95 books like Building Stories

By Chris Ware,

Here are 95 books that Building Stories fans have personally recommended if you like Building Stories. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Making Comics

George Wylesol Author Of 2120

From my list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an artist who likes to write, but I’ve never been interested in classic superhero or pulp graphic novels. Early in my career, the word “comics” felt like an insult—it's not “real art,” right? Too childish! While that instinct was definitely wrong, I found a (small) world of experimental, abstract, genre-breaking graphic novels that combine art and writing in a wholly unique way. This is a list of some of my recent favorites that have inspired my drawing and writing practice, and will hopefully inspire you. 

George's book list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally)

George Wylesol Why did George love this book?

This is an excellent textbook to get readers and comic makers of all experience levels to loosen up, think deeply and personally, and make better, more confident comics. It’s warm but practical, smart but approachable, deep but unpretentious. This is a comics veteran generously sharing both her knowledge of comics and teaching, as well as her own methods for drawing, brainstorming, and writing. It’s an incredible resource and one I often find myself quoting and recommending to my own students. 

By Lynda Barry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hello students, meet Professor Skeletor. Be on time, don t miss class, and turn off your phones. No time for introductions, we start drawing right away. The goal is more rock, less talk, and we communicate only through images. For more than five years the cartoonist Lynda Barry has been an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin Madison art department and at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, teaching students from all majors, both graduate and undergraduate, how to make comics, how to be creative, how to not think. There is no academic lecture in this classroom. Doodling is enthusiastically…


Book cover of Here

Anders Nilsen Author Of Big Questions

From my list on deeply human graphic novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid in the 80s the superhero comics I was obsessed with were beginning to deal with the real world in a new way. And their creators were beginning to push and pull at the boundaries of the medium with a new spirit of play and provocation. I still love comics that seriously deal with real life – its complexities and its profound weirdness – and that push the medium in new directions and reckon with its history. I also want to be absorbed and moved and to identify intently with characters. It’s what I try to do in my own work, and what I look for in that of others.

Anders' book list on deeply human graphic novels

Anders Nilsen Why did Anders love this book?

This is the most profoundly absorbing experimental art-comic the world has ever produced.

It’s a fun book to sit with someone else and page through, backward or forward, or just ambling around, discovering things. The very simple conceit is that it’s a book that spans millions of years in time, but all happens in exactly one single space. It grew out of a six-page short story that blew people’s minds in the 80’s comics anthology Raw.

I remember hearing that the author had decided, two decades later, to expand it to book form, and wondered if that was really necessary. The short version had been such a perfect jewel of a piece. Turns out he had very good reason. 

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 Everywhere Disappeared

George Wylesol Author Of 2120

From my list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an artist who likes to write, but I’ve never been interested in classic superhero or pulp graphic novels. Early in my career, the word “comics” felt like an insult—it's not “real art,” right? Too childish! While that instinct was definitely wrong, I found a (small) world of experimental, abstract, genre-breaking graphic novels that combine art and writing in a wholly unique way. This is a list of some of my recent favorites that have inspired my drawing and writing practice, and will hopefully inspire you. 

George's book list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally)

George Wylesol Why did George love this book?

You could really choose any graphic novel by Patrick Kyle—they’re all excellent. I personally like this collection of his short stories. The art is abstract, cartoony, expressive, drawn with a stylistic boldness not often seen in graphic novels. 

The art could stand on its own, and often I find myself skimming this novel just to look at the art. But the narratives themselves are the real key here—completely original, contemporary thinking that discusses things like the end of cell phones and purifying skin creams. These narratives will change the way you think about narrative.

By Patrick Kyle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A keen observer of the absurd, Patrick Kyle's stories defamiliarize the machinations of life, work, and art with droll dialogue and his angular, humanely geometric drawing and sci-fi settings that recall set design more than satellite images. Kyle's figures may be foreign and his settings strange, but his stories resonate deeply.

Patrick Kyle lives and works in Toronto, ON. He is the author of the graphic novels Black Mass (2012), Distance Mover (2014), and Don't Come In Here (2016). At the 2016 Doug Wright Awards, he won the Pigskin Peters Award for New Comics #6 and #7.


Book cover of Press Enter to Continue

George Wylesol Author Of 2120

From my list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an artist who likes to write, but I’ve never been interested in classic superhero or pulp graphic novels. Early in my career, the word “comics” felt like an insult—it's not “real art,” right? Too childish! While that instinct was definitely wrong, I found a (small) world of experimental, abstract, genre-breaking graphic novels that combine art and writing in a wholly unique way. This is a list of some of my recent favorites that have inspired my drawing and writing practice, and will hopefully inspire you. 

George's book list on graphic novels that reinvent the book (literally)

George Wylesol Why did George love this book?

Press Enter to Continue is incredible on every level. The art is beautiful, with a technicolor palette and skillful drawing that belies the corporate horror in the narratives. We see humiliating job interviews, vampiric computer viruses, and cosmic labor camps that feel a little too close for comfort in our online world. It’s a collection of short stories told with a deadpan minimalism that makes the reader think, sweat, and maybe put their phone away for a while.

By Ana Galvañ,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Press Enter to Continue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spanish cartoonist Ana Galvañ charts an often-psychedelic and existential course for modernity in her English language debut, utilizing swaths of electric and florescent colors to create a series of short stories that intertwine and explore the dehumanizing effects of contemporary society. Like a candycolored collection of Black Mirror episodes, Galvañ’s world, set in the very near-future, is familiar and cautionary at once. Galvañ’s unwitting and addictive characters navigate a world of iridescent pastels and geometric energy like puppets. Departments of inhumane resources dehumanize the people it is purported to protect; information is determinedly mined like the gold of the 21st…


Book cover of He Had It Coming: Four Murderous Women and the Reporter Who Immortalized Their Stories

Silvia Pettem Author Of In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman

From my list on mysterious and intriguing women in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been writing for decades, as one genre evolved into another. Local Colorado history led to the identification of "Boulder Jane Doe," a murder victim. During that journey I learned a lot about criminal investigations and forensics. I devoured old movies (especially film noir), and I focused on social history including mysterious and intriguing women. Midwest Book Review (see author book links) credits In Search of the Blonde Tigress as "rescuing" Eleanor Jarman "from obscurity." So true! Despite Eleanor's notoriety as "the most dangerous woman alive," she actually was a very ordinary woman. I've now found my niche pulling mysterious and intriguing women out of the shadows.

Silvia's book list on mysterious and intriguing women in history

Silvia Pettem Why did Silvia love this book?

Using photo and newspaper archives from the Chicago Tribune, the authors of He Had It Coming tell the stories of four Chicago female murderers from the 1920s.

The documentation (both primary and secondary sources) and, especially, the newspaper's original high-quality historical photographs inspired me to dig deeply into similar archives when researching and writing my book.

By Kori Rumore, Marianne Mather,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked He Had It Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beulah Annan. Belva Gaertner. Kitty Malm. Sabella Nitti. These are the real women of Chicago.

You probably know Roxie and Velma, the good-time gals of the 1926 satirical play Chicago and its wildly successful musical and movie adaptations. You might not know that Roxie, Velma, and the rest of the colorful characters of the play were inspired by real prisoners held in "Murderess Row" in 1920s Chicago-or that the reporter who covered their trials for the Chicago Tribune went on to write the play Chicago.

Now, more than 90 years later, the Chicago Tribune has uncovered photographs and newspaper clippings…


Book cover of South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration

Mark Whitaker Author Of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance

From my list on the great Black migration.

Why am I passionate about this?

For more than thirty years, I worked as journalist covering the biggest news stories of the day—at Newsweek magazine (where I became the publication’s first African-American top editor), then as a news executive at NBC News and CNN. Now, I keep a hand in that world as a judge of several prestigious journalism awards while taking a longer view in my own work as a contributor for CBS Sunday Morning, Washington Post book reviewer, and author of narrative non-fiction books with a focus on key personalities and turning points in Black History.

