Life is not easy these days. With a lingering pandemic, volatile politics, and a wave of negative headlines, it is not hard to see why people need something to read that matches this moment we are in. That’s where this list of nine graphic novels and memoirs comes into play.
The books included on this list each speak to the zeitgeist of where we are right now. That can range as far as cozy reads that will hug your heart, an escape featuring a heroine we can believe in, unflinching looks at the political climate we are in right now, and books that directly engage and grapple with the issues we are facing today.
Whether you need a passport out of the nightmare of today or instead want to confront the negativity head-on, there is a book here for you. Featuring zeitgeisty reads like Kristen Radkte’s graphic memoir Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness and Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, this list also includes books that will warm you up with good vibes just when you’re feeling down, like Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse and Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please!
Without further ado, here’s nine of the best graphic novels and memoirs to meet this moment.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
In times like this, you just need your faith in humanity restored, and that’s exactly what you get with Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fix, and the Horse, an exquisitely uplifting story about friendship, kindness, and radical acceptance of yourself and others. This book has often been compared to The Little Prince, and it’s easy to see why. Both advocate for compassion and companionship.
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Who doesn’t need a cozy, queer manga story? If you’re looking for something upbeat, try Ngozi Ukazu’s Check Please! This fun and funny manga tells the story of Bitty, a hockey player in his freshman year of college at Samwell University where he experiences love, friendship, and lots of hockey. With a swoonworthy romance at its core, Check, Please! is the perfect antidote to the blahs.
Feelings by Manjit Thapp
The last few years have been. A lot. Yet as much as I find they are distinct, they all seem to blend together. If you’re seeking to get back in the swing of a normal yearly time frame, read Manjt Thapp’s graphic memoir Feelings. This book is organized around the seasons of the year and has plenty of melancholy that matches this moment. Reading Feelings offers a return to normal time when seasons happen and time has crisp edges.
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
How do we raise kids in this complicated era? That’s the question at the core of Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir, Good Talk. As her son grew up, Jacob realized there were no easy answers to his questions about current events and core concepts like inequality and division. Often funny but always engrossing, Good Talk is a must-read zeitgeisty book.
Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American by Laura Gao
Laura Gao’s graphic memoir Messy Roots gives voice to contemporary immigrant stories in America today. More specifically, Gao provides the missing voice to Wuhanese people. Gao recounts her experience growing up in America whose connection to her home in Wuhan is challenged by the COVID crisis, which originated in Wuhan. Gao describes the discrimination she received by prejudiced Americans who blamed the Wuhanese for the pandemic, including her.
Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
True crime is…everywhere! From true crime podcasts to books to TV series, the world has fallen in love with true crime, a passion that Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell shares in her graphic memoir Murder Book. In this relatable book, Campbell shares the origins and depths of her true crime obsession. With a funny tone, Campbell takes you down the rabbit hole of the history of true crime and its devotees today.
Nimona by N.D. Stevenson
Sometimes you just need someone to believe in. And that person is Nimona, the titular main character of this entertaining graphic novel by N.D. Stevenson. Shapeshifter Nimona is stubborn, talented, and loyal. While working for an evil man, Nimona tests her own version of herself: is she herself really evil? Let’s face it: the world is morally grey, especially right now. That’s what makes Nimona the heroine for our modern life.
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
It’s hot out there right now. Summer is upon us, with all its heat, sunshine, and magic. That’s the summer vibes captured perfectly in This One Summer, a YA graphic novel by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. This coming-of-age story follows the at times fleeting, at times eternal friendships that arise in the summer months. The Tamakis infuse this book with the sentiment of what it’s like to compress growing up into just three months. Anyone who has ever had bonds that last but for a summer or knows how it feels to be on the cusp of personal change will appreciate This One Summer.
Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke
Kristen Radtke’s Seek You is a trip through the phenomenon of American loneliness. Seek You without a doubt ranks among the most zeitgeisty memoirs out there. Radtke uses herself as a conduit to explore the topic of isolation in America, not just in the present pandemic but also a more general trend over the last few decades. Radkte presents cutting edge and formative research about social isolation, weaving together scientific studies with her (and our) epidemic of loneliness. The book is hopeful we might overcome this difficult chapter in our country’s history and find companionship, connection, and community.
For more great graphic novels, memoirs, and comics, check out our coverage here at Book Riot: