by Benn Ray
Usually, I keep my annual reading list/diary in separate categories - comics, zines, non-fiction, fiction, etc. Somehow I got it all jumbled up this year - so that's what this list is. A mishmash of comics, graphic novels, zines, art books, non-fiction, fiction, etc. of my favorite reads this year.
Adult Babysitting Volume 2 by MarYanna Hoggatt
MarYanna spent years slinging booze in a tiny neighborhood pub in Portland and all she has to show for it is the excellent comics series that collects her anecdotes and drink recipes. Easily one of my favorite new mini comics.
Afterlife With Archie by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa / Francesco Francavilla / Jack Morelli
The folks over at Archie Comics have been taking Archie Andrews and his pals in interesting new directions lately (well, except for that Glee crossover), but this one is the weirdest and most curious. Riverdale has gone to the zombies. It's a darker, post-apocalyptic Archie comic.
Batman comics by Scott Snyder / Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder has been writing some of the best Batman comics in decades. The Owl story arc was epic and creepy. But "Death Of The Family" was downright a horror story that made me gasp once or twice out loud, and even mumble audibly, "holyjesuschrist". If you're not reading Snyder/Capullo Batman comics, you're missing out.
Beach Girls by Box Brown / James Kochalka
The perfect comic to end the summer. Box Brown's story deals with vacationers, locals, surfing, skating and weed sales. Kochalka's story has a couple mushroom creatures discovering a blonde "princess" in the aftermath of a beach party.
Blammo #8 by Noah Van Sciver
It's been over a year since Noah delivered an issue of Blammo, but issue #8 is well worth the wait. "Expectations," a story about encountering an ex at a party, is as emotionally sharp and as finely crafted as any prose short story, "Charles The Chicken Gets Tough" offers more poultry-based strangeness, but "Punks V. Lizards" - in which punks fight dinosaurs, is an immediate classic.
Celebrated Summer by Charles Forsman
Forsman's Celebrated Summer is a pitch-perfect tale of two aimless teens on an LSD adventure. It's a lysergic coming of age tale that makes those who have taken such trips melancholy with nostalgia for a celebrated summer.
Contact High by Richard Kern / Jesse Pearson
This collection of adult photography has a very simple but perfect premise - naked girls smoking weed. Just perfect.
The Cool School by Glenn O'Brien
Whether they were Bop, Beat or Punk, the writers in this anthology are the epitome of cool. Featuring writing by Henry Miller, Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Lenny Bruce, William S. Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Norman Mailer, Terry Southern, Andy Warhol, Lester Bangs, and many, many more. Reading has never been this cool. It's the perfect cool reading primer.
Daggers Drawn: 35 Years Of Kal Cartoons In The Economist by Kal / Kevin Kallaugher
For 35 years, Kal has worked as an editorial cartoonist for such publications as the Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine, and on and on. This exquisitely designed book collects hundreds of his sharply satirical pieces for The Economist magazine. Can a cartoon change the way you think about something? If you say "no," it's because you haven't yet seen Kal's work.
Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell by Brian May / Denis Pellerin / Paula Fleming
A look at the diabolical French Viewmaster of the 1860s. Co-written by Brian May of Queen fame. The book comes complete with a viewer so you can experience the diableries as they are meant to be seen.
Drone Art: Baltimore by Terry Kilby / Belinda Kilby
Terry and Belinda Kilby use drone technology to give us a view of Baltimore not seen by human eyes. They flew a drone around beautiful Maryland-area landmarks, attached a camera and the results are truly remarkable.
Enchanted Forest: Memories of Maryland's Storybook Park by Janet Kusterer / Martha Anne Clark
One of the more magical places in Maryland. It's all but gone now and will shortly be completley gone thanks to development, but this weird little theme park entertained (or bored) children for 35 years. The book is loaded with history and images.
Enjoy The Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992 by Johan Kugelberg (editor)
In the second half of the twentieth century, there was a small industry of vanity records. Record plants produced limited amount of LPs by people who wouldn't let the fact that labels wouldn't sign them stop them from recording their music and distributing it to family, friends and, possibly even fans. Over the years, a handful of avid collectors preserved and documented these records, and their collections are presented here as a series of marginally outsider-artist album covers and interviews. It also comes with a download code for a compiled playlist of some of the artists in the book.
Fritz Kahn by Fritz Kahn / Uta von Debschitz / Thilo von Debschitz
Kahn, a German doctor, was one of the earliest practitioners of "infographics" nearly century before the word existed. This lush Taschen book collects 350 of Kahn's illustrations, breaking down complex ideas in appealing, easy to understand and sometimes just plain crazy illustrations.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
It's the book the Church of Scientology doesn't want you to read. New in paperback! For most, that should be reason enough to check this out. If you read Jon Krakauer's Under The Banner of Heaven and, upon finishing it, wondered to yourself, "That was fantastic, but where do I go next?" Going Clear is where you go next.
