25 Essential Graphic Novels

Long dismissed as a less serious art form, graphic novels have finally started to gain more mainstream credibility over the last 20 years. There are many, many excellent examples out there, but if you’re looking for a place to start, start here! The world of the graphic novel is one that spans a wide range of authors, artists, styles, and subject matter, and this primer covers all the bases. While the distinction between graphic novels and comic books gets dicey (the term “graphic novel” was only introduced in the late 1970s), for the purposes of this list, they are lengthier, meatier book-like works — and they’re all brilliant for both their literary and visual merit.

blankets craig thompson

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Clocking in at 592 pages, Blankets may not be a light graphic novel (physically or stylistically), but Craig Thompson’s autobiographical coming-of-age story is sweet and dreamy, covering the profoundly intense experience of falling in love for the first time, questioning your faith, and negotiating your relationship with your siblings. This is a complex undertaking because of its breadth and winding narrative, but it’s still an altogether cozy and comforting effort, set in a small town in Wisconsin — and, yes, it’s the kind of book to pick up on a chilly day when you feel like being wrapped up in a pile of blankets, or just your own fuzzy nostalgia.