100 books like What It Is

By Lynda Barry,

Here are 100 books that What It Is fans have personally recommended if you like What It Is. 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 Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Author Of Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

From my list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first learned about life in 1930s Vienna from my grandfather’s memoir: Reminiscences of the Vienna Circle and the Mathematical Colloquium. I was fascinated by the time and place and began to read more about the era, which ultimately served as a setting for my forthcoming novel, The Expert of Subtle Revisions.

Kirsten's book list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did Kirsten love this book?

In the mood for a graphic novel starring Bertrand Russell and a supporting cast of famous thinkers like Whitehead, Frege, Gödel, and Wittgenstein? Logicomix is for you!

Flip to Chapter Six, “Incompleteness,” for a peek of Vienna in the 1930s. The logic and philosophy illustrated throughout provide a great context for the work of Vienna’s famous philosophical circle led by Moritz Schlick, whose 1936 murder provides a chilling contrast to the intellectual pursuits of that time.

By Christos Papadimitriou, Apostolos Doxiadis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This brilliantly illustrated tale of reason, insanity, love and truth recounts the story of Bertrand Russell's life. Raised by his paternal grandparents, young Russell was never told the whereabouts of his parents. Driven by a desire for knowledge of his own history, he attempted to force the world to yield to his yearnings: for truth, clarity and resolve. As he grew older, and increasingly sophisticated as a philosopher and mathematician, Russell strove to create an objective language with which to describe the world - one free of the biases and slippages of the written word. At the same time, he…


Book cover of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Tyler Fisher Author Of The Artist's Drawing Book: Learn How to Draw, Sketch, Shade, and More with Easy Lessons and Practice Pages

From my list on unleashing your creative potential.

Why am I passionate about this?

For me, art is a journey of relentless questioning, exploring, and introspection. As an artist, author, and educator, I have relied on each book in this collection to further my creative journey. The titles that I've selected offer unique perspectives on the transformative power of art and have had the biggest effect on my students, my peers, and my own artistic growth. I believe that art is a language that is and should be for everyone, providing a conduit for individual expression, problem-solving, and innovation. Each of these titles has offered pivotal "aha" moments while igniting my passion, and I hope they allow you to unlock your creative potential.

Tyler's book list on unleashing your creative potential

Tyler Fisher Why did Tyler love this book?

This one may surprise you, but I assure you that Understanding Comics is an absolute gem!

McCloud has crafted an intellectual yet accessible guide that is not just a study of comics but a masterclass in communication and the art of storytelling. This book provides a rich fusion of insightful theory and practical advice, all conveyed through the very medium it discusses, making it a uniquely immersive experience. 

McCloud’s engaging style and profound understanding of the mechanics of comics didn't just educate me;  they enchanted me. His deep dives into the psychology behind why we connect with comics pair perfectly with his diegetic examples of framing, composition, and visual motivation. It’s a journey through the mechanics of comics that turns into a deeper exploration of visual expression and human perception.

Art is, in essence, a storytelling medium, making this book as invaluable for artists and writers as it is for…

By Scott McCloud,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The bestselling international classic on storytelling and visual communication "You must read this book." - Neil Gaiman Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.


Book cover of A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

Antony Radford Author Of The Elements of Modern Architecture: Understanding Contemporary Buildings

From my list on analysing architecture.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion as a teacher and writer is to help students and others interpret, understand and enjoy architecture and the built environment, and to help them respond in their own designs to the complexities of place, people, and construction. I have chosen five well-established books on analysing architecture that are highly illustrated, avoid jargon, can be explored rather than needing to be read sequentially cover-to-cover, and have lasting value. They offer guidance for beginning students and a checklist for the experienced. They are books to be kept handy and repeatedly consulted. Of course, analysing existing architecture is invaluable in designing new architecture. I hope you enjoy them.

Antony's book list on analysing architecture

Antony Radford Why did Antony love this book?

The first three books on my list concentrate on building form and space, with little about function.

The ‘pattern language’ is different, mapping human activities onto appropriate built forms, and advocating repeated patterns that have been found to work.

Christopher Alexander wants us to use the patterns in designing responses to situations, but they also help to judge how well-built spaces fit their contexts in analysing architecture.

Although Alexander maps activities onto his own preferred design style, the patterns are not inherently specific to any style or period of architecture.

Despite being written 50 years ago, this one-of-a-kind book is still fresh and relevant.

By Christopher Alexander,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Pattern Language as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction. After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in
the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture,…


Book cover of Max and Moritz

Uta, Chris, and Alex Frith Author Of Two Heads: A Graphic Exploration of How Our Brains Work with Other Brains

From my list on explaining things that matter via graphics.

Why are we passionate about this?

