Originally published in: 2018
What it’s about: A book of illustrated poems for children about the many ways to care for others and be cared for.
What made me pick it up: It’s by Nikki Giovanni. I cannot emphasize enough how you need to sample her work if you haven’t yet.
My favorite parts: These poems are vibrantly illustrated, so if the words weren’t amazing enough (which they definitely are) you also have wonderful, colorful illustrations to accompany.
Who it’s great for: Littles who want an engaging introduction to poetry.
Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2017
What it’s about: A graphic memoir exploring love, art, loss, memory, and mortality.
What made me pick it up: I can’t seem to pass up a graphic memoir.
My favorite things: Radtke’s art is done in a simple grayscale that perfectly complements her story. I loved the way she tied together her own restlessness with an examination of mortality. The way she chronicles her own loss and grief through a growing fascination with deserted towns is honest and compelling.
Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an engaging exploration of mortality and meaning. Fan’s of artists’ memoirs.
Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: A man begins to grieve the loss of his wife from the 2015 Paris terror attacks.
What made me pick it up: It was short and I had read really positive reviews of it.
My favorite things: This story is as stunning as it is brief. Just 130 pages but you will cry your way through the author’s devastation on each one. I appreciate his excruciating honesty and the beautiful tribute he created for his wife.
Who it’s great for: Anyone who has lost a loved one unexpectedly. Those that want to face the world with hope instead of fear or anger. Fans of When Breath Becomes Air.
Best Audiobook: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Originally published in: 2011
What it’s about: Wade Watts spends nearly all his time in the immersive virtual world that is the OASIS. He begins to solve the puzzle left by the creator of the world which has stumped players for decades. His progress leads to immediate fame and marks him as a target for other obsessed members of the OASIS.
What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook STAT – this one was available and had been lost somewhere in my to-read list for a while. I was a few years late to pick this one up-but I loved it so much I immediately sought out Cline’s next book, Armada.
My favorite things: Full disclosure: I don’t really have a lot to say about video games or 80’s pop culture, but I found Cline’s enthusiasm for both infectious and it somehow made me really care about the players in the OASIS. He does a great job of making a puzzle in a virtual world feel urgent and meaningful, and even finds the time for a little virtual romance. Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook and he’s so perfect for it that I wonder if Cline wrote it with him in mind.
Who it’s great for: Fans of video games, from the classics through mmorpgs, and DnD die-hards. 80’s pop culture buffs. Readers looking for an exciting dystopian adventure.
Best Graphic Novel: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Set in the same universe as Greenberg’s 2013 debut The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, a storyteller weaves tales for 100 nights to protect her true love from a lecherous man.
What made me pick it up: l loved The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and was excited to see what Greenberg would create next.
My favorite things: “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORLD AND IT WAS WEIRD.” Greenberg starts off with a bang and doesn’t fail to deliver. Her artistic style is one of my favorites and I’ve found myself flipping through repeatedly to find specific scenes that I loved. This is a kind of adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights/The Arabian Nights that expertly flips the script into a queer feminist retelling. The characters in each tale are as compelling and important as those in the framing story and include several strong women working to overcome dire situations to be independent.
Who it’s great for: Fans of fables and folklore. Readers looking for a collection of stories about love of all kinds. Fans of Audrey Niffenegger’s illustrated works.
Did you come across any graphic novels or audiobooks this year that you can’t stop talking about?
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Shay Summers is struggling through being fifteen. She’s trying to cope with her father’s death, her best friend’s terminal illness, a school bully, being overweight, and the ache of an unrequited crush. But then she finds love in a chat room.
What made me pick it up: This one was recommended to me by a colleague.
My favorite things: StVil tells this story in verse and in instant/text message – and she does it very effectively and intentionally. The characters make a lot of use of the medium, reveling in the anonymity and using fonts to flirt and fight. The teen angst and heartache is too real and perfectly captured, and the excitement over blossoming romance is palpable and infectious. I love that StVil wrote an overweight character without hinting at weight-loss, it’s definitely something I’d like to see more often.
Who it’s great for: Teens who feel like they’ll never fit in and never find love. Those dealing with the death or terminal illness of a loved one. Reluctant readers. Fan’s of Isabel Quintero’s 2014 young adult debut, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.
What it’s about: A collection of true stories about love written as prose, comics, and illustrated stories.
What made me pick it up: There are a lot of great authors and artists involved in this project and I was interested to see how they would handle writing about themselves and their love lives.
My favorite things: I love the variety of style and content and wide range of experiences that are included. The stories cover everything from unrequited crushes and first loves to heartbreak and moving forward. A lot of incredible artists worked on this anthology and brought some of the stories to life really well. Each piece is short enough you can easily dip in and out if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to it.
Who it’s great for: Geeks, nerds, and dorks of any variety. Members of any fandom. People who like graphic novels. Anyone in the mood for true stories about love and heartache.