Below is a recommended reading list for fans of my work (artist/author’s name, followed by my favorite(s) of their books in parentheses). If you like what I do, there is a high likelihood that some or all of these titles will appeal to you as well, as many of them have inspired my work over the years. Either that, or I feel as if they’re connected to my work in some way or another.
This is by no means a complete list, and I’ll be adding to it as I go along.
Note that I’ve left out some of my favorites, as they might not necessary apply to my readership. Such as: COMICS: Andy Hartzell’s Fox Bunny Funny, Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County, Bob Fingerman‘s Minimum Wage, Damien Jay, Daniel Clowes, David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, Ed Luce, Edward Gorey, Frank M. Young and David Lasky’s The Carter Family, Fred Noland, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Hannah Blumenreich, Jason Shiga‘s Double Happiness, Fleep and Book Hunter, Jen Wang‘s Koko Be Good, Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick’s Feynman, Joe Sacco, Lark Pien‘s Long-Tail Kitty, Kim Deitch, Malachi Ward, Michael DeForge, Nick Abadzis’s Laika, Nick Sumida, R. Crumb, Renee French, Rick Worley, Roberta Gregory‘s Bitchy Bitch, S. Eddy Bell’s Lulu & Mitzy Best Laid Plans, Seo Kim, Thomas Kaczynski, Trevor Alixopulos and many many many more.
NON-COMICS: Albert Camus’s The Stranger, Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,
Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzy Bat, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Fyodor Dostoyevski’s
Notes from the Underground, George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, John Irving’s The World
According to Garp and Hotel New Hampshire, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye,
and many many many more.
Memoir & Biography (Comics)
- 32 Stories
32 Storiesis a collection of Adrian’s mini-comics, from when he was a mere teenager. Don’t get me wrong. His current work is slick and interesting, but I prefer the old stuff for its rawness and its heart. My favorite story in this collection is “Smoke,” with much love for his autobio comics as well, especially “Allergic.” These are comics that I fell in crush with early on in my career. Possibly even before I started making them myself, although not long before.
- Fun Home
- Are You My Mother?
Alison Bechdel made a name for herself with her long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, but her superstardom rose from her universally beloved memoir, Fun Home, which was also made into a Tony-winning Broadway play! Are You My Mother? is my personal favorite of her books, as it delves deeply into the psyche of a memoirist. You can read a
semi-illustrated interview I did with Alison on the Rumpus.
Ariel Bordeaux is one of my earliest influences. I fell in love with her autobio stories of shitty jobs and twenty-something angst not long before I started making comics myself.
- Maus I and II
These books are classic. Very moving and nuanced look at Spiegelman and his relationship with his dad, a Holocaust survivor.
- Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
- Everything Dies
Box Brown does a wonderful job at laying bare humanity. I feel like I got so much
out of reading his biography about Andre the Giant, but Box’s work is more than that.
If you can get your paws on his Everything Dies series, you won’t be sorry.
I love them all, but you should especially check out Cara’s comics about gorillas!
- You’ll Never Know Vol. 1-3
This trilogy is touching and beautiful, a tribute and look into the complicated relationship with her WWII vet dad. Carol’s background is in fine art, and it absolutely shows in her brilliant, delicate, and bold watercolors and designs. These are some of my favorite comics ever made. Highly recommended.
Carrie is the prolific creator of a multitude of autobio gems. Her daily diary comic zine, You Don’t Get There From Here, is on its 32nd issue, with no end in sight. Those comics in particular have captured a side of Los Angeles that I’ve never seen represented in mainstream media. A sometimes quiet, vast space filled with nature, friends, loneliness and magic. But there’s more to Carrie than her diary comics. I love how she tells a story, from her contributions in the long-running anthology zine, Not My Small Diary (my favorite being the one where she befriends Tammy Faye Bakker), to her discovering-her-queer-self story in QU33R.
- I Never Liked You
- Paying for It
- Louis Riel
Chester’s memoirs (I Never Liked You and Paying for It) are two of my favorite books ever. INLY is a sweet story about young yearning, whereas PFI is a somewhat controversial look into his life as a John, and the prostitutes he has visited. If uncomfortable honesty is your thing (as it is mine), you will like these books.