Science is a way to make sense of the world, whatever the subject, and so are Comics. We are British and reserved, but passionately love science and comics. There are some excellent comics that tell stories about people - Maus, Persepolis, Fun Home. But, there are fewer that try to explain ideas without a strong biographical bent. Here are five comics that are, we think, just a little bit more about ideas than people. They're also fabulous examples of how well comics can communicate sophisticated information, without hype. and in a way that reaches any thinking person, whatever their age or place in life. We are, respectively, two retired neuroscientists, a children's non-fiction author, and an artist. We've all grown up reading, and continue to read, comics from Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, Japan, and even the USA.

Uta's book list on explaining things that matter via graphics

Uta, Chris, and Alex Frith Why did Uta love this book?

We can’t resist adding a historical first, published in German in 1865 by Wilhelm Busch, the father of countless other comics that present the pranks of naughty boys. And it features in Two Heads because it inspired psychologists, including ourselves, to study the remarkable ability to mindread. In a single panel Busch reveals that the reader can infer that what is in the mind of the terrible duo is different from what’s in the mind of Widow Bolte, and different from what’s in the mind of her dog. It allows us readers to get the contradictions between these different views and makes us laugh. So although this book doesn't set out to explain anything, it ends up doing a marvelous job of explaining the psychology of intention, interaction and reputation management - in the tradition of great comic strips from Crazy Kat to Peanuts to Calvin & Hobbes.

By Wilhelm Busch, Stefan Hollos (translator), J. Richard Hollos (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on the classic German children's story Max und Moritz by Wilhelm Busch, this dual language German-English version includes the original German verse and color illustrations with a new English translation. Contains a biographical timeline of Wilhelm Busch's life. Includes Wilhelm Busch's "Diogenes and the Bad Boys of Corinth".


Book cover of Trashed

Uta, Chris, and Alex Frith Author Of Two Heads: A Graphic Exploration of How Our Brains Work with Other Brains

From my list on explaining things that matter via graphics.

Why are we passionate about this?

Science is a way to make sense of the world, whatever the subject, and so are Comics. We are British and reserved, but passionately love science and comics. There are some excellent comics that tell stories about people - Maus, Persepolis, Fun Home. But, there are fewer that try to explain ideas without a strong biographical bent. Here are five comics that are, we think, just a little bit more about ideas than people. They're also fabulous examples of how well comics can communicate sophisticated information, without hype. and in a way that reaches any thinking person, whatever their age or place in life. We are, respectively, two retired neuroscientists, a children's non-fiction author, and an artist. We've all grown up reading, and continue to read, comics from Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, Japan, and even the USA.

Uta's book list on explaining things that matter via graphics

Uta, Chris, and Alex Frith Why did Uta love this book?

One of those books that tells you about a topic most people never think about - in this case, your trash. Partly semi-autobiographical about the time Backderf spent as a a trash collector but interspersed with general info about America's love of waste and where it all ends up. Backderf's hyper-exaggerated figures render everything fun to read, with a cynical but accurate eye towards human behavior. It's also painstakingly detailed, and the depictions of the gigantic dumps at the edges of towns cannot be unseen. We all know that trash smells terrible - and boy does this book manage to convey how much worse the smell of a whole canyon full of trash can be.

By Derf Backderf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Every week we pile our rubbish out on the pavement. We go to work and when we return it's gone. Like magic!
The reality is anything but, of course. Trashed, Derf Backderf's follow-up to the critically acclaimed, award-winning national bestseller My Friend Dahmer, is a working man's epic. An ode to the crap job of all crap jobs-but anyone who has ever been trapped in a soul-sucking gig can relate to this tale. Trashed takes place after Derf graduates high school, when he and his childhood pals find themselves working as garbagemen in their Midwestern hometown. Together they clean the…


Book cover of The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design

Jesse Schell Author Of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

From my list on for game designers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved game design – I love doing it, reading about it, thinking about it, and helping others do it. As you can see in the list, I’ve learned that sometimes what helps game designers most is getting inspiration from other fields. I hope these books help you as much as they helped me.

Jesse's book list on for game designers

Jesse Schell Why did Jesse love this book?

If your goal is to create board games, you really should read this book. If your goal is to create video games, you should also be creating boardgames. You get so much more game design experience creating a board game, because you can iterate so much more. Creating board games is a secret shortcut to becoming an experienced game designer, and this is the best book I know on how to do it well.

By Mike Selinker, Richard Garfield, Steve Jackson , David Howell , Jeff Tidball , Richard C. Levy , Matt Forbeck , Dale Yu , James Ernest , Rob Daviau

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pull up a chair and see how the world's top game designers roll.
You want your games to be many things: Creative. Innovative. Playable. Fun. If you're a designer, add "published" to that list.

