The best books by or for cartoonist

11 authors have picked their favorite books about cartoonists and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir

By Roz Chast,

Why this book?

Anybody who’s had to clean out a family home knows what a messy, emotional, tedious, painful, sometimes lonely, occasionally humorous process it can be. Cartoonist Roz Chast captures all of that in this graphic memoir about helping her elderly parents move out of the New York City apartment they’d lived in for decades. Like me, Chast is an only child. That made a tough job even tougher, and she’s astonishingly frank about the ups and downs. If you find yourself having to help a loved one downsize, this book will make you feel less alone, no matter how many siblings…

From the list:

The best books to read when you’re decluttering (or trying to avoid it)

Book cover of Blank Comic Book: Draw Your Own Comics

Blank Comic Book: Draw Your Own Comics

By Blank Comics,

Why this book?

I really like this book because, while it doesn’t teach much about the actual drawing, it does give the young artist a jumpstart to begin drawing and telling their own stories. The authors include pages and pages of drawn-out panels with word balloons ready to go. I’ve always believed in letting kids find their own path with drawing style, and this book is perfect for that.

From the list:

The best books for kids to learn about cartooning

Book cover of Don't Go Where I Can't Follow

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow

By Anders Nilsen,

Why this book?

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow is a masterpiece in my opinion. This deeply personal story is based on the author's own life and the loss of his fiancé. A look into someone else’s struggles and hardships using drawing and photographs, notes, and sketches this novel is truly a beautiful collection of their relationship together. This one really resonates with me and hurts my heart, but I love it so much and I highly recommend picking up a copy as soon as you can.  

From the list:

The best graphic memoirs with creativity and flair

Book cover of Spinning

Spinning

By Tillie Walden,

Why this book?

I received a copy of Spinning as a birthday gift a few years ago. It’s always great to get a book from a friend that they personally pick out for you based on what they think you’ll like. I find this to be one of the most relatable memoirs that I’ve picked up in the last few years. I think the author’s experiences – although unique to their life – speaks deeply to many young women growing up with the pressure to embody the ideal of their gender and the punishing isolation that can come from those expectations. I return…

From the list:

The best books to help process big emotions

Book cover of Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

By Allie Brosh,

Why this book?

Hyperbole and a Half is like a honey-roasted almond – salty and sweet at the same time. Author Allie Brosh offers snippets of her life growing up, some which are mundane, and others which recount her struggle with depression – and all which are told with brutal honesty, sharp wit, and amazing humor. The illustrated comic-like book explains what it feels like to be human which, let’s face it, isn’t always great. What is great is the absolute hilarity with which Brosh describes ordinary events, such as a letter she wrote to her future self and her love of dogs…

From the list:

The best books that make me LOL

Book cover of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

By Michael Chabon,

Why this book?

For me, no book connects more wonderfully the themes of show business and history than The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Opening with the daring escape of a young Jewish magician from the clutches of Hitler to unite with his equally young cousin, a devotee of the burgeoning comic book craze, in America, this novel is about as theatrical as it gets. The two teenagers scale the heights of invention creating new comic book heroes who enthrall America as World War 2 brings the earth crashing all about them. It’s thrilling, compelling, funny, utterly engrossing and one of…

From the list:

The best books that embrace show business and history

Book cover of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

By Alison Bechdel,

Why this book?

I was drawn to this graphic memoir because, like me, Bechel grew up with a closeted parent in a heterosexual marriage while being a queer child herself. Like my memoir, Fun Home is also a coming-out story. Her art beautifully details the complexities of family life with both humor and gravitas. Some of the humor involves dead bodies, as her family runs a funeral home. Yet Bechdel must also grapple with profound loss: just after she comes out to her father, he dies by suicide, walking in front of a truck. She wonders if she can infer that he was…

From the list:

The best LGBTQ memoirs of trauma and transformation

Book cover of Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

By Alison Bechdel,

Why this book?

Alison Bechdel (best known for Fun Home, a graphic memoir about her bisexual teacher-cum-funeral-parlor-owner father) also wrote this graphic memoir about her actor-writer-teacher mother. It largely takes place in the 1990s, when being boldly “out” was just becoming possible—and Bechdel joyfully and graphically reveals herself as such to her readers. With her mother, however… maybe not so much. When told that Alison is publishing a book of lesbian cartoons, the mother asks: “Isn’t that rather a narrow scope?” before landing the zinger: “You’re not going to use your own name, are you?” Still, the book’s power derives from…

From the list:

The best books for shattering the image that first comes to mind upon hearing the word: “lesbian”

Book cover of The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, the Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics

The Goat Getters: Jack Johnson, the Fight of the Century, and How a Bunch of Raucous Cartoonists Reinvented Comics

By Eddie Campbell,

Why this book?

Before there were funny pages, there were sports pages with funnies on them. Eddie Campbell, best known as the artist-collaborator with Alan Moore on From Hell and the creator of his own wonderful and sort-of autobiographical Alec: The Years Have Pants, has pored over these old sports pages to uncover the secret origins of the funnies. Along the way, he tells stories of a lurid murder trial and a racially charged boxing match, all seen through the eyes of sports cartoonists. This is hidden history at its most entertaining.

From the list:

The best books for reading century-old newspaper funnies

Book cover of Moo, Baa, La La La!

Moo, Baa, La La La!

By Sandra Boynton,

Why this book?

Research shows that babies in utero hear and remember rhymes and rhythms they hear from inside the womb. The more frequently the rhymes and rhythms are repeated, the more responsive babies are to these familiar sounds when they are born. So if you’re going to be reading a book to your baby over and over again, it ought to be a fun, makes-you-laugh-out-loud one like Moo, Baa, La La La. This story is chock full of silly, catchy rhymes that you won’t mind repeating time and time again. Of course, Sandra Boynton’s illustrations are fabulous, too, so when your…

From the list:

The best books to read to your baby in utero

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