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Throughout my life as a reader, I have learned the importance of expanding my horizons. Looking past your typical worldview and exploring new perspectives is vital, and I’ve found that graphic novels were a great way to do that. As I read, I am immersed in the illustrations and am transported to a new world. They can be silly and comical, or they can be a deep dive into someone’s life experience. So, if you’re looking to get into some beginner’s graphic novels, here’s your spoiler-free guide!

  1. Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal, 2018

This absolutely hilarious 2018 graphic novel by Canadian animator and illustrator Aminder Dhaliwal is a must-read. This book follows a new and fictitious world where the planet’s population of men is wiped out by a birth defect. NPR called Woman World “A remarkably sly and devastating critique of patriarchy,” and Vulture described Dhaliwal’s humor as “perfectly pitched for the contemporary moment […] without ever feeling dumbed-down or cutesy.”

  1. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, 2000

This emotionally profound and heart-wrenching 2000 graphic novel by Iranian-French novelist Marjan Satrapi is without a doubt my favorite graphic novel of all time. The first part of a two-part autobiographical series, The Story of a Childhood explores Satrapi’s experience during the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the 1980s. This story forces readers to face uncomfortable truths and helped me understand a lot about family. This novel is even included in the American Library Association’s Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2014, and I absolutely recommend this challenging book!

  1. Spinning by Tillie Walden, 2017

American award-winning cartoonist Tillie Walden tackles the hard truths of childhood in Spinning, a 2017 coming-of-age graphic novel. Another autobiographical novel, this story talks about Walden’s experience growing up in competitive figure skating, all while struggling with growing up and coming out. Kirkus Reviews calls this novel a “quiet powerhouse of a memoir,” and I always recommend it to anyone looking for new graphic novels to read!

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, 2014

In This One Summer, published in 2014 by Canadian author and illustrator duo Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, protagonists Rose and Windy meet up at the same lake that they do every summer, but this summer it’s different. Through a lot of hardship, they discover the power of secrets, friendship and growing up. Kirkus Reviews calls this novel “Keenly observed and gorgeously illustrated—a triumph.”

  1. Are You Listening? written by Tillie Walden, 2019

This otherworldly story by Tillie Walden follows two women, Bea and Lou, who meet by chance and travel across the country together. NPR says about Are You Listening?, “The specialness of these two women and their journey suffuses every page thanks to Walden’s busy, nervous, versatile pen.” This intentionally vague and intimate story, perfectly nestled within the magical realism genre, is a must-read for any graphic novel fan. You will certainly fall in love with Walden’s dreamlike illustrated worlds and impeccable storytelling.

Katherine Donaghy

Cincinnati '24

Katherine is a Fine Arts major at the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP Program. She loves art, music, the environment, and staying up to date on current events.