Speaking Graphically…

Misha’s last posting about the great new graphic covers that Penguin is putting on classic books reminds me of the joys of graphic novels and their potential for book groups. I hope I don’t have to convince too many of you that these books are real literature worth the time of serious readers.

If readers in your group still need convincing, try pairing a graphic novel with a regular book. Since most graphic novels are quick reads, it isn’t demanding to get through two books for one meeting. You’ll get a great discussion by comparing reader experiences of the two formats: the visual and the written word. Bring extra graphic novels to pass around the circle.

For old school graphic readers, try pairing David Michaelis’s biography Schulz and Peanuts with any of the Complete Peanuts reprints that have come out in recent years. Michaelis’s book is a fascinating psychological portrait of a man who pleased millions but could never quite please himself. He’s particularly good at showing how events in the strip reflected Charles “Sparky” Schulz’s life, and readers will want to explore this idea further by returning to the strips themselves. Reading them all over again, you’ll be struck by the many ways in which Schultz was an innovator.

schulz-and-peanuts.jpg                                            complete-peanuts.jpg

Here are some other suggested pairings: Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi and Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer; Maus, by Art Spiegelmann with Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz or Elie Wiesel’s Night; Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot with Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland; Alan Moore’s graphic classic Watchmen with Austin Grossman’s delightful Soon I Will Be Invincible; Fun Home by Alison Bechdel with Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs; or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore with any of the Victorian adventures to which it alludes.

There are also some fantastic graphic adaptations of books available, such as the recent return of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger as a graphic novel by Peter David or Chris Ryall’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s A Great and Secret Show.

Try these pairings, or let each of your readers pick their own. These are not difficult matches to make. This is a great chance to open the eyes of your library patrons or reading friends to a whole new way of experiencing the book.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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