Comics/Graphic Novels

15 Short Graphic Novels For When You Lack The Time To Read

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Carina Pereira

Staff Writer

Carina Pereira, born in ‘87, in Portugal. Moved to Belgium in 2011, and to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 2019. Avid reader, changing interests as the mods strikes. Whiles away the time by improvising stand-up routines she’ll never get to perform. Books are a life-long affair, audiobooks a life-changing discovery of adulthood. Selling books by day, writer by night. Contact

As much as possible, I try to not let my reading be guided by challenges and goals. I read what I can, when I can, and I am (mostly) happy about it.

But I would be lying if I said that in certain months I don’t try to find ways to add an extra book or two to my reads. Especially since I usually manage to read an average of five books a month, when I pick up tougher reads and I know I’ll be able to finish maybe two that month, I actively search for ways to increase my reads of the month.

This is usually when audiobooks and graphic novels come in handy. Audiobooks because I can listen to them even at times when I can’t read a book in print and graphic novels because there are always short and fun ones I am curious about, so that is the perfect time to get them.

For whatever reason you may personally be looking for short graphic novels (either because of a reading goal or slump, or because you simply enjoy them), here is a list to add to your collection — to save for later, or devour immediately.

cover of the Book Eric by Shaun Tan

Eric by Shaun Tan

This is a very tiny green book with a short but emotional story.

Eric is an international student that goes to live with an exchange family for a while.

During the time he spends there, he proves to be a very peculiar creature, filled with wisdom, and leaving an unforgettable trace behind.

The story in this book first appeared in Tan’s Tales From Outer Suburbia.

Another cool short book by Tan with the same style — and size — is Dog.

cover of the book Amazona by Canizales

Amazona by Canizales

Don’t be fooled by the size of this book: it contains a heavy story about Colombia and its people. It is about a 19-year-old Indigenous woman who loses her baby and wants to bury it in her village, digging into identity and politics.

This book speaks for various communities all over the world: people who are dismissed, mistreated, and sometimes forgotten, especially by those who made promises to take their interests at heart.

book cover of Death Wins a Goldfish by Brian Rea

Death Wins A Goldfish by Brian Rea

I love funny graphic novels, especially those that play with serious things.

In this book, Death receives a letter from human resources demanding they have a vacation.

Death has never taken a day off, never mind a vacation, so with all that new free time on their hands, they don’t really know what to do. So they go on a journey to figure it out.

It’s a sweet book that will make you rethink the ways we stay busy — and how everyone needs a break, even Death.

heartstopper book cover

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

By now everyone knows Heartstopper, and if you have seen the physical book (and those pretty, but thick spines), you might be thinking I am tricking you, but no!

Despite its looks, all volumes of Heartstopper are actually pretty quick to read, and you’ll be done with the whole collection very quickly.

Especially because the love story between Nick and Charlie — one a gay high-schooler dealing with several issues, the other trying to figure out his own sexuality — will keep you engaged from cover to back.

book cover of Glass Town

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

This is a graphic novel that will be a perfect fit for several people, but especially for fans of the Bronte sisters.

The artwork is fascinating, and we get to see the family and the imaginary world they have created called Glass Town, as well as the writing of each of the sisters intertwined in the story.

A perfect balance between real life, art, and the webs of imagination.

book cover of Kari

Kari by Amruta Patil

Yet another example of a dark short graphic novel.

There are a lot of metaphors to discover in this book, in a very poetic language that is worth deciphering.

Surrounded by themes like depression, figuring out life, and queerness, it is a powerful narrative that takes place in the streets of Mumbai, and reading it is almost like observing a dream unfold.

Sometimes description can’t do a book justice, but Kari is one of those stories which one explains better with feelings than by trying to summarize its story.

book cover of Fangs

Fangs by Sarah Andersen

You might know Sarah Andersen from her very relatable comics such as Adulthood Is A Myth, or her page Sarah’s Scribbles.

Fangs is rather different from these works, and it’s for those who love mythical creatures, especially vampires and werewolves.

Elsie is a vampire who has never found love. Jimmy is a werewolf.

One night they meet in a bar, and they learn to know each other (and each other’s peculiarities), through horror books and movies, and other spooky activities.

