings exploring a house with magical keys. Trauma and tragedy send the Locke family back to their ancestral home. A great joy of the series is discovering what each hidden key can do. However, power can always be used for darker ends, and the keys are not the only secret in the house. An ancient evil seeks the powers of the keys for itself and is willing to do whatever it takes to obtain them. This series is also complete at six volumes, though Hill has released side stories about the past.
Afterlife With Archie, volume 1 cover

Afterlife With Archie: Escape From Riverdale

by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
As the cover indicates, being a major Archie character does not guarantee survival. The series could have been played for laughs, but instead Aguirre-Sacasa added a true horror element. Readers with a passing familiarity of the Archie gang can definitely enjoy this, but it’s the die-hard fans who will understand the horror to the fullest. The characters stay true to their normal comic selves, reacting to the zombie infection as you’d expect, and with the same consequences. As a side note, this spawned an Archie horror line that includes the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — a completely separate story that is far more dark and disturbing, with the Archie gang lacking any of their normal lightheartedness. Both series are ongoing.
Clean Room, volume 1 cover

Clean Room: Immaculate Conception

by Gail Simone
Journalist Chloe Pierce’s fiance kills himself after joining a cultish self-help society. Pierce’s quest to infiltrate the cult and expose the darkness inside reveals a greater darkness than she’d ever imagined. Beyond human evil, there are stranger, otherworldly horrors seeping into society. It’s impossible to know whom to trust — she can’t even trust her own eyes. The series boasts compelling characters, creeping horror, and some incredibly gruesome artwork. Simone knows how to tuck in moments of humor to perfectly emphasize upcoming terror. There are currently three volumes published, leaving readers at the edge of their seats waiting for more!

 

 

Dear Diary: Great Novels Written in Journal Format

Dear Diary…

There’s something very raw and intimate about reading a novel that is written in diary format. Somehow, the writing seems more authentic, genuine and reflective. While not an easy writing style to accomplish, there are several authors who really shine with this format. Following are a few favorites. Check out this list for more.

One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd

by Jim Fergus
May Dodd and her fearlessness will linger with you long after you turn the last page. This is a powerful reminder of the courage and spirit of pioneer women. This September, 19 years after the original publication of One Thousand White Women, Fergus’ long-awaited sequel, The Vengeance of Mothers, will be published.

I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith
Though probably more well-known for her children’s classic, The 101 Dalmatians, Smith’s coming-of-age tale set in England is absolutely captivating. Cassandra lives with her eccentric family in a decaying castle in the 1930s while her famous father attempts to get past his writer’s block.

Left in the Wind: The Roanoke Journal of Emme Merrimoth

by Ed Gray
Emme Merrimoth was an actual member of the Roanoke Colony. The author has created a historical tale of what may have happened to this colony that arrived in the New World in 1587 and vanished without a trace three years later.

So Far Away

by Meg Mitchell Moore
Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to find refuge in a world where she is either neglected by divorced parents or cyberbullied by her childhood best friend. She discovers a diary written by Bridget O’Connell, who lived almost a century earlier, and seeks help from a library archivist, Kathleen Lynch, to decipher the script. The stories of these three characters intertwine throughout the novel to illustrate the importance of having others to help us through life’s challenges.

The Sarah Agnes Prine Novels: These Is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt & The Star Garden

by Nancy E. Turner
These fictionalized diaries detail real-life exploits of the author’s great-grandmother in frontier Arizona at the end of the last century. A great look at a memorable pioneer woman and a story of enduring love found despite frontier hardships.

The Walk Series: The Walk (#1), Miles to Go (#2), The Road to Grace (#3), A Step of Faith (#4) & Walking on Water (#5)

by Richard Paul Evans
Alan Christoffersen sets off on an extraordinary cross-country journey after the sudden loss of his wife, his home, and his advertising business. These novels, told in first person with diary entries spread throughout, illustrate the process of going from grief to hope to healing.

 

 

Drawing the Story – The Graphic Memoir

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.

Two Classics

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

by Art Spiegelman
First published as a serial in the comic magazine Raw starting in 1980, and later in two bound volumes in 1986 and 1991 (Maus II), Maus tells the story of the author’s father, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, as well as the relationship between father and son as these stories are shared. The memoir is a stirring reminder of a dark time and an acknowledgment of both the sacrifice and feelings of guilt of the survivors and families living with the past. Groundbreaking (although slow to be accepted) in telling a serious story in a drawn format, as characters are drawn with animal heads and tails — with Jews as mice and Nazis as cats — Maus was the winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is a graphic autobiography, telling the story of the author as she lived in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The story is told in simple black and white drawings from the perspective of a young teen (age 10-14) who is watching this massive political and religious change and is affected by the events and by the relationships and influence of the friends and family around her. Followed by Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, which tells of her escape and eventual return to Iran as a young adult, these graphic memoirs give a unique perspective into how adolescents view turbulent and monumental changes around them.