Chris handed me his zine when I tabled at Short Run Seattle. His comics are so raw and honest, I fell immediately in love.
Derek Kirk Kim
- Same Difference and Other Stories
A great collection of stories about the Asian American experience.
- My Friend Dahmer
A comics memoir about being friends with a serial killer! How can you resist?
- A Wretch Like Me: Sad/Black/Ugly/Queer
Gorgeous and brutal. I wrote about and excerpted this book for PEN Illustrated.
- Blue Moon issues 5 to 7
All of Elijah’s work is excellent, but I think these issues of his self-published diary comics
will appeal the most to my readers. In these issues, he lays bare some pretty complicated
feelings entangled with a dying LTR and exciting, sexy rebound.
- Marbles: Mania
- Michelangelo and Me
This is a terrific memoir about Ellen’s bipolarity. She has a great voice, and it’s always fun to follow her down her paths, dark as they may sometimes be.
- My Favorite Thing is Monsters
The first thing I thought when I finished reading My Favorite Thing is Monsters is, “This is the best book I’ve ever read.” I still feel this way.
- QU33R Anthology
Eric’s story (the first story in QU33R) totally made me cry. That, to me, is a sign of a very good book.
What a great book this is! So dark and tormented. And wonderful art to boot.
- The Voyeurs
- Truth is Fragmentary
Gabrielle Bell mixes autobio with fiction, sometimes fantastical and dream-like. Her story-telling is absolutely unique and engrossing.
- Geoff Vasile is Real and A History of Increasing Humiliation
This guy is a very underappreciated draftsman and talented storyteller. His dark sense of humor really shines in his autobio work, but his sci-fi is absolutely worth taking a look at as well.
- Driftwood City
There’s a certain Jason Martin story that makes me cry every time, and he knows it. One of my most notable events was a San Francisco reading that included Jason and some others. Jason went on right before me, and he read that blasted story! (a story about a teacher of his whose little girl passed away) When I got up to do my story, which was also somewhat sad, I totally lost it and started sobbing. It was so humiliating! Afterwards, I overheard he’d told someone, “I’m going to make Mari cry.” Fucker. Anyway, his comics are amazing.
- The Story of My Tits
This is a really great graphic memoir about the author’s relationship with her breasts. Funny stuff, heavy stuff. You’ll love it.
This book, unlike most of my recommendations here, is a sci-fi tale about love. Beautifully drawn
and written with so much love for his characters. I excerpted and wrote about the book
for PEN Illustrated.
- Couch Tag
Apparently I love comics memoirs about mental health issues. This book is so freaking good.
- The Poor Bastard
Joe Matt is a controversial memoirist. Maybe it’s because he isn’t afraid to stray from the truth to tell a hilarious story, or maybe it’s because he has no qualms with making his character look like a complete jerk. Whatever the reason, his comics were a formative crush for me. His loose-but-perfect lines, his R. Crumb-ish angst, his sense of humor that makes you want to strangle him but keep reading nonetheless. He’s a master of the form, and utterly underappreciated.
Joey Alison Sayers
- Just So You Know
Joey’s work has appeared all over the place, including frequent appearances in MAD Magazine. Her sense of humor is so sharp and silly, it balances out some pretty heavy stuff in this memoir she wrote and drew about coming out as trans. This is some great comics-ing, you guys.
- The Hospital Suite
John’s minimalist style and appreciation for the little poignant beautiful things in life are soothing, sweet and sad in his KingiKat zine. My favorite work of his is The Hospital Suite, which is a darker story than the other stuff I’ve read of his. It’s edge-of-your-seat storytelling, really brilliantly told, mostly about his medical issues, both mental and physical. This book deserves all the accolades.
- Love Machines
For the Love Machines, Josh wrote beautiful stories about human relationships with machinery,
then found a very diverse array of artists to illustrate them. Here is an excerpt I put on
PEN Illustrated, drawn by Patrick Horvath.
