There’s a good chance your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2021 includes something like, “Read more books.” And whether you’ve been diligently maintaining a monthly tally or having a little trouble staying on track, we’d suggest adding a few graphic novels to your reading list as a way to shake things up. Particularly if your stack of books for 2021 features dense tomes on investing or more personal topics like relationships, you might need a change of pace.
The best graphic novels will do just that, as they pair beautiful illustrations with compelling narratives in an immersive storytelling platform that’s truly unique. And just like with non-graphic novels, topics run the gamut, with everything from fantasy, sci-fi and horror to non-fiction, Manga and superheroes. Before you write off graphic novels, remember that classics like Watchmen are counted among the best books ever written.
Difference Between Graphic Novels & Comics
You’re forgiven if you easily mix up graphic novels and comic books. The line is pretty blurry, as they’re both stories told with illustrations. Graphic novels, for example, offer a complete story, just as a regular novel would. Comics, on the other hand, are usually individual installments of larger, serialized stories, either distributed in small doses via newspapers or magazines, or sometimes released as books themselves. However, serialized comics are often compiled into graphic novels, as we’ll see on this list.
The Best Graphic Novels
As is the case with most subjective art, it’s tough to pin down the best graphic novels according to any objective standard. It will really come down to your taste in literature. There are tons of options out there, so this is by no means an all-encompassing list. We’ve compiled a more digestible stack of classics and contemporary favorites from across genres and styles.
Lastly, it’s important to talk about physical vs. digital. Graphic novel purists — like most physical media fans — will tell you there is no replacement for a hardcover graphic novel, one you can hold, comb through and display proudly on your shelves. However, apps like comiXology (which Amazon owns) allow you to download graphic novels on your preferred digital device. Though this might seem like it defeats the purpose, graphic novels actually look gorgeous on newer iPad screens, and the ability to zoom offers a more detailed look at the illustrations.
We’ll let you decide what you prefer, but most graphic novels are available in both physical and digital formats.