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Best American Comics 2008

Such mixed feelings about these books! I tend to love the :Best American Whateveritis" books because there’s a good assortment of curated stuff. But the comics ones are weird. Because a lot of what is in graphic novels lately is longer form some of these only tell part of a story. And, I have to be honest, a lot of what I am coming for in these is the story. So a piece of a story I find intensely aggravating. And I’m sure this is partly just me, I don’t think this is a BAD way to do things, only that I find it difficult. I also think Barry, though a certified comics genius, likes some different stuff than I do. So there are a lot of familiar faces in here which is great, but also it has a same-y feel to some of what I am already reading. And a lot of stuff that seems needlessly conflict-bound. However, one of my favorite comics is in here (Turtle Keeps it Steady) and it always makes me grin to see it. I’ve got a bunch more of these to read, we;ll see how it all goes.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

This was a funny book and I’m not sure where I got it. A sort of illustrated journey by a child prodigy who winds up making an epic cross-country train journey to wind up at the Smithsonian in DC. He has a weird relationship with his family and sort of interacts with the world oddly. There’s a hint of the supernatural in here but not much. I read a review of this as I was reading it (I usually don’t) and people seemed to HATE the ending but I sort of liked it. Not a lot goes on in this book and there are a TON of little side notes and particularly illustrations. If this is your bag, this book has a lot of it, and it’s well-done. If you don’t care for that sort of thing, this is not the book for you.


Such a great collection of short stories! I love Gloss and was a little dismayed by Dazzle of Day because it just wasn’t my thing. This book is very much more my thing. Great stories with a wide range of sometimes-quirky people having feelings about a thing. At the same time, slow-paced and deliberate and full of that great “sense of place” that makes Gloss so good at what she does. And maybe a touch of otherworldliness, but not too much. Overall a delight and only sad that I finished it too soon.

Lint Boy

This book was actually sort of upsetting for what is, i am sure, supposed to be a tale about overcoming adversity. Lint Boy comes from the dryer and is captured by a mean sort of sadistic woman who tortures him and the other toys she finds, trying to make them prove they are alive. They plot an escape. I don’t know if it hit me in the feels for some particular reason or what, but I found the sad toys really difficult to deal with and interact with. Well done and well illustrated but maybe not for some kids


This graphic novel about a two-culture kid is two stories in one. One about a kid from Brooklyn trying to make sense of growing up with an absent (dead) soldier father, and one about the mythological history of Japan. They only sort of line up though you get what the author is after. I found some of the Japanese history stuff a little tough to follow, though still really interesting, but I mostly wanted to get back to the young boy and what his deal was. Not quite enough Tenuki, but is there ever?

Fish Girl

Not your usual mermaid story. This one is about a Coney Island style attraction where there’s a young girl mermaid and a guy who acts like he’s Neptune but maybe he isn’t. If you’ve read any of Wiesner’s other books, you’ll recognize his terrific style but the story by Donna Jo Napoli is what really makes it. Complicated, no lusty fisherman, just a young girl trying to figure out what her life is about with her octopus pal.

Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination

This is a slender book that is sort of about the death camps in Poland and sort of about how one who has been there, as the author was, thinks back on their time there. Kulka is a historian who is thinking, in this book, about his own history. It’s not the usual camp memoir talking about the unbelievable horrors people endured (though there is a small amount of that if it’s worth knowing about this book) but more about how he remembered what happened. What he learned about afterwards and how he managed his own feelings about these remembrances.

No Way Home, a Memoir of Life on the Run

A great and weird story, told in chapters that bounce around in the timeline, about a girl who has a father who is, we learn later, a drug smuggler. The family is on the run, at first together and then later apart. It’s told as a weird memoir and we learn early on that people turn out okay (they’re all still alive though the dad does go to jail for a time). Wetherall does a great job at really painting a picture of what it’s like to move around, to feel rootless, to get really attached to some things and totally not attached to others. To be really poor but also kinda rich in other ways. She does a great job of setting up the story and I’m glad I read this.

