The best memoir-based graphic novels

Conrad Wesselhoeft Author Of Adios, Nirvana
By Conrad Wesselhoeft

Who am I?

I’ve worked as a tugboat hand in Singapore and Peace Corps Volunteer in Polynesia. I’ve served on the editorial staffs of five newspapers, from a small-town daily in New Mexico to The New York Times. I’m also the author of contemporary novels for young adults. Like the writers of these five great graphic novels, I choose themes that are important to me. Foremost are hope, healing, family, and friendship. These are themes I’d like my own children to embrace. Life can be hard, so as a writer I choose to send out that “ripple of hope” on the chance it may be heard or felt, and so make a difference.

I wrote...

Adios, Nirvana

By Conrad Wesselhoeft,

Book cover of Adios, Nirvana

What is my book about?

Adios, Nirvana is about Jonathan, a talented teenage poet and guitar player coping with the recent death of his much-loved and -lauded twin brother, Telly. Now a walking zombie on the verge of failing his junior year of high school, Jonathan gets a chance to redeem himself by helping a blind WWII Navy veteran write a memoir about his own loss and salvation. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Best We Could Do

Why did I love this book?

This is a superb personal memoir about the Vietnam War and its impact on four generations of one South Vietnamese family. Unlike the legion of memoirs told from the U.S. perspective, Vietnam-born American author Thi Bui gives us the harrowing local view. By compressing her sprawling story into a tight, gripping, intimate tale, she demonstrates the storytelling power of the graphic-novel form. Here hope triumphs and tragedy is merely a runner-up. 

By Thi Bui,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Best We Could Do as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

National bestseller
2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist
ABA Indies Introduce Winter / Spring 2017 Selection
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Spring 2017 Selection
ALA 2018 Notable Books Selection

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family's journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family's daring escape…

Book cover of Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Why did I love this book?

Variations of the Holocaust story have been told countless times, but Spiegelman’s tale about how his father survived the Nazi terror is as fresh and important as any. I especially love how he captures his father's Polish-English accent. With the mangling of syntax is born a new kind of poetry. This is widely—and justifiably—regarded as one of the greatest graphic novels ever written. 

By Art Spiegelman,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Maus I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling first installment of the graphic novel acclaimed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker) • PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • One of Variety’s “Banned and Challenged Books Everyone Should Read”

A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his…

March: Book One

By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)

Book cover of March: Book One

Why did I love this book?

This is the stunning opening salvo of John Lewis’ brilliant trilogy tracking his lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. We follow Lewis’ upbringing in rural Alabama during which young John honed his preaching skills before an audience of barnyard chickens, his transformative meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement. In shedding light on our country’s racist history, Lewis rakes you raw, holds no punches, and yet offers hope. 

By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked March as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award…

Book cover of Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned

Why did I love this book?

I loved this story of the extraordinary friendship between a young, gay, HIV-positive Cuban American activist and a young, struggling Jewish cartoonist who became roommates on an MTV reality show called The Real World. For good reason, UCLA chose Pedro & Me as its 2013-2014 "Common Book" with the goal of providing incoming freshmen with a "platform to discuss relationships, sexual orientation, health education, loss, love, and other topics." Winick’s story is timeless in its themes of friendship, loss, and hope.

By Judd Winick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pedro and Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pedro Zamora changed lives.When the HIV-positive AIDS educator appeared on MTV's The Real World: San Francisco, he taught millions of viewers about being gay and living with AIDS. Pedro's roommate on the show was Judd Winick, who created Pedro and Me to honor Pedro Zamora, his friend and teacher and an unforgettable human being. First published in 2000, Pedro and Me was a graphic novel pioneer. Its moving portrait of friendship and its urgent message have already reached thousands of people. Now, Pedro's story is reintroduced to today's graphically focused culture with a gorgeous, eye-catching new cover and a foreword…


By Guy Delisle, Helge Dascher (translator),

Book cover of Pyongyang

Why did I love this book?

The Canadian animator offers a revealing account of his two-month trip to North Korea to oversee a cartooning project. In deceptively simple words and drawings, Delisle gives us a front-row view of this complex, enigmatic totalitarian society. Everyday life in Pyongyang is rich fodder for this hilariously grumpy author. What’s it really like living in North Korea? Read this book and weep—and laugh. 

By Guy Delisle, Helge Dascher (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Pyongyang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Famously referred to as an "Axis-of-Evil" country, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. A series of manmade and natural catastrophes have also left it one of the poorest. When the fortress-like country recently opened the door a crack to foreign investment, cartoonist Guy Delisle found himself in its capital of Pyongyang on a work visa for a French film animation company, becoming one of the few Westerners to witness current conditions in the surreal showcase city. Armed with a smuggled radio and a copy of 1984, Delisle could only explore Pyongyang…

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