The best graphic novels to alter your sense of reality

Who am I?

I think of my imagination as a living thing that I have a working, evolving relationship with. I try to access that creative flow state through automatic drawing and something about that process seems to help me in my daily life. I draw every day. I make art zines, comics, fine art, album art, and collaborative works. The books in this list all feel personally important to me and are works I return to and think about often.


I wrote...

The Understanding Monster - Book One

By Theo Ellsworth,

Book cover of The Understanding Monster - Book One

What is my book about?

Making this book was a psychologically strange experience for me. It was an inward deep dive into my own personal mythologies and anxieties and the process of making it felt a bit out of my control. I feel like I came out of the project with a lot of valuable insight but I think a lot of readers are perplexed by this book. Maybe that’s okay. I often find great comfort and meaning in the work of other artists who let their imaginations grow wild and strange.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Here

Theo Ellsworth Why did I love this book?

This book has forever altered my sense of place and enhanced my understanding of time. The entire book focuses its gaze on a specific limited space (the corner of a room) then jumps through time showing the layers of moments that have occurred in that exact location, moving far into the past and future. The concept of this book has haunted me ever since I first read it and it still amazes me that Richard McGuire was able to beautifully capture it all so clearly

By Richard McGuire,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From one of the great comic innovators, the long-awaited fulfillment of a pioneering comic vision. Richard McGuire’s Here is the story of a corner of a room and of the events that have occurred in that space over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.

"In Here McGuire has introduced a third dimension to the flat page. He can poke holes in the space-time continuum simply by imposing frames that act as trans­temporal windows into the larger frame that stands for the provisional now. Here is the ­comic-book equivalent of a scientific breakthrough. It is also a lovely evocation…


Book cover of Travel

Theo Ellsworth Why did I love this book?

One of the most meditative books I’ve ever experienced. I read this for the first time on an airplane and it felt like having a lucid dream. It’s an entirely wordless graphic novel documenting all the details and experienced moments of a train ride, from finding a seat, to the patterns of rain on the windows and the passing landscapes, all rendered in highly stylized but clear line work. This book left me wanting to notice and appreciate my own movement through the physical spaces of my daily life. I recommend anything you can find by Yokoyama, but this one feels especially important to me.   

By Yuichi Yokoyama,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Grip

Theo Ellsworth Why did I love this book?

I consider this to be one of the great wordless graphic novels. It’s a hyper-colored meditation on the creative power and potential of human hands, full of movement, energy, and effort. It’s amazing to see a work like this that’s so full of power, like a raw force of nature, yet there’s no violence or destruction. Sit in a quiet corner and give every page of this book your full attention and tell me how your brain feels afterward. 

By Lale Westvind,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Codex Seraphinianus

Theo Ellsworth Why did I love this book?

One of the most treasured and unusual books in my personal library. It’s an encyclopedia from another world, entirely written in a made-up language. Page after page of haunting and strange illustrations, organized into specific categories and concepts. Sitting with this book transports me back to the time before I could read, when words felt like incomprehensible symbols. Taking the time to puzzle over this book feels like such a valuable experience. It takes me right out of the familiar ways of taking in information and puts me in a state of mind that has to search and consider the juxtaposition of images and ideas in totally new ways. I can’t recommend this book enough.

By Luigi Serafini,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary and surreal art book, this edition has been redesigned by the author and includes new illustrations. Ever since the Codex Seraphinianus was first published in 1981, the book has been recognized as one of the strangest and most beautiful art books ever made. This visual encyclopedia of an unknown world written in an unknown language has fueled much debate over its meaning. Written for the information age and addressing the import of coding and decoding in genetics, literary criticism, and computer science, the Codex confused, fascinated, and enchanted a generation.

While its message may be unclear, its appeal…


Book cover of Wolfli: Creator of the Universe

Theo Ellsworth Why did I love this book?

I own a number of books on Adolf Wolfli, but this one feels the most extensive and valuable to me. Wolfli spent most of his life in an isolated cell in a mental hospital in Switzerland. During that time he created a hyper-detailed graphic work that’s thousands of pages long. His dense drawings contain writings that chronicle an epic personal fantasy along with musical notation, lists of inventions, giant equations, and maps. This kind of creative output from a single person is both stunning and frightening. Spending time with this book really makes me contemplate the complexity and importance of human creativity, the nature of madness, trauma, and true originality. 

By Manuel Anceau, Daniel Baumann, Eric Förster

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Adolf Wölfli is the original outsider artist. Before Darger, Rizzoli and Rodia, there was Wölfli: orphan, laborer, criminal, artist and the subject of a 1921 monograph titled A Psychiatric Patient as Artist, authored by his doctor--the first publication on an outsider artist--which won him the admiration of André Breton and Jean Dubuffet, and gave birth to the outsider phenomenon. “Wölfli’s creations treat the eye to a roller-coaster ride through a terrain bounded by Piranesi, biblical myth, illuminated manuscripts, tantric mandalas and Swiss cuckoo clocks,” New York Times critic Roberta Smith once wrote--“in other words, a dizzying multi-cultural universe.” Adolf Wölfli:…


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Terra Blanca - Insurrection: Gaia Prequel

By Zoe Routh,

Book cover of Terra Blanca - Insurrection: Gaia Prequel

Zoe Routh Author Of The Olympus Project

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Leadership futurist Adventurist Former bellydancer Historical and speculative fiction nut Marathoner

Zoe's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A test of leadership, loyalty, and legacy. Rylie Addison faces the greatest leadership challenge of her life. As climate change ravages the world, leaving millions displaced, Rylie is handpicked by the enigmatic Maja Garcia of Gaia Enterprises to govern Terra Blanca, an unprecedented man-made island community for climate refugees.

As the stakes rise and the fragile foundations of Terra Blanca begin to crumble, Rylie is forced to confront her own beliefs and faces a leadership decision that could change the course of history. Can she find the strength to make the right choice, or will her actions lead to the downfall of the very people she has vowed to protect?

Terra Blanca - Insurrection: Gaia Prequel

By Zoe Routh,

What is this book about?

Rylie Addison faces the greatest leadership challenge of her life. As climate change ravages the world, leaving millions displaced, Rylie is handpicked by the enigmatic Maja Garcia of Gaia Enterprises to govern Terra Blanca, an unprecedented man-made island community for climate refugees.


Thrust into a new world of power and responsibility, Rylie must navigate the treacherous waters of team dynamics and power struggles as she fights to make Terra Blanca a beacon of hope amidst the chaos. But her mission takes a sinister turn when a secret agent infiltrates the community, hell-bent on testing the innovative governance and social structures…


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