- Fart Party
- Drinking at the Movies
- The Infinite Wait
Julia will make you laugh so hard you create your own fart party. Her comics deftly explore the angsty existence of a twenty-something, caught in the web of shitty jobs and a substance abuse problem.
- My New York Diary
If you are going to get a Julie Doucet book, get this one. Dark, bloody, feminist, funny.
- True Travel Tales
Someone please collect Justin’s True Travel Tales comics into a book! This guy is a true adventurer, and he recounts his experiences so hilariously and compellingly. He has lived a hundred lives, and he will share them with you if you let him.
- Powdered Milk
Simple stories about the daily life of parenting, with some hilarious humor. I’m not generally a fan of parenting stories, so it’s significant that I love Keiler’s comics so much. They’re drawn with a style that is sometimes called “deceptively simple.”
Laura’s art and the emotional gut-punch of her stories make me want to give up the ghost. She’s so freaking good.
Lauren draws great autobio, and this comic in particular (Carriers) will really get you!
- One Hundred Demons
Some people love Lynda Barry for her comics teaching books, but my personal love is for her personal stories.
Mare’s comics make me want to give him a hug and a mug of hot chocolate.
Marian’s zines are so quiet and beautiful. Lovely pencil drawings, lots of birds…
- Life of the Party
Mary Fleener’s comics are pretty much what made me start making comics to begin with. She has a beautiful, strong line, and her personal stories are both hilarious and thoughtful, bad-ass and brilliant. In particular, her story “The Jelly,” about her hot-mess roommate, was what lit the fire under my butt to tell my own stories.
- I Can’t Tell You Anything
- East Texas
Short autobio comics from the nineties. I really wish this guy was still making comics.
- Over Easy
- The Customer Is Always Right
I drew a comics review of Over Easy for LA Review of Books. The sequel was even better!
I found out about Natasha through my work with the Cartoonists of Color. Her autobio slice-of-life comics are incredibly addictive.
Nicole J. Georges
- Calling Dr. Laura and Fetch
Calling Dr. Laura is a fascinating memoir about family deception, drawn with Nicole’s lovely and charming brush style. You will probably read this book in one sitting, it’s so hard to put down. I wrote a little bit about Fetch for PEN Illustrated.
Noah Van Sciver
- The Hypo
Noah is a prolific artist, and it’s hard to keep up with all his releases. He does autobio with as much skill as his fiction. My favorite is his story about Abe Lincoln, The Hypo. You will like this too.
Oh man, her autobio is hilarious.
- The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Phoebe’s art is intricate and gorgeous. Her background is medical anatomy drawings, if that tells you anything. But more importantly, the content of her stories is brutal and human. Sex with her step-dad, drugs in the Tenderloin. This memoir (which was turned into a movie) isn’t afraid to tell you everything.
- Virus Tropical
A terrific graphic memoir, translated to English by 2dcloud.
Wonderful quiet autobio stories. The stories about Rina’s family are my favorite.
Rob’s queer autobio comics were some of my favorite before I even considered myself a comics reader! I read them at the same time I fell in love with Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, and it completely makes sense. These were stories about PEOPLE: people I wanted to know, people I wanted to be. Nowadays Rob edits a lot of wonderful anthologies (OMG QU33R), often with his beautiful comics included. He has wonderful, loose linework and sweet, kismet-flavored stories that will make you love him.
- What Is Obscenity?
This is a manga-style graphic memoir about when the artist Rokudenashiko was
arrested in Japan for creating art molded from her vagina. I wrote about it and
excerpted the book on PEN Illustrated.
- Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Everyone needs to read this book, which is a dark, hilarious look at the slow decline of her parents as they enter their last years. Yes, hilarious. She’s really good!
- How to Understand Israel in 30 Days or Less
- Rolling Blackouts
Sarah is one of the best cartoonists out there. Her work makes me feel…thoughtful. Rolling Blackouts is an especially important work in these troubled times. I’m pretty sure this book will change the landscape of comics journalism.
