Chartered in 2018 by the American Library Association, the Graphic Novels & Comics Roundtable has announced their first list of the Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List. Modeled after the long running Great Graphic Novels for Teens list sponsored by ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association (which we covered last week), the BGNA list includes an overall Top Ten best, as well as a lengthy list of finalists.

Here are the Top Ten titles, in alphabetical order, with text supplied by ALA, and links to the publisher’s websites.

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The Nib
9/1/2020. IDW Publishing. 24.99. 9781684057771.
This comic anthology from The Nib consists of LGBTQIA experiences, ranging from personal stories to queer history to cutting satire about pronoun panic and brands desperate to co-opt pride.

Big Black: Stand at Attica
Frank “Big Black” Smith, Jared Reinmuth, Améziane
2/1/2020. Boom! Studios. 19.99. 9781684154791
Frank “Big Black” Smith is the reason why the uprising at Attica Prison wasn’t worse. In this book, you will hear his experiences of the uprising and exactly what came before and after.

Come Home, Indio
Jim Terry
9/1/2020. Street Noise Books. 16.99. 9781951491048
Between the Ho-Chunk community of his Native American family in Wisconsin and his schoolmates in the Chicago suburbs, Jim Terry explores his experience of growing up in two different worlds and the pressure it puts on his mental state.

House of X / Powers of X
Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva
12/1/2019. Marvel. 60.00. 9781302915704
House of X and Powers of X intertwine to reveal the secret past, present, and future of Mutants. It all starts when Charles Xavier reveals his new masterplan for Mutant kind, one that will bring mutants out of the shadow of humanity and into the light.

Invisible Kingdom
G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward
Volume 1: 11/1/2019. Dark Horse Comics. 19.99. 9781506712277
Volume 2: 6/1/2020. Berger Books. 19.99. 9781506714943.
An unlikely pair must work together to keep the world from falling into anarchy. They must navigate keeping a secret, while trying to pick a side on how to save the world.

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio
Derf Backderf
9/1/2020. Abrams. 24.99. 9781419734847
This story explores the event of college students who were protesting the Vietnam war at Kent State University, when the Ohio National Guard gunned down unarmed college students. This devastating event resulted in 67 shots, 4 students were killed and 9 shot and wounded.

Making Comics
Lynda Barry
11/1/2019. Drawn & Quarterly. 22.95. 9781770463691
Making Comics is Barry sharing her comics-making exercises to help new comic artists overcome artist blocks and spark their creativity.

Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Damian Duffy, John Jennings
1/28/2020. Abrams Books. 24.99. 9781419731334
With the world in environmental disarray, economically, and socially, there is a chance for a brighter future and Lauren Olamina is involved in this possibility.

Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Hernandez Walta
12/1/2019. TKO Studios. 19.99. 9781732748590
After a devastating attack, a space shuttle is left with only children to survive alone. The ship’s AI, VALARIE, is their only hope at making it through to safety.

BOOM! Studios May 2020 solicits: Something Is Killing the Children Vol. 1Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1
James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera
5/1/2020. BOOM! Studios. 14.99. 9781684155583
Children are going missing, and those who come back bringing horror stories with them. A stranger believes there the only ones who can help solve the horrible mystery that is causing children to go missing.

That’s a very diverse list of books! This (jaded? bored?) superhero fan is happy to see House of X / Powers of X make the list. There’s so much story and ideas crammed into that maxi-series that I recommend it to fans of science fiction! I also read the first issues of the spin-off series, and aside from one major plot point, they all seemed to be unique, fresh, and interesting.

Lynda Barry? No surprise. Nor is Kent State… Derf Backderf stunned with My Friend Dahmer. Jeff Lemire, James Tynion IV, G. Willow Wilson…those names are familiar to fans of DC and Marvel, but in the post-Pokemon world of graphic novels and libraries, there’s a huge market for creator-owned work. This same market even supports publishers rarely seen in comics shops, such as Street Noise, Abrams, Drawn & Quarterly, and TKO seen above. The long list is even more diverse, especially in the non-fiction selections!

Nominations are being accepted for the 2021 list. Anyone can nominate a title using the online submission form, except… “Publishers, creators, agents, or editors may not nominate their own titles. However the selection committee welcomes review copies for consideration.”

Meanwhile, you can read these notable books, as well as many new titles, for free at your local public library! If you don’t see them, ask a librarian for help!

Here’s the full PR:

ALA’s Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table (GNCRT) is thrilled to announce the 2020 Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List. The best Graphic Novels for Adults reading list highlights the best graphic novels for adults published in late 2019 and throughout 2020 and it aims increase awareness of the graphic novel medium, raise voices of diverse comics creators, and aid library staff in the development of graphic novel collections. The 2020 BGNA Top Ten list features such titles as: “Big Black: Stand at Attica” by Frank “Big Black” Smith, Jared Reinmuth, Améziane, “Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio” by Derf Backderf, and “Something is Killing the Children, Vol. 1” by James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera.

The Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List Selection Committee is made up of GNCRT members with a background in graphic novel selection and use for adults. Jessica Jenner, chair of the selection committee said “During a difficult year, the committee members and I worked diligently to establish a well-rounded and diverse list – there is something for everyone in this list, from slice of life to horror. Capturing perspectives of LGBTQIA+, African, Asian, Native American and more, this list is intended to uplift not only the comics medium, but traditionally under-represented voices.”

The complete 2020 BGNA Reading List, including a Top Ten, is available online. GNCRT President-Elect Matthew Noe said of the new list “While the growth of comics for children and young adults has received well-deserved praise and attention across ALA, the same hasn’t held true for adult comics. I’m thrilled that the GNCRT is now addressing that gap with the launch of this list! I look forward to the continuation and growth of this work within the round table. Not only will the Best Graphic Novels for Adults list continue in the years to come, but we are also continuing our collaboration with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association in creating a series of Black Lives Matter Comics Reading Lists – highlighting and celebrating Black creators and stories in comics”

Nominations for the 2021 Best Graphic Novel for Adults Reading List are now open.

Nominations are sought for the 2021 BGNA reading list. Ms. Jenner, who is remaining as committee chair for the 2021 BGNA list, encouraged library workers and members of the public to submit titles for nomination, “The 2020 Best Graphic Novels Adult Selection List is only the start. As the word spreads about the list and more nominations are sent in, the more dynamic this list will become!”

Eligible graphic novels for the 2021 Best Graphic Novels for Adults will include all fiction and non-fiction titles published between September 1, 2020 – December 31, 2021 that appeal to adults age 19 or older. Nominations can be made by all members of the public, including committee members, library workers, educators, and comics fans though the online form on the GNCRT website.

Publishers and creators are welcome to submit copies of titles to the committee for review, though they are not eligible to nominate their own titles for consideration. For more information on how to submit review copies please contact GNCRT staff liaison, Tina Coleman at [email protected] .


About the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table
The Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table of the American Library Association is dedicated to supporting library staff in all aspects of engaging with graphic novels and comics, including collection development, programming, and advocacy. For more information connect with GNCRT on Facebook: ALA Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table; Twitter: @libcomix; Instagram: @libcomix; or the GNCRT ALA Connect page.

About ALA
Established in 1876, the American Library Association (ALA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

[Full disclosure: Torsten Adair is a member of the Graphic Novel & Comics Roundtable and of the American Library Association. I was not a member of this committee, as my own personal reading time is woefully inadequate to dedicate to this undertaking. Seriously, it’s like being on a grand jury. Or Twelve Angry Men, but everyone is passionate about books.]