A sweet story about finding love despite (or because of) all those things that make us so different from each other.

nightlights book cover

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

This is such a beautiful book!

The story takes place in Bogotá, and it features Sandy, a young girl who catches stars every night and turns those stars into works of art.

No one has yet seen Sandy’s drawings, until one day a new girl named Morfie joins Sandy’s school and becomes fascinated with them.

It could be a simple tale of friendship and creativity, but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s art is deeper — and more sinister — than meets the eye.

This is the first book in the Nightlights series.

Cover of Feelings: A Story of Seasons by Manjit Thapp

Feelings by Manjit Thapp

Do seasons have feelings? I believe they do.

In this book, you follow Manjit Thapp’s life, her moods, and the seasons that go with them.

In a beautiful metaphor between the changes on Earth we get to watch and experience each year and the deep personal changes each of us faces across our lives, Feelings is a journey of discovery, creativity, and rebirth.

All feelings — good ones, or less so — are valid, and validated, because all of them are very much human.

book cover of Life of Melody

Life Of Melody by Mari Costa

This is the perfect short graphic novel for those who can’t get enough of queer romantic love.

In it, a fairy godparent named Razzmatazz decides to take upon himself the task of making humans more prone to accommodating fairies, and he believes he can do that by force of nurture: raising a human child from infancy until they reach adulthood.

In a twist of events, he sees himself forced to raise this chosen child with a beast called Bon.

The result is an absolutely delightful story.

cover image for Cheer Up

Cheer Up by Crystal Frasier, Illustrated by Val Wise

Another super sweet queer romance to add to the list!

Annie and BeeBee have different goals by the time they both reach their senior year. Annie is a lesbian who wants to make friends and finds that joining the cheerleading squad is the way to go. BeeBee wants to keep her grades up so that her parents will continue to support her transition.

Amidst the uncertainties of the future and a friendship they used to share, they seem to have found their way back to each other, but it may turn into a little bit more than just a resurrection of their friendly ties.

cover of Everything is OK by Debbie Tung

Everything Is OK by Debbie Tung

This book is a reflection of some of Tung’s own personal battles with depression and anxiety.

It speaks of serious matters with a splash of humour, letting the reader take a look at the ways Tung has personally dealt with these issues.

It also talks about how she deals with mental health on a daily basis, and it is also a sort of letter of hope to those who feel lost, trapped, or simply alone in their own fights with mental illness.

An ode to allowing oneself to be vulnerable.

cover of Galaxy: The Prettiest Star

Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by Jadzia Axelrod, Illustrated by Jess Taylor

An amazing sci-fi novel that is a big metaphor for gender identity.

On the outside, Taylor Barzelay seems to have it all: good looks, good grades, popularity, and a stable family. But as the day turns into night, their true identity is revealed: they are, in fact, an alien princess from another planet.

Taylor has kept this a secret for six years, but as she gets to know Kat Silverberg, she feels it is finally time to open up and trust someone with it.

But this doesn’t go down as smoothly as Taylor had hoped, and from this revelation come consequences.

book cover of b. b. Free

b. b. Free by Gabby Rivera, illustrations by Royal Dunlap

For the lovers of the chosen one trope, this is the amazing first book in the b. b. Free series, so if you’re left wanting to read more, there is more to dive into.

b. b. Free is our main character. A hundred years after a plague wiped out half of humanity, she runs her own underground radio show and is trying to get herself free from her over-controlling father.

But as she makes the decision to run way, she has no idea her destiny is about to unfold — and it has a lot in store for her to discover.

a girl called echo book cover

A Girl Called Echo by Katherena Vermette, Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

This is the perfect graphic novel for those who love stories with time shifts.

During a history class, Echo is transported between a time in the past and her present time.

As strange as this event is, it ends up being more than a one-time thing: she finds herself slipping into this past and present travel in the following weeks as well, experiencing bison hunts, and trade routes, among other historical events.

For those interested in learning more about Métis history through fiction, this is a great place to start.

The best news? This is only the first volume of the amazing Pemmican Wars series.

Looking for even more short stories? Here is a list with more short graphic novels, and a list of books to read in one sitting. Enjoy!