How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial by Darryl Cunningham
For fans of reality-based living, Cunningham applies critical thinking and science to a variety of "controversial" topics to understand the truth behind climate change, vaccines, fracking, evolution and more. It's like a comic book version of Bill Nye meets Mythbusters.
How To Talk To Your Cat About Gun Safety by The American Association Of Patriots
This timely publication tells you everything you need to know about how to talk to your cat about gun safety. Remember - when you own cats and guns - it's safety first!
I Think Of Demons / Sticky-Icky-Icky
by Box Brown
Box Brown's linework is getting to be as crazy-precise as Chris Ware's and his sense of coloring is every bit as stylistic and dramatic. But where Ware's work is built on sadness, Brown often taps into a weird sort of existential rage that is fascinating, sometimes unpredictable and yet still feels appropriate. Oh yeah, and this is a flip book.
Life Begins At Incorporation by Matt Bors
This collection of political cartoons and essays is the very definition of cutting. Laugh at the horrors of modern life. So good. So spot-on. So eviscerating. It's books like these that keep many of us sane in times like these.
Lost Baltimore by Paul Kelsey Williams / Gregory J. Alexander
Williams and Alexander have compiled a gorgeous lost history of Baltimore. Stunning photos and well-researched write-ups of the buildings, parks, industries that once were important parts of our city - Lost Baltimore explains what they were and why they went from the pre-1904 Baltimore fire up through Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point.
Loud Comix #1
by Jamie Vayda / various
Vayda collects crazy short stories from the rock and roll life and more (karaoke, weird-eyed kids, a creepy uncle) from friends in bands and illustrates them with a take on the classic '90s alternative comics style that seems strikingly fresh.
Lying by Sam Harris
In this short book, Harris explores the subject of lying. Is there ever a situation when it's appropriate to lie? Does a willingness to like say more about the person who does it than they realize? It'll make you seriously reconsider statements like, "No, those clothes don't make you look ridiculous."
Miss Lonelyhearts #1 & #2 by Gabrielle Gamboa / Nathanael West
Gabrielle Gamboa has undertaken an excellent project - here she is translating the work of one of my favorite authors, Nathanael West into comic form - but the way she does it - using parodies of comic strip characters of the era of when the novella takes place to represent letter writers is pure genius.
Optic Nerve #13 by Adrian Tomine
One of the last, still-active "alternative" comics from the '90s, Optic Nerve is also one of the last, ongoing "Alternative" comics period - as many publishers have forsaken the periodical format for the supposed glory of chain bookstore shelves or the monopolistic enabling of digital delivery. This might sound like the criticism of a Luddite - but it's very much the point of the previous issue of Optic Nerve (#12) and the conversation, through Tomine's introductory comic and the letter pages, continues here.
Tomine consistently provides a sterling example of what a pamphlet/"floppy"/periodical could be. Optic Nerve #13 contains 3 stories - the autobiographical "Winter 2012", "Go Owls" about an abusive, criminal sports fan, and "Translated, From The Japanese" - about a young Japanese mother moving between two countries. Each story varies in subject, tone and art-style.
Tomine is a master of this forsaken comics format.
Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida / KA Yoshida (translator) / David Mitchell (translator)
Who knows if Naoki's experience is indicative of many children with autism or if it's just the very personal musings of one very talented autistic kid. Regardless, it's a rare book that, when read, can cause you to completely change the way you look at a subject. This book is truly remarkable.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
When your parents are a chef and a gourmet, and you're a young cartoonist who has inherited that love of food - it might seem a graphic novel about food is a foregone conclusion. However, no one could predict that the result would be like a modern, comic version of the Joy of Cooking - complete with both charm and recipes.
Sandman Overture #1 by Neil Gaiman / J.H. Williams
The comics event of the year is here. Gaiman masterfully returns to the character that made him famous with a prequel that explains how Morphius came to be captured. And while it's great to see a comics master return to one of his best creations, it's even better when he's aided by some of the best artwork series has ever seen (by J.H. Williams). This series will run bi-monthly - so 2014 will be a well-paced Year of the Sandman.
Taipei by Tao Lin
Lin's new novel, his first on a big press, documents what it's like to be alive, young and on the fringe of America right now. A voice of his generation, Lin delievers a novel that warrants such a claim.
Ten Telephones by Ducky DooLittle
It's been far too long since the name Ducky Doolittle graced a new zine - so Ten Telephones in itself is an event. But aside from that, Ducky uses the clever device of 10 different telephones over the course of her life to tell a well-written and engrossing autobiography.
Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits by Vivian Maier / John Maloof
While largely known for her recently discovered street photography, these self-potraits are just as fascinating and revealing as the rest of her published work.