Coverage continues this week of results from some of the categories in the ABBC: Williamsburg Regional Library’s All-the-Best-Books Compilation, which compiles the results from dozens of different lists and awards to give you the final count on the most lauded books of the year in a single spreadsheet.
Today I’m exploring the top vote-getters in the category of graphic novels and nonfiction. Yes, these are comic books, but they’re not just kid stuff anymore (and believe me, I love the kid stuff, too!) Modern graphic artists use their art to help tell a variety of sophisticated tales and 84 different books have received mention as a best of the year so far.
Topping the list is Chris Ware, an innovative artist whose Building Stories, because of its unusual format, probably won’t be found in most library collections. The title has two meanings: first, the collection is about the residents of a Chicago apartment building; but second, each reader has to build the story for her or himself. Building Stories comes as a collection of objects: pamphlets, newspapers, game boards, and bound books that can be assembled in whatever order the reader likes. The protagonist is a one-legged woman, and the stories follow her through her difficult life as she considers her existence — past and present — and interacts with both the building and the people with whom she comes in contact. Look at a review like this one from Brain Pickings to get a better understanding of this unusual product that has been mentioned as a best of the year in 24 sources compiled so far.
Next up is Alison Bechdel, who previously told the story of her difficult relationship with her father in Fun Home, a top pick of 2006. Now she turns her eye on her mother in Are You My Mother?: a Comic Drama, which has garnered 14 mentions in the ABBC so far. Bechdel portrays the life of a reader, music lover, and actor who wanted more out of life than her unhappy marriage to a closeted gay man. That unhappiness led to a lack of intimacy between mother and daughter, in fact a rather extreme gulf that Bechdel mines with a darkly comic but deeply poignant touch.
There’s a tie for third between two works with seven mentions each. The first is Drama, a work that resides in our juvenile collection but that can be enjoyed by all ages. Writer and illustrator Raina Telgemeier — with color work from the artist Gurihiru — tells the story of drama both in front of and behind the curtain at a middle school production of a musical called Moon over Mississippi. The story is told from the perspective of Callie, a gifted young set designer with no budget and a crush on two boys in the cast. The play has a colorful cast, and that’s reflected wonderfully by the bright artwork.
The range of graphic works becomes clear when one examines the other work with seven mentions. My Friend Dahmer illustrated in a style reminiscent of Cracked magazine, tells author “Derf” Backderf’s remarkable true story as a high school friend of Jeffrey Dahmer. He’d even see the infamous serial killer on the day he probably committed his first murder. Don’t expect a grisly recreation of the murders. This is more the poignant study of the differences (somewhat slight) between one troubled kid who goes on to a successful career and another that commits crimes so heinous they can hardly be believed. When I read this book, I saw uncomfortable similarities between Backderf’s group of nerdy friends and my own high school pals. It certainly left me thinking. We don’t have this one in the collection yet, but if you’d like to see us add it, just ask! We try real hard to be responsive to as many patron requests as budgets can accommodate.
After that, the voting gets close. At five mentions to date are Brian K. Vaughan’s latest series, Saga and Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain: or the Mermaid on the Hudson. One more vote back are Joe Sacco and Chris Hedges’ Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt; Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker; Hope Larson’s graphic adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle classic A Wrinkle in Time, and Faith Erin Hicks, with Friends with Boys.
I’ll summarize the results of two more categories on Thursday and Friday this week, while others will get similar treatment at my other blogging home, Booklist magazine’s Book Group Buzz. We’ll continue to release further installments of the ABBC spreadsheet until compilation is complete at the end of March, so keep checking back to get the final word on all of the best books of 2012.
Click on the individual book title links to go to the WRL catalog.