Mark's book list on the great Black migration

Mark Whitaker Why did Mark love this book?

Mining contemporaneous news accounts, personal letters and diaries, and dozens of in-depth interviews, scholar Marcia Chatelain explores the impact that the Great Migration had on a generation of young Black Chicago women, who coped with coming of age in the urban North while shouldering the expectations and aspirations of their uprooted parents. Anyone new to Chatelain’s work should also check out her next and equally original book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, a study of the deeply mixed legacy of McDonald’s restaurants in Black neighborhoods that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for History.

By Marcia Chatelain, Marcia Chatelain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In South Side Girls Marcia Chatelain recasts Chicago's Great Migration through the lens of black girls. Focusing on the years between 1910 and 1940, when Chicago's black population quintupled, Chatelain describes how Chicago's black social scientists, urban reformers, journalists and activists formulated a vulnerable image of urban black girlhood that needed protecting. She argues that the construction and meaning of black girlhood shifted in response to major economic, social, and cultural changes and crises, and that it reflected parents' and community leaders' anxieties about urbanization and its meaning for racial progress. Girls shouldered much of the burden of black aspiration,…


Book cover of The Chicago Food Encyclopedia

Amelia Levin Author Of The Chicago Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Windy City

From my list on the magic of Chicago cuisine and food lore.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a longtime food writer, magazine editor, cookbook author, and certified chef (through Kendall College, also in Chicago of course!). I was born in Chicago, raised in the Northern suburbs, and came back right after graduating from the University of Michigan in the early 2000s. For two decades, I lived in various parts of the city and wrote about the food scene for local and national outlets. The first edition of The Chicago Chef’s Table came out in 2012. Even though I moved to the suburbs a few years ago with my growing family, we still get down to the city often to enjoy the hottest new spots. My love for Chicago will never subside!

Amelia's book list on the magic of Chicago cuisine and food lore

Amelia Levin Why did Amelia love this book?

Carol Haddix served as the former editor of the Chicago Tribune’s food section and is a personal friend and colleague of mine; we are both part of Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago, an international society for women in food service with chapters around the world. This literal tome is a homage to all things Chicago and food. It’s a bookshelf must-have if you live in the area, have lived here or want to live here! 

By Carol Haddix (editor), Bruce Kraig (editor), Colleen Taylor Sen (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Chicago Food Encyclopedia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Chicago Food Encyclopedia is a far-ranging portrait of an American culinary paradise. Hundreds of entries deliver all of the visionary restauranteurs, Michelin superstars, beloved haunts, and food companies of today and yesterday. More than 100 sumptuous images include thirty full-color photographs that transport readers to dining rooms and food stands across the city. Throughout, a roster of writers, scholars, and industry experts pays tribute to an expansive--and still expanding--food history that not only helped build Chicago but fed a growing nation. Pizza. Alinea. Wrigley Spearmint. Soul food. Rick Bayless. Hot Dogs. Koreatown. Everest. All served up A-Z, and all…


Book cover of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America

Mae Elise Cannon Author Of Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age

From my list on justice that you don’t need a PhD to understand.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in rural Southern Maryland, I first began to notice a difference between Blacks and whites because of the way I was treated when I hung out with my African American friends. South of the Mason Dixon line, racial differences are often clear. Throughout my childhood and young adult life some of the most influential people who invested in me were African American. As I began to learn about their stories, my heart grew with a love for racial justice and equality. My work and adult life has focused on righting wrongs, responding to global and domestic poverty, to writing and working against inequality and oppression.

Mae's book list on justice that you don’t need a PhD to understand

Mae Elise Cannon Why did Mae love this book?

Having lived in Chicago for more than a decade, this first-hand glimpse of two young boys growing up in the inner city changed my perspective and understanding of the realities of domestic urban poverty. A moving and powerful read, you can follow the journey after There are No Children Here in Kotlowitz’s follow-up story, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago.

