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The Atlantic on 10 Masterpieces of Graphic Nonfiction


Over on the Atlantic website, Kirsten Butler offers a list of 10 non-fiction comics that goes way beyond the usual Maus/Persepolis/Joe Sacco list.

Who doesn’t love comic books? While infographics may be trendy today (and photography perennially sexy), there’s just something special about the work of the human hand. Good old-fashioned manual labor, literally, brings a unique richness to storytelling where words alone sometimes fall flat. I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite graphic non-fiction. These hybrid works combine the best elements of art, journalism, and scholarship, and provide the perfect way to mix some visual magic into your summer reading list.

The list includes several from Hill+ Wang, several from Josh Neufeld (including the excellent new THE INFLUENCING MACHINE written by Brooke Gladstone) and one we’d never even heard of: The Elements of Style Illustrated by Strunk & White and Maira Kalman.

  1. Ugh. Masterpieces?

    The Elements of Style Illustrated was not a graphic novel. It was Strunk and White with illustrations. And, not to hate on Ms. Kalman, but the illustrations are horrid. “An instant classic” says the Atlantic, yet the heavily promoted hardcover (a B&N holiday title a few years ago) is now out-of-print, unlike the prose volume.

    #7, #8, and #9 are recommended. Others were enjoyable.

    No Sacco? No Jim Ottaviani? Larry Gonick? (CGt Chemistry is best.)

    “The Beats” is a weak Pekar selection. “Macedonia” was a much better book, and fits the “journalism” lede (which the author of the column ignores by selecting “Elements of Style” and SmarterComics).

    If an anthology title is required, then replace “The Beats” with any of the “Big Books” from DC Comics/Paradox Press.

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