I remember hearing that some non-fiction and semi-reference books were appearing in graphic form — you know, like the Bible and The Communist Manifesto — but now there are a whole lot more great non-fiction works coming to a graphic book near you. Many of these aren’t simply graphic interpretations of existing works either; these are adult reference books designed explicitly for the graphic form. The Brain Pickings site described a bunch of them a few days ago — Comic Books for Grown-Ups: 10 Masterpieces of Graphic Nonfiction.
Some of them are rather disturbing, as you can imagine from a title like A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge. Just a glimpse of a few of the drawings really sobers you up. But this is a forceful way of giving people even a remote idea of what it was actually like in New Orleans after Katrina — and helping to understand how the right-wing federal government itself caused much of the damage, both by not keeping up with repairs on the means of prevention, and by giving help only to certain approved people afterwards.
But you’ve got other books that deal with history, like The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography (isn’t that great??) or Burma Chronicles. But there are two that I particularly want. One is Edible Secrets: A Food Tour of Classified Us History, which describes how (you just can’t make up this stuff) governments have tried to use food to alter history and defeat enemies, even to the point of assassinating them with it.
And of course, as an editor, the graphic book I want most of all is The Elements of Style Illustrated. Unlike other editors, I don’t actually like the original book (I find something like Eats, Shoots and Leaves a much more coherent mini grammar and writing guide), yet I would squeal in glee if I got the illustrated version of the old Strunk & White book. It’s illustrated by Maira Kalman, and the few illustrations I’ve seen are delightful.
I’m a manga fan, though only a beginner, but I’m really enjoying the creativity of this new/old graphic form. These books look like they are packed full of great information, so they aren’t mere “picture books” substituting for books of substance. Imagine where they’re going to go next! Who says you can’t read comics as an adult??