If you don’t already have them on your shelf or on your to-read list. 🙂
This year, according to Goodreads, I read 122 books. My goals this year were to keep better track of the comic books I’ve read and continue to read more diverse voices. By the numbers — 57 (+13% compared to 2014) were written by women, 28 (+13%) drawn by women, 26 (+1%) written or drawn by people of color, and 13 (+3%) written or drawn by queer people. (The latter two categories may be slightly off.)
Here’s some amazing stuff you should read too:
1. Bitch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Val De Landro, and Robert Wilson IV
Genre: Intersectional feminist comics, sci-fi, fills my heart with glee
Recommended for: EVERYONE (who gives a fuck about social justice and rad comics)
I’ve probably told everyone to read this comic this year. READ THIS COMIC. Bitch Planet rifts on ’70s prison exploitation movies and totalitarianism, particularly the control of women. Non-compliant women, as they are called, are shipped off to a prison-in-space colloquially known as Bitch Planet. Some of them have committed crimes we might consider valid reasons to go to prison — murder, theft, etc. — but many are there because they talked back to their husbands, because they were too fat, too gay, too stubborn, too outspoken, too brown, etc., and it’s those women’s stories that make Bitch Planet stand out as not too far from our own reality.
Genre: YA comics, female friendship to the max, camp songs
Recommended for: EVERYONE (no, literally everyone)
Volume 1 came in as my #1 read, so not surprising to see 2 and 3 come up high on the list. Lumberjanes remains a book full of heart and love, centered around the friendships of young girls. Though as the cast expands, we learn about the friendships of adult women and add some boys too. The book takes place at a camp and focuses on adventure and fun. The quality of the story is maintained through all the new additions.
3. Zoo City
by Lauren Beukes
Genre: Magical realism, thrillers, fiction set in South Africa
Recommended for: EVERYONE (who wants the dæmons in His Dark Materials to have a darker meaning)
I’ve wanted to read something by Lauren Beukes since I read her Fairest comic book miniseries. Several years ago, I traveled to South Africa, which instantly became of my favorite places in the world and somewhere I wanted to learn/read about. This book explores the concept of sin, particularly the sin of murder, and what if when someone murdered someone — regardless of situation and if in cold-blood or accident or self-defense — they were ‘burdened’ with a random animal (anything from a bear to a beetle). The lead character Zinzi is animated with a sloth and has a sixth sense to find lost items. When that lost item is a pair of teenagers, her live gets further turned upside down.
4. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown, Tula Lotay, Stephanie Hans, Leila Del Duca, and Brandon Graham
Genre: Music comics, ancient gods and teenagers, experimental phases
Recommended for: EVERYONE (who’s thought their favorite rockstar was a god)
The world Gillen and McKelvie have built here makes this book one of my must reads each time a new issue comes out. The first volume was on my 2014 list, and 2015 volumes continue in earnest. The brief premise is that every 90 years or so, ancient gods (with powers and all) are reincarnated into teenagers/young adults, and in our modern world, they are rock stars. Worship, fandom, and chaos ensues.
Genre: Fairy tales, YA lesbian romances, coming of age
Recommended for: EVERYONE (who fancies a fairy tale)
I could barely put either of these two books down. Both are set in the same world, through Ash takes place about a 100 or so years after Huntress, but read Ash first. Lo builds lush fairy tale worlds with magic and sidhe. And with young heroines who make their own choices and work together to save the day. Both books mix Chinese and Western fairy tales, creating a different type of story and different types of fantasy characters, depending on your biases. Plus, fall in love as there’s lovely lesbian romances in each.
6. Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements
by Walidah Imarisha, adrienne maree brown, Sheree Renee Thomas, Bao Phi, David F. Walker, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Morrigan Phillips, Autumn Brown, Alixa Garcia, Mia Mingus, Gabriel Teodros, Tunde Olaniran, Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Tara Betts, Vagabond, Jelani Wilson, Kalamu ya Salaam, LeVar Burton, Terry Bisson, Dani McClain, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Tananarive Due
Genre: Sci-fi short stories, social justice fuck yeah, important for the ages
Recommended for: EVERYONE (seriously, read this book)
I’ve been pushing this book all year along because, as a collection, Octavia’s Brood is amazing. It features authors of color and focuses on social justice sci-fi stories with visions of all kind of futures and current times. It honors the incredible Octavia Butler. Rarely do I read a short story collection where I really like 95% of the stories, so congratulations all around to both the authors and the editors. This labor of love shines.
