Circulatory systems

For no other reason than that I felt like it, here are five graphic novels that I think should be in libraries. (Disclaimer: they probably already are, and I’m not coming anywhere near saying that these are the only five graphic novels that would be essential to a well-rounded library collection, but these are the five that came to mind. Also, I’m focusing primarily on stand-alone books, or books that could stand alone even though subsequent volumes have come out, though I could easily do a similar list on series I think are deserving, and probably will at some point.)

Aya, by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly): A funny, vibrant look at life in the Ivory Coast of the late 1970s.

Northwest Passage: The Annotated Collected Edition, by Scott Chantler (Oni Press): It’s a marvelous adventure story, wonderfully drawn and meticulously researched, and this sturdy package has some great extras.

The Rabbi’s Cat, by Joann Sfar (Pantheon): Maybe I should just say that every library should have something by Joann Sfar, but this was my first encounter with his work, so it’s always had a special place in my heart. Also, it stars a largely amoral cat.

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, by Fumiyo Kouno (Last Gasp): Simply one of the most beautiful graphic novels I’ve ever read. It’s that weird alchemy of seemingly contradictory elements coming together in unexpectedly wonderful ways.

Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Bloody Benders, by Rick Geary (NBM): Okay, I could have picked any of the books in Geary’s series, but this is the one I read most recently, so it’s the one I love the most at the moment. (I’m fickle.) Seriously, though, if a library has the budget, it should get all of Geary’s smart, gruesome looks at bygone crimes.

So which make your list?

9 Responses to Circulatory systems

  1. jun says:

    Ooh, happily, my library does seem to have The Rabbi’s Cat. I think I shall be giving it a look.

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    Oh, I think you’ll really like it, but I think everyone will really like it.

  3. John Jakala says:

    Aya and Rabbi’s Cat were both books I originally read via the library but subsequently purchased because I wanted to reread them again and again. They’re both stunning works that belong in any collection, public or private.

  4. Peter Burd says:

    Being the one who chooses the GNs for my library I was set to say “We have all those–neener!” … But we don’t. Now I feel embarrassed.

  5. Myk says:

    Aya – I just got the third volume on my last trip to the comics shop, so that means it´s re-reading time, as the first one, while it was a pretty enjoyable read, I didn´t really think it was a great read. Apart from that I think Freddie and Me would be a pretty good addition to that list of yours. And all of that other stuff I´m forgetting right now because it´s late and I´m overworked (whihc probably means I should have commented tomorrow when I´m refreshed and can remember what I actually wanted to write… sheesh…)

  6. […] Circulatory systemsPrecocious Curmudgeon lists 5 essential comics for libraries. […]

  7. Huff says:

    I’ve tried to pick “important” works as though these are the only five comics a library will ever own, though my personal taste interfered with a few one them:

    Epileptic by David B.-Every collection needs a memoir, and I cannot think of another one that’s as rich and complex (and entertaining) as this one. Epileptic goes far beyond the sometimes bland, observational storytelling that many people associate with comic autobiographies. It delves so deeply into the psyche of its creator and explores his demons, familial and personal, with such skill that its almost impossible not to become enthralled by it all. Its a story about family, sickness, childhood, mythology and creation. What more could you want? And that artwork!

    Bone by Jeff Smith-How can any library not have the one-volume edition on their shelves? Not only is it 1300-pages for a low price, but it’s 1300-pages of one of the most entertaining comics ever. And not just one of the best ever, one of the most broadly accessible ones too. Kids and adults, men and women, fantasy fans and comic-strip readers, Bone could have the broadest appeal of any comic out there. The fact that it isn’t a national sensation is a testament to how small comic books really are in our society.

    Domu by Katsuhiro Otomo-Every self-respecting manga fan owes it to themselves to read some Otomo before they die. Since his magnum opus Akira clocks in at six-monster volumes (and, in my opinion, doesn’t kick into overdrive until its second half) I’ve choses his criminally ignored Sci-fi horror tale. It has everything you could want in such a story: supremely creepy characters, jaw-dropping art work, social commentary, deeply disturbing subtext concerning the nature of children and of course awesome scenes of destruction. NO ONE draws destruction like Otomo.

    Watchmen by Alan Moore-Yeah, yeah, a cheap choice that everyone picks. But come on, it’s a classic. No matter what you think of them you can’t talk about American comics without spending some serious time on superheroes, so as I see it any self-respecting comic collection should be able to give a reader some familiarity with the genre. There are other genre-defining superhero works that I like better (I’m one of those weirdos who prefers Dark Knight Returns), but none of those have an upcoming film. Watchmen GN’s are selling like hotcakes just from the trailer, so you can bet that a few copies of it in the library will attract a ton of new readers, which every library needs.

    The Frank Book by Jim Woodring-This is by far my most personal pick, but I have good reason for choosing it: what better way to illustrate the power of the medium with a comic that’s almost entirely visual? It’ll be a bit too out-there for some, but I’ll defend its genius to my grave and I imagine many other people feel the same way. I mean how many American comics inspire a bunch of Japanese animators to go and create tributes to it?

  8. Huff says:

    Wow, I got a bit carried away…

  9. Kat Kan says:

    As the graphic novel selector for a major book distributor serving libraries and schools, I can say that I have included all 5 titles on my monthly gn lists over time. I select 80 titles each month, 40 backlist and 40 “new” (actually upcoming about a couple of months ahead – I’m working now on October releases). I also select 50 graphic novels each month to update the Graphic Novels Core Collection from H.W. Wilson – this is an online database available via subscription for libraries and schools. So I read a minimum of 60 graphic novels each month (often more) in order to work on each list.

    I’ve been doing the monthly gn lists since 2003, I’ve probably included just about every important gn title that has been published and is still in print. This is very important – a book must be in print and available through book distributors in order for a library to purchase it. Please don’t recommend titles that libraries can’t get! It drives us NUTS!

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