- Jizz Comics
Scott Russo’s Jizz was the first indie comic I fell in love with, when I was about nineteen years old. It was essentially a zine filled with comics about his Catholic school upbringing (specifically his trouble with nuns), political rants, and over-the-top
offensive strips. The artwork was often sloppy and deliciously grotesque; the writing was passionate and hilarious. I wish this guy were still making comics.
T. Edward Bak makes some beautiful biographical books, with lush nature imagery and steeped in careful research. These are wonderful books, so worthy of picking up (see Island of Memory). But his autobio comic, Service Industry, is a long-time favorite of mine. One of the best autobio stories out there.
You’ve got to read this comic! Tessa’s comics are unabashedly feminine. Her book Passage pinpoints female adolescence in a beautiful, sometimes painful way.
- The Best We Could Do
This book was on a lot of best-of lists for 2017. Here’s a write-up and excerpt I did for it on PEN Illustrated. Also, here’s a short comic we (PEN) commissioned from her with the theme of “State of Emergency.”
- I Love This Part
Tillie’s work is so beautiful and moving! I Love This Part is a surreally drawn story about young love, whereas Spinning is a graphic memoir about Tillie’s decade as a competitive ice skater. Both books made me cry.
- Rosalie Lightning
Rosalie Lightning is a comics memoir about the loss of Tom Hart and Leela Corman’s first-born child. Poetic and thoughtful. Beautiful and gutting.
- Primahood: Magenta
Tyler investigates the complexities of race and femininity through stories of parenting and abstract (lovely!) art in a unique style. I excerpted Tyler’s book on PEN Illustrated.
- Make Me a Woman
- Spaniel Rage
I love Vanessa’s loose lines and casual storytelling style. Reading her comics feels like eavesdropping on a woman you want to be friends with.
- There is No Right Way to Meditate
- Never Forgets
Most of Yumi’s comics and artwork feel like they were touched by something divine. Perhaps that divine thing is Yumi, or perhaps she’s channeling some serious universal energy. Whatever is happening, her comics are unlike anything out there at the moment. Much of her wildly popular work is rooted in self-help, which makes it easy for some to overlook her narrative work, which to me is cream of the Twinkie. Never Forgets is my personal favorite. It speaks to me as a child of an immigrant in ways that no other story ever has.
Memoir (Not Comics)
Anders Nilsen (Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow)
Anne Frank (The Diary of a Young Girl)
Ariel Gore (Atlas of the Human Heart)
Augusten Burroughs (Dry)
Beth Lisick (Yokohama Threeway)
Bucky Sinister (All Blacked Out and Nowhere to Go)
Cassie J. Sneider (Fine Fine Music)
Cheryl Strayed (Tiny Beautiful Things, Wild)
Chloe Caldwell (Legs Get Led Astray)
David Rakoff (Don’t Get Too Comfortable)
David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked)
Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love)
Inga Muscio (Cunt: A Declaration of Independence)
Jo Ann Beard (The Boys of My Youth)
The Fourth State of Matter, which appears in this book, is possibly my favorite essay of
all time. It is stunning and heartbreaking and funny and shocking and god damn, everything
that good writing should be. I recommend it to everybody. Read it here.
Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking, Blue Nights)
Kirk Read (How I Learned to Snap: A Small Town Coming-Out and Coming-of-Age Story)
Kristin Hersh (Rat Girl)
Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist: Essays)
Sandra Tsing Loh (The Madwoman in the Volvo)
Stephen Elliott (Happy Baby, The Adderall Diaries)
Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)
Thomas Page McBee (Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man)
Little Heart (2dcloud) edited by Raighne Hogan
Not My Small Diary edited by Delaine Derry Green
Pet Noir: An Anthology of Strange but True Pet Crimes (Manic D Press) edited by Shannon O’Leary
QU33R (Northwest Press) edited by Robert Kirby
Real Stuff by Dennis P. Eichorn (out of print)
This series was hugely influential to me, as far as the comics I sought out later.
Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. This guy lived several lifetimes, and really knew how to
tell a story.
True Porn Anthology 1 and 2 (Alternative Comics) edited by Robyn Chapman (out of print)
Twisted Sisters 1 (Penguin) edited by Diane Noomin (out of print)
Twisted Sisters 2 (Kitchen Sink Press) edited by Diane Noomin (out of print)
Anna Bongiovanni (Out of Hollow Water)
So haunting. So lovely.