Disclaimer: I backed this IndieGoGo, and I’m so glad I did because this book rocks. (Also, I never recommend anything I don’t truly like.)
7. Heart in a Box
by Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren
Genre: Comics about broken hearts, feelings, transcendence
Recommended for: EVERYONE (who’s ever had a broken heart)
I really do mean that everyone who’s ever had a broken heart should read this. The story follows a young woman named Emma, who recently had her heart broken and is going through depression brought on by it. When her roommate finally gets her out of bed and out for a night on the town, she meets a mysterious guy who promises to take her pain away. Literally. Heart in a Box is a wonderful turn on the tired scene of the guy who promises to make everything better.
8. The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984
by Adrienne Rich
Genre: Poetry, intersectional feminism, metaphors
Recommended for: EVERYONE (into poetry)
Rich’s poetry is just so…gah. More people should really read poetry. What I find interesting about anthology collections like this one — and I can wait to read the second one — is how you see the poet grow in their lives, subject matters, and strengths. Such an intimate look at the progression of an artist.
9. Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir
by Alan Cumming
Genre: Memoirs, daddy issues, not a book with celebrity gossip
Recommended for: EVERYONE (with a sad childhood or maybe not because we don’t want to trigger you)
Like probably many people, I picked this book up because I saw reviews and have always had a soft spot for Alan Cumming. (He’s part of the bisexual club and was Nightcrawler, so you know.) If you want a celebrity gossip book, this is not it. Instead, Cumming shares two intertwining stories about the men in his family: 1) the abusive childhood he had at the hands of his father, and 2) the mystery of his maternal grandfather who died in an accident. This book’s emotional gripping and builds well on itself in a revealing manner.
10. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More
by Janet Mock
Genre: Memoirs, on being a woman, not a book with celebrity gossip
Recommended for: EVERYONE (who ever discovered themselves)
One of the main reasons to read books is to walk in someone else’s shoes, and Janet does an incredible job at sharing her heels. Redefining Realness is, at its heart, a novel about identity. While Janet’s identity labels and my own are in many aspects different, the part that stood out the most to me was Janet’s friendships and I found myself thinking a lot about those queer friends who got me through my teen years.
And bonus: 29 more books that I also loved this year.
My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up
by Stephen Elliott
Genre: Memoirs (kind of), daddy issues and mommy issues, goddammit Stephen Elliott
Two of the three Stephen Elliot books I read this year — gave Adderall Diaries four stars — and all three fit nicely into the collection of Elliott’s confessional, maybe autobiographical, maybe fictionalized story of his life growing up in Chicago group homes to his adult struggles with drugs and relationships to his life as a writer and a submissive.
Lazarus, Vol. 3: Conclave
Lazarus, Volume 4: Poison
by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Tyler Boss, Owen Freeman, and Eric Trautmann
Genre: Dystopian comics, corporate control, Dead Kennedys albums
Lazarus is in the looming giants league of comic books, if there was one. All about your dystopian future and corporate control.
by Noelle Stevenson
Genre: YA comics, coming of age, if bad guys really won against golden knights
This comic has won a buttload of awards for a reason: about a young woman “villain” who argues her way into an apprenticeship with the local “bad” guy.
Jessica Jones Alias Vol. 1
Jessica Jones Alias Vol. 2: Come Home
Jessica Jones Alias Vol. 3: The Underneath
Jessica Jones Alias Vol. 4: The Secret Origins of Jessica Jones
by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, David Mack, Rick Mays, Mark Bagley, Al Vey, Dean White, Rodney Ramos, Matt Hollingsworth, and Art Thibert
Genre: Adult comics, Netflix’d, not a fucking superhero
Yep, the comic they made the Netflix Jessica Jones show about. A reread for me, but a fine one.
Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
by Nancy Duarte
Genre: How to tell good stories, be a better bard, I read this for work but it’s actually good
You’re like, okay, I got over my stage fright and I finally figured out how to make PowerPoint work for me, how do I up my presentation skills: storytelling.
