Staff Picks 2017: Arizona

This year I have been attracted to a common theme in literature: loneliness. My top three books of the year focus on big cities and the lonely people lost among the crowds. There is something so beautiful about reading startlingly accurate portrayals of your own sense of alienation reflected in others. However, 2017 was not a lonely year for me, even though I indulged in its literature. It has been six months since I started working at Drawn and Quarterly and it has enriched my life with real life and fictional friends. I also started my own book club, which I suggest everyone do with their friends. It opened me up to new and old books that I never would have read or known about.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill

I’ve never read a book that was quite so pretty and dark and funny and sad all at once. It tells the story of Rose and Pierrot, two talented circus performers who are separated as children, and go on strange journeys through the underworld before meeting again. Just the descriptions of hotels alone made this book worthwhile. I think an illustrator should draw them all. Or they should make them into maquettes and make an exhibit out of them. Seriously. And the stuff that happens in those hotel rooms!!!

I’ve read all of O’Neill’s previous works. And I think this may be my favourite one. It really stays with and haunts you.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing

The subtitle for this book is ‘Adventures in the Art of being Alone.’ This book looks at New York City and the artists that have lived there from Edward Hopper to Andy Warhol to Henry Darger, and tries to answer the question: ‘What does it mean to be lonely?’ Laing manages to capture each artist’s style on the page and how each expressed their pain and isolation through their art. This book will bring you to tears, but will leave you feeling enlightened by its final message. One of the best non-fiction books I read this year.

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata

The title and the bright pink cover captured my attention immediately and I knew I had to take it home. It is an autobiographical manga that is an honest look at a young woman’s exploration of sexuality, and her mental health. It is incredibly refreshing to see someone so honest about being a young adult in our modern age. The book opens up on Nagata with a female escort, and you are instantly hooked. The story will make you laugh and cringe and feel warmth and disgust, get ready for the journey.

Drawn and Quarterly published books:

Goliath by Tom Gauld

Now this is not a new publication, it dates back to 2012, but the soft cover has finally come out in 2017. So I thought I would add it to my list anyways since after five years it is still hilarious. This is a comic retelling of the story of David and Goliath, but from Goliath’s perspective. Goliath of Gath isn’t much of a fighter it turns out. He would actually rather stay home and do paper work then go out and fight. Goliath’s battle is simultaneously tragic and funny. Fans of Tom Gauld will not be disappointed. Combined with awkward silences, Gauld’s drawing style, and the minimalist scenery, this story is worth reading.

Uncomfortable Happily by Yeon-Sik Hong

This is on a lot of my colleagues’ 2017 lists, so I am sure that after this third recommendation you’ll finally be convinced to read it. This graphic novel is inspired by Yeon-sik Hong’s attempt to move away from the city and out to the country with his girlfriend. He thinks that once he is away from the traffic and in the fresh air he will finally be able to write his comics. We’ve all thought of escaping to the country at one time or another. It is fun to read a story of someone who actually does it!

If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel

Welcome to the world inside of Elise Gravel’s head! We have all fallen in love with Gravel’s quirky creatures, and now we get a sneak peek inside of her notebook. This is a perfect book for someone who is creative and loves to draw. This book inspires you to try to keep a little black sketchbook of your own and to create your own monsters. And it is accessible for artists of all ages.

Graphic Novels:

Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs

I am a huge fan of Jesse Jacobs! You can always be sure that his work will be like nothing you’ve ever read before, and Crawl Space is no exception. Two girls climb inside a washing machine where they discover another dimension full of psychedelic visuals and friendly creatures. Are you hooked? I don’t even feel like I need to say more.

Tomie by Junji Ito

Japanese manga artist Junji Ito is known for his horror stories such as Uzumaki and Gyo. This book is a collection of short stories Ito started to write in the late 80s about a girl named Tomie. In each of the gruesome stories, Tomie is brutally murdered by different men who claim to be in love with her. Tomie has the power to come back to life and to drive men mad. There is something so fascinating and divisive about Tomie’s character to me. Here we have a girl who desperately wants to be loved by the male gaze, but ends up punished for it repeatedly. This book is controversial, to say the least.

Satania by Fabien Vehlmann

Fabien Vehlmann is the author of one of my favourite graphic novels, Beautiful Darkness. So needless to say I was very excited when I came into the store one morning to see this beauty in the window. An expedition of people go deep into a cave underground to find Hell. They end up in an underground city where creepy and crazy things start to happen. If you are a fan of Vehlmann’s unsettling story lines, Satania will not disappoint.

Children's Books:

This summer we open our own Children's store at 176 Bernard Ouest!! And it has been an amazing experience being the coordinator of the store. Here is a taste of the great books you can find at the new location.

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson

This children’s book won the Governor General’s Award for telling an important heart wrenching story. While a young girl is alone with her grandmother, she remarks on the differences of the woman: She grows her hair long, wears colourful clothing, and speaks another language. Her grandmother tells her a story about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these cultural markers were taken away from the children there: "They wanted us to look like everyone else."

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

I do not think that you will ever see illustrations in a children’s graphic novel as enchanting and imaginative as those of Colombian artist, Lorena Alvarez Gomez. A little shy girl draws her own world that comes to life at night. One day a mysterious pale girl appears at her school and is very interested in her drawings. I can tell you the story starts to get kind of twisted from there.

Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann

This children’s picture book broke my heart. A polar bear floating on a small piece of ice arrives unexpectedly on a wooded island. The resident animals are afraid of him, believing him to be dangerous. But after a while the animals realize that all the polar bear wants is to go back home, so all the birds get together and fly him back. It is a beautiful allegory for global warming.

HAPPY 2018!!

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