By Alex Kotlowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There Are No Children Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A moving and powerful account by an acclaimed journalist that "informs the heart. [This] meticulous portrait of two boys in a Chicago housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape" (The New York Times).

"Alex Kotlowitz  joins the ranks of the important few writers on the  subiect of urban poverty."—Chicago Tribune

The story of two remarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago's  Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect.


Book cover of First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt: Homicide in Chicago, 1875-1920

Peter Boag Author Of Pioneering Death: The Violence of Boyhood in Turn-Of-The-Century Oregon

From my list on death and violence of late-19th-century America.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a student, the Gilded Age bored me to no end. Since then, I have come to understand that the era’s paradoxes, contingencies, and uncertainties are what has created modern America; they have preoccupied my research and writing since. I undertook Pioneering Death as a meditation on how one of the darkest and most intensely personal events—parricide—is both an expected and unexpected outcome of the interconnectedness between place, region, and nation during the Gilded Age. I hope my very select booklist about death, violence, and brutal killings assists you to recognize how these are central to the human condition and how they are foundational to modern America. 

Peter's book list on death and violence of late-19th-century America

Peter Boag Why did Peter love this book?

Lynching is central to the late 19th century and thus the theme that I explore in my recommendations, but Shepherd.com covers this tragic subject elsewhere. Instead, for my last book, I offer Adler’s study that explains the persistently high and even increasing rates of violence and homicide in Chicago during an era when varied modern social controls—urban reform, the discipline of the factory floor, expanding education and the bureaucratic state—swept over that city as they did over America, too. According to older theories about social turbulence and murder, these should have declined. Instead, the opposite was true, though the forms that violence took did change. Perhaps it was Adler’s intention to leave frighteningly unanswered what it is about people generally, and Americans specifically, that the dark impulses they have run so deeply that they are impervious to social control.

By Jeffrey S. Adler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1875 and 1920, Chicago's homicide rate more than quadrupled, making it the most violent major urban center in the United States--or, in the words of Lincoln Steffens, "first in violence, deepest in dirt." In many ways, however, Chicago became more orderly as it grew. Hundreds of thousands of newcomers poured into the city, yet levels of disorder fell and rates of drunkenness, brawling, and accidental death dropped. But if Chicagoans became less volatile and less impulsive, they also became more homicidal.

Based on an analysis of nearly six thousand homicide cases, First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt examines the…


Book cover of City Indian: Native American Activism in Chicago, 1893-1934

Coll Thrush Author Of Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire

From my list on urban Indigenous lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Indigenous history through the experience as a settler growing up at the edge of a reservation. I also love cities as “texts,” and the ways in which urban places never fully erase what came before. These two interests led me to urban Indigenous studies. Urban and Indigenous histories are often treated as though they are mutually exclusive, when in fact they are deeply entangled with each other: for example, the majority of Indigenous people in the United States live in urban areas. These works capture the rich history of migration, political organizing, and cultural production that has taken place in Indigenous cities.

Coll's book list on urban Indigenous lives

Coll Thrush Why did Coll love this book?

LaPier and Beck’s book is the perfect backstory to Van Alst’s.

Chicago, built on the lands of the Three Fires Council, has a long history as an Indigenous metropolis, from activism around the famous 1893 World’s Fair to the building of urban Indian organizations. The authors show how Indigenous people are everywhere in the archives. 

By Rosalyn R. LaPier, David R. M. Beck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Robert G. Athearn Award from the Western History Association

In City Indian Rosalyn R. LaPier and David R. M. Beck tell the engaging story of American Indians who migrated to Chicago from across America to work and emerged as activists. From the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition to the 1934 Century of Progress Fair, American Indians in Chicago voiced their opinions about political, social, educational, and racial issues.
City Indian focuses on the privileged members of the American Indian community in Chicago: doctors, nurses, business owners, teachers, and entertainers. During the Progressive Era more than any other time in the city's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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