The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design gives you an insider's view on how to make a game that people will want to play again and again. Author Mike Selinker (Betrayal at House on the Hill) has invited some of the world's most talented and experienced game designers to share their secrets on game conception, design, development, and presentation. In these pages, you'll learn about storyboarding,…


Book cover of Game Feel: A Game Designer's Guide to Virtual Sensation

Jesse Schell Author Of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

From my list on for game designers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved game design – I love doing it, reading about it, thinking about it, and helping others do it. As you can see in the list, I’ve learned that sometimes what helps game designers most is getting inspiration from other fields. I hope these books help you as much as they helped me.

Jesse's book list on for game designers

Jesse Schell Why did Jesse love this book?

A tremendous amount of what makes a great videogame happens at the millisecond level. In this realm that is invisible to most, tiny changes make for enormous differences in the way a game feels. If you would master the secret rules that make for a game that people can’t put down because it just feels so good to play, you are wise to read this book. 

By Steve Swink,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Game Feel" exposes "feel" as a hidden language in game design that no one has fully articulated yet. The language could be compared to the building blocks of music (time signatures, chord progressions, verse) - no matter the instruments, style or time period - these building blocks come into play. Feel and sensation are similar building blocks where game design is concerned. They create the meta-sensation of involvement with a game.

The understanding of how game designers create feel, and affect feel are only partially understood by most in the field and tends to be overlooked as a method or…


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 Measuring Up

Sylvie Kantorovitz Author Of Sylvie

From my list on middle-grade depicting different cultures.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was five, my family moved from Morocco to France. We were Jewish in a very homogeneously Catholic world. My French upbringing didn’t include much exposure to other cultures and I often felt uncomfortably different. I would have liked to know more about various lifestyles, cultures, and traditions than those I observed around me. I now love to learn about other cultures through personal accounts, stories, and memoirs. I feel engaged and interested in a way I never experienced with textbooks. Reading about people who live a different life from our own can be an eye-opening experience.

Sylvie's book list on middle-grade depicting different cultures

Sylvie Kantorovitz Why did Sylvie love this book?

Cici’s family is settling in Seattle. They come from Taiwan and want their daughter to study hard in the US in order to have a better life than theirs. But Cici is missing her beloved grandmother and worries about not fitting in at school. Deciding to sign up for a cooking contest will not only give her the chance to do what she likes doing the most, but will also make her meet a new friend. Or is it a rival?

I always love stories centered around the themes of trying to fit in and trying to please parents. Cici is a brave young girl with a quietly strong personality and I was rooting for her during mouth-watering cooking rounds.

By Lily Lamotte, Ann Xu (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Measuring Up as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

An ALA Top 10 Graphic Novel of 2021 * A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection * Fall 2020 Kids Indie Next List * Featured in Today Show's AAPI Heritage Month List * Amazon Best Books November Selection * Cybils Awards Finalist * An NBC AAPI Selection * Featured in Parents Magazine Book Nook October issue * A CBC Hot off the Press October Selection * WA State Book Awards Finalist * Texas Library Association Little Maverick Selection

For fans of American Born Chinese and Roller Girl, Measuring Up is a don't-miss graphic novel debut from Lily LaMotte and Ann…


Book cover of El Deafo

Stan Mack Author Of Janet & Me: An Illustrated Story of Love and Loss

From my list on graphic auto-fiction, from memoir to magic realism.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was starting out as an illustrator, I stumbled into two art director jobs, first at the innovative New York Herald Tribune and then at The New York Times. Working with great journalists gave me the startling idea that a comic strip could have no better subject matter than real life. This led me to create my popular comic strip “Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies,” which ran in The Village Voice and reported on the rowdy New York city of the '70s and ‘80s. Back then, I was alone in combining real-life stories with comics; today many artist-writers use the comic strip format to tell complex and multilayered true stories of the human experience.

Stan's book list on graphic auto-fiction, from memoir to magic realism

Stan Mack Why did Stan love this book?

My wife, a teacher to the deaf and hard of hearing, brought home a graphic children’s book, El Deafo, which she and her kids loved. Based on Bell's own life, it’s about a young girl coming to grips with her sudden deafness. As a graphic artist who specializes in adult works, I was not initially drawn to this young girl’s story, nor to Bell’s colorful cartoony panels. But one day, I picked up my wife’s copy and discovered a charming story that swept me along, the art surprisingly sophisticated and effective. As different as my graphic memoir is from Bell’s, my memoir is also about coping with adversity, and I hope it’s as compelling as El Deafo

By Cece Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked El Deafo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

El Deafo is a funny, deeply honest graphic novel memoir for middle graders. It chronicles the author's hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with a powerful and very awkward hearing aid called the Phonic Ear. It gives her the ability to hear--sometimes things she shouldn't--but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her, Phonic Ear and all. Finally, she is able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become "El Deafo, Listener for All." And more importantly, declare a place…


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