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home

This fell in my lap. A friend’s company publishes this book and he gave it to me. It’s great, instantly familiar since I was punk-scene-adjacent in about the same timeframe that Nicole was and a lot of the stuff seemed familiar. This story bounced around a little and the central piece is her relationship with her dog. The dog is a problem. The girl is a problem. They learn how to navigate the world together. I wish I knew more about some of the stories told in this book (the car accident, what was up with her parents, what was Tom’s deal) but it felt really real, like it was told the way it felt to her. The dog does die in the end, which I guess I should have expected but did not. But it wasn’t a terrible ending and you felt, a little bit, like this would give her a new chapter to do slightly different things with her life.

The New Girl

I definitely have the pattern to these down. You think there’s going to be some sort of action, there’s a lot of spycraft setting it up. Then the action happens and something goes wrong. Then there’s the makeup part of it. Then one of the people is captured. Then there’s a vengeance and/or a make-up part of it. I liuke these books, but this one had a dead kid in it which I like less well. I like the art restoration parts and this had none of that (though there is a painting part). Above all, though, this book talks about the various factions in the Middle East and there’s a lot of interplay between Saudi Arabian higher ups and Israeli higher ups (with Russian and British thrown in for good measure). Good reading, same as most of them.

Paper Machines

Got this book as a trade for doing some book reviewing for MIT Press which explains how I came to be reading what was basically someone’s PhD thesis on the history of card indexes (not quite card catalogs though they do show up). The author is from Vienna and it was fascinating to see an outsider’s view of Dewey, to see how some of his manias looked from outside the profession and outside the country. I learned a lot of stuff in this book, dense though it was, and grew to appreciate the author’s sense of humor, there is a lot of quirky and interesting wordplay in this book just in terms of what is a book, what is an index, what is a card, that sort of thing. I don’t read much academicky stuff lately and books like these make me think I should get back into it.

The Lost Gutenberg

This book wasn’t lost! Other than that, this was an interesting history of one of the 49 (48?) Gutenberg Bibles still in existence. Davis traces the history from the 1800s until today and digs up a lot of interesting information, especially about its last personal owner who was a wealthy woman who bequeathed it to a Catholic Seminary who eventually sold it (probably not in keeping with her wishes). Overall a nice sort of pop history of one of these books.

The New Kid

A really well done graphic novel about being the new kid in a school. But it’s more complicated than that. Jordan Banks is a Black student going to a fancy private school. So not only are some of the kids weird about his race (with sort of micro and macro-aggresions towards him and the other students of color) but also the teachers trot out a lot of the familiar tropes ("Why are you so angry?" etc). Craft does a really good job at teasing out the subtleties of many different types of intersections of race and class, so a lot of these interactions ring true.


The library where I am for the summer does not have a good graphic novel section. However I always check it. This time they had one book by Telgemeier that I hadn’t read before, Sisters. I have a pretty close relationship with my sister but I didn’t always. I thought I could relate to this book. I could not. I found their relationship sort of confusing and a bit of a conflict without resolution. At the end of the book (unless I missed something) we thought the parents might get divorced but we weren’t sure. There was a graphic novel device of having the flashbacks be sort of sepia toned that I found a little confusing. In the past I’ve found Telgemeier’s stuff pretty accessible so maybe this was just a miss for unrelated reasons, but I’ve really liked all the rest of her stuff.

The Dazzle of Day

A Quaker Spacer! This was an interesting book that rambled in sometimes good and sometimes less good ways. The characters are gentle and thoughtful, possibly too gentle. The book meanders. First we’re leaving earth, then we’re on a colony ship, and then we’re around a planet we might move to. And there’s a lot of thinking and you never stay with one character’s viewpoint (or even timeline) for very long. I liked some viewpoints more than others and was more interested in what was going on at some points than others. The writing is very good, but there’s almost no plot, even though some pretty monumentous things happen.

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs

This book was really fun. I somehow missed that it was specifically for children when I requested it, but it’s enjoyable for all ages. Caitlin Doughty is a known quantity in the “people who write about death” space and I’d really enjoyed her two previous books. This one is even more delightful since she gets to be a little bit more humorous, plus the book has terrific illustrations which accentuated what she was talking about. Kids questions (from actual kids, she notes) range from “Can I get my hamster buried with me?” to “Why was grandma wrapped in plastic wrap under her shirt?” While the topics are tricky, Doughty is knowledgeable but also kind. Her jokes are never at the expense of people mourning a loved one or making fun of people’s beliefs or practices. This is a great educational and fun book and I’m happy I got a chance to see it early.