Anya Ulinich (Lina Finkle’s Magic Barrel)
A graphic novel about a bad relationship. I eat this stuff up.
Brecht Evens (The Making Of, The Wrong Place)
Brecht Evens has brought visual storytelling to a new level. His painterly style is sparse and expressive
in just the right ways. Beautiful, rich, stunning, sexy and human.
Christopher Adams (Strong Eye Contact)
By the time I read this book, I was starting to lose faith in comics as a medium that would break new
ground. But this book was so different, the story told in such a bold new way that it renewed my faith
in comics. Christopher Adams is a pioneer, certainly. His comics feel achingly new and interesting.
Chris Ware (The Acme Novelty Library)
Dash Shaw (Bottomless Bellybutton)
Debbie Dreschler (Daddy’s Girl)
A haunting and human comic about abuse.
Eleanor Davis (BDSM and Libby’s Dad)
BDSM was so good I bought a page of it. Pretty much everything she touches is gold.
Gina Wynbrandt (Someone Please Have Sex With Me)
This book is hilarious. Maybe it should go in memoir, since it’s a little memoirey.
But I mean, she’s having sex with alleycats so maybe not.
Hellen Jo (Jin & Jam)
Hellen Jo’s artwork is filled with the coolest bad girls ever. I wish she would make more comics,
because she’s so freaking good…
Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby)
Leela Corman (Unterzakhn)
Lisa Hanawalt (My Dirty Dumb Eyes)
Luke Howard (Our Mother)
A brilliant short book about growing up with a mom with mental illness. Perhaps this should
go in the comics memoir section? I’m not sure. There is definitely fiction in this book, so
I’m putting it here.
Jaime Hernandez (The Love Bunglers)
This book is my gateway drug into the Hernandez empire. Wonderfully developed characters
and art so good it makes my eyes bleed.
Justin Green (Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary)
Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (Skim, This One Summer)
Megan Kelso (Cats In Service)
Mike Dawson (Freddy and Me, Angie Bongiolatti)
Rutu Modan (Exit Wounds, The Property)
Sacha Mardou (The Sky In Stereo)
Young love! LSD! I love this story so much.
Sam Alden (It Never Happened Again: Two Stories, The Worm Troll)
This guy does some amazing work with pencils and emotional manipulation. An amazing
cartoonist and storyteller.
Will Eisner (A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories)
Will Dinski (Trying Not to Notice)
Will Dinski’s first long-form graphic novel is thoughtful and entertaining.
Yumi Sakugawa (Never Forgets)
All of Yumi’s work is magnificent (check out her meditation self-help books and myriad zines),
but this is the comic that makes me cry. Every. Time.
Fiction (Not Comics)
Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City series, Logical Family memoir)
Read all about my love for Armistead Maupin, the man and the writer, here.
Blake Nelson (Girl, Destroy All Cars)
Daniel LeVesque (Hairdresser on Fire)
Darcey Steinke (Suicide Blonde)
This book was so dismal and beautiful. I named my kitten after Darcey.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Slapstick)
This is the first book I truly fell in love with, the first satire I read (at the tender age of
eleven). It blew my fucking mind, and does so every time I reread it.
Lynda Barry (Cruddy)
Melissa Bank (The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, The Wonder Spot)
Michelle Tea (Valencia)
Myriam Gurba (Dahlia Season, Wish You Were Me, MEAN)
Yes, she’s my friend and fellow podcaster, but there’s a REASON I asked her to be on a
podcast with me. Specifically because she’s smart and hilarious, which you will see
from reading her books. Or listening to our comedy-advice podcast.
Rita Mae Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle)
A must-read for every babydyke (or babybi, in my case).
Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being, My Year of Meats)
This hapa novelist can really spin a yarn!
If this isn’t enough for you, here’s a link to my favorite books and things from 2014.
And here are more recommendations on the Pacific Standard website.
I’m also active on Goodreads. You can follow my reviews here.