Trees Vol. 1: In Shadow
by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
Genre: Adult comics, humans are the worst, aliens!!!
In an unsurprisingly turn of events, Ellis writes about the impact of aliens without aliens.
Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick
by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Genre: Adult comics, hidden jokes, time freezing orgasms for good
So weird and get so good, Sex Criminals is probably not the book you think it’s going to be.
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet
by John W.S. Bradshaw
Genre: Cat behavior, cat genealogy, why do I live with this wild animal?
Not a book you can ask ‘how to do I stop my cat from being bad?” but more a book about general cat behaviors, in how they interact with the world, and what we do and don’t know about them.
The Infinite Loop Vol 1
by Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier
Genre: Intersectional feminist comics, sci-fi time travel, lesbian love stories
The personal is the political loud and clear in this comic book.
The Fire King
by Marjorie M. Liu
Genre: Urban fantasy romance, disability studies, half lion and half dragon problems
Just don’t judge this book by its cover, instead go on an adventure with a woman who can understand all languages and a shapeshifting man lost in time through magic.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True
by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Genre: Humorous superhero comics, kick butts eat nuts, Cat Thor
“Finds some nuts, eats some nuts! Kicks some bad guuuuys’ evil butts!”
by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil
Genre: Comics about hoarders, broken hearts, small towns in Oregon
Books which hit too close to home when you grew up in Oregon and have a parent who’s a hoarder.
Kaptara Vol. 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien
by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod
Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy comics, actually Gay He-Man, cat tanks
1/3 cup of Flash Gordon, 1/2 cup of He-Man, 1 tsp of Terry Pratchett, 2 tbsps of Labyrinth, 1/4 cup jokes, a dash of butts, and the contents of 2 Pride parades.
Giant Days Vol. 1
by John Allison and Lissa Treiman
Genre: College comics, dorm rooms, friendship to the max
Allison and Treiman bring the struggles of young adults in college to the forefront, so much you’ll remember the smells.
Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why
Ms. Marvel Vol. 4: Last Days
by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Elmo Bondoc, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona
Genre: YA superhero comics, coming of age, this is what America looks like
Just stop lamenting the lack of a young Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and read this book instead. (By the way, I gave Vol 3 4/5 stars, and I definitely recommend reading them all.)
Injection Vol. 1
by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey
Genre: Adult comics, intersectional something stories, magical realism with computers
The characters in this book shine so much, and I want to spend a lot of time with them, because they are all challenging.
Saga Volume 4
by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Genre: Space opera comics, parents just don’t understand, takes a village
What’s Saga? Well, if you don’t know the answer to that, just go buy it.
Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth
by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic, and Tess Fowler
Genre: Fantasy comics, ladies who punch first and ask questions later, poor choices
Nerd confession: I’ve never actually played D&D, but I hope to the goddess my D&D games would read like Rat Queens comics.
God Save the Queen
by Kate Locke
Genre: Urban fantasy steampunk Victorian current day blend, lots of corsets, take charge ladies
Not the most groundbreaking book I read this year, but the sort of fun I needed during the darker times of 2015.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman Vol. 2
by Sara Ryan, Christian Duce, Aaron Lopresti, Josh Elder, Jamal Igle, Michael Jelenic, Drew Johnson, Adam P. Knave, Matthew Dow Smith, Alex De Campi, Neil George, Amy Chu, Bernard Chang, James Tynion IV, Noelle Stevenson, Heather Nuhfer, Ryan Benjamin, Lauren Beukes, Mike Maihack, Cecil Castellucci, and Chris Sprouse
Genre: Superhero comics, how you tell a motherfucking Wonder Woman story, short stories
We are all Wonder Woman, and this book showcases shorts by various artists and writers about her and what she means. It’s beautiful.
by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Genre: 60s housewife assassin comics, murder for hire, killer heels and a-line dresses
This book’s full of beautiful art and a suspenseful story about an assassin for hire who does it all!
Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly
Captain Marvel Vol. 3: Alis Volat Propriis
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez, Marcio Takara, Marcio Takara, and Laura Braga
Genre: Superhero comics, ladies who take charge, flerken
Goodbye, Captain. You were great.