Books

In truth, Valentine's Day is a bit of a needy holiday. There are the reservations to be scheduled. Cards to be bought. Flaming desserts to be made. And if you're single? More energy may be required to maintain your cool during this chocolate-covered 24-hour period than the rest of the holidays combined. Let's eliminate the stress and, instead, pick up a historical romance. The happily ever after is reached by simply turning the pages. Low impact, indeed!
Generally speaking, I steer clear of books that come in series. The truth is that they intimidate me. I feel like there is no way to catch up, what with their cult followings and all that. If I didn't climb aboard the train before the third installment launches--and, honey, I rarely do--I bid bon voyage and move along. It still fills my heart with joy to hear others rave and obsess over books, even when I can't necessarily relate.
In her book Why Comics: From Underground to Everywhere (Harper, $40), Hillary Chute surveys this "spatially site-specific form of literature," from early newspaper editorial comics and serialized funnies to the critical acclaim of tough topic graphic novels. Visual texture, storytelling, even line breaks and text arrangement, are investigated in this sweep across the comic canon. Chute investigates the origin stories and art of comics luminaries like Chris Ware, Matt Groening, Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel and the Hernandez brothers, among others, but looks also at the value of fan culture, which embodies the independent spirit at the root of comics.
"In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us." --Mary Oliver
You'd think it would be difficult to narrow down the year's best books. And it was. We promise, though, that no Shelf Awareness staffers were injured in the making of this list, so enjoy! (Scroll down to see our reviews)
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