Some I’ve Recently Read or Enjoyed in the Past

Tomboy

by Liz Prince
Liz Prince draws comic strips, usually short paneled stories revolving around her current life, and she draws in what is often referred to as “sketchbook style.” In 2015, while in her 30s, she decided to write a memoir about growing up with “gender nonconformity,” so drawing her story was a natural fit. As a child, Prince wanted to be a boy — she dressed, played and did “boy things” and had no interest in the “girly things” that society told her she should be interested in. Tomboy shares her experiences growing up, from preschool through high school, and the bullying, awkwardness and loneliness that she sometimes experienced by not fitting gender norms. Prince’s casual drawing style and humor lighten the mood of the book’s subject, and her story demonstrates how staying true to yourself pays off in the end. A good book for teens and adults.

Stitches: A Memoir

by David Small
The art and story in Stitches are unlike most of the other graphic memoirs in this list. The drawings tell the story for much of the book, often with few or no words or narration. The illustrations are monotone — white, black and gray with a watercolor feel — providing a dreamlike, unnatural feel for parts of the book. The memoir is the author and illustrator’s story of growing up in a dysfunctional family in the 1950s. Split into chapters based on events at different ages, Stitches tells of a sickly child who loses his voice and how his reaction and recovery allow him to find it again through his art.

Hyperbole and a Half

by Allie Brosh
A book composed of entries from Brosh’s blog of the same name, Hyperbole and a Half walks a line between humorous stories and some serious self-examination. Brosh’s strange drawing style (especially of herself) may not be for everyone, but it’s how she feels and sees things. Her funny stories about her dogs, a maniacal goose, and childhood memories of hot sauce eating contests and cake obsession are similar in style to that of David Sedaris — she makes those rather humorous stories of her life funnier than they probably were, thus the title of the book. Brosh balances those lighter stories with stories of her depression, doubts and self-reflection, which pair well with the strangeness of her art.

My Friend Dahmer

by Derf Backderf
What if you grew up friends with a person who became one of the most notorious serial killers in history? Cartoonist “Derf” Backderf went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer and shares a unique backstory perspective of the outcast who became a monster. Backderf’s drawing style is cartoonish, sort of in an R. Crumb fashion, but it suits the ’70’s era when the story unfolds. And the story does a good job of asking and answering questions relating to how Dahmer changed from a lonely kid from a broken family into an adolescent alcoholic with a growing interest in the morbid that eventually turned into the unanswerable. The memoir has been made into a film, which will be released this fall.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

by Roz Chast
New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast tells the story of aging parents in her first memoir, documenting their lives and relationships through her style of quirky illustrations and sometimes humorous observations of not-so-funny situations. With bright illustrations and dark humor that balance the sad reality of decline, illness and death lurking around the corner, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a funny, yet heartbreaking lesson about love, family and loss.

New This Year

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

by Thi Bui
Many of the memoirs I’m sharing are mainly about the lives of the authors, but Thi Bui’s debut graphic novel is more of a drawn version of a family’s oral history. Bui arrived as a refugee from Vietnam in the late ’70s with her family, and her memoir contains a series of family stories as told by her father and mother. As she notes in the preface, Bui had to learn to draw comics in order to create this book, but the drawings don’t look like those of a novice — they aren’t overly detailed but the feel of the illustrations (expressive and muted in color) fit the story of revolution, war and displacement that drove her family apart and drew them back together again.

Imagine Wanting Only This

by Kristen Radtke
The favorite uncle of a young woman dies from a hereditary heart ailment and as a comfort mechanism the young woman sets off on a journey around the world to explore the impermanence of buildings and cities. The young woman is Kristen Radtke and she shares her story, which is filled with self-doubt, fear of commitment, and wanderlust, as she travels the world searching for man-made structures that are abandoned and dying. From the remains of a church in Gary, Indiana, which holds a tragic secret, to the Philippines, Italy and Iceland, she searches for answers as to why buildings and people die. Radtke’s art reminds me of rotoscoping, a visual effect with a lack of detail and shading used in films like A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. In the case of Imagine Wanting Only This, the artistic style seems to work — the lack of detail adds an underlying sadness to her story.

And One for the Kids

El Deafo

by Cece Bell
Written by the author and illustrator of children’s picture books, Cece Bell’s memoir tells of her childhood as she grows up with hearing difficulties. It’s a book aimed squarely at kids, but it provides great insight for adults who know or work with deaf children to understand their point of view. The illustrations are bright and whimsical (using bunnies instead of people), which lightens the mood of the anxiety and loneliness of a child who is different from those around her. Winner of the Newbery Prize Honor award, El Deafo stresses understanding and friendship while sharing the difficulty of being a deaf child.

Looking for More?

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!