For November, I am focusing on nonfiction graphic novels written or illustrated by women. Often an overlooked subsection of the graphic novel market, nonfiction graphic novels can be a great way to learn more about new topics, particularly if you prefer your information illustrated by amazing artists. This list includes just a few of the many nonfiction graphic novels that women have created over the years, but hopefully it will help you find a perfect new read that will teach you about a completely new subject.
Pain Is Really Strange by Steve Haines with art by Sophie Standing – Written by Steve Haines, a healthcare worker who specializes in pain management, this nonfiction book brings together research on how people experience pain to create a book that not only explains how pain is felt, but also cites research on the topic. Sophie Standing’s artwork is instrumental to the success of this volume. She has a distinctive and engaging style that brings to life text that could be dull or overly technical without this visual element. This is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in biology or medicine and it works extremely well in the graphic novel format.
The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone with illustrations by Josh Neufeld – Written by NPR’s Brooke Gladstone and illustrated by Josh Neufeld, this book traces the history of the media across the millennia. It is an informative and fascinating read that will give you a whole new appreciation for journalism. It definitely doesn’t sugar-coat this history, but by the time you finish the book, you will be able to place the current issues in journalism and media into a more complete context. Moreover, it will demonstrate that while the media has changed over time, it was never perfect and many of the same problems have persisted throughout history. This is a great read for fans of history and those who are interested in journalism.
Out On The Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio by Jessica Abel – Another great read for media and journalism fans, this new book from the author of La Perdida delves into the work that goes into creating some of the best current narrative radio shows and podcasts. Fans of Serial, This American Life, Radiolab, and Planet Money, to name just a few, will get a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite media and its creators. If you have ever wondered how these programs make it to the airwaves, this is the book for you.
Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks – Presented as a theatrical review, this book moves through the systems of the body describing each of them through cartoon personifications. Though this approach makes the book more engaging than a dry biology text would be for many, this is not at the expense of actual facts. It presents an overview of the real science behind the parts of the human body with only minor simplifications to keep the book from becoming too difficult for the average reader. Both biology fans and those with only a limited knowledge of how their body works will enjoy this comic. The book includes a glossary and a list of recommended readings that is geared towards approachable sources for more information on the human body.
Ink For Beginners: A Comic Guide To Getting Tattooed by Kate Leth – This relatively short work offers the author’s tips and advice on getting tattoos. Ranging from practical tips such as waiting a year on any design you aren’t sure of to specific stories about her own experiences, this is a good book for anyone who is interested in what it is like to get a tattoo. While it isn’t specifically aimed at teens, the author does talk about her own experience getting tattoos starting at 14 and her process of covering up some of her early tattoos. The art style is influenced by traditional tattoo styles, which works well for the subject matter. This is a nice option for tattoo enthusiasts and newbies alike.
Neurocomic by Dr. Matteo Farinella and Dr. Hana Roš – Take a trip into the brain to learn more about how it works from the key figures in the history of neuroscience. Written and illustrated by two neuroscientists, this book nevertheless makes this complicated topic accessible to those who do not have a background in the field. It is a fascinating read that will likely inspire you to learn more about the science of the brain and the figures who helped us to understand it better.
Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History by Trevor R. Getz with art by Liz Clarke – This is a fascinating book that offers a graphic interpretation of a trial that took place in the Gold Coast of West Africa in the late 1870’s. While the idea of illustrating a trial transcript may seem dry, the case brought to life in this book is that of Abina, a young woman who has been enslaved by a local “important man” even though slavery has been abolished in her country. The story is emotional and powerful, leaving readers with an understanding of the factors that led to Abina’s enslavement and a sense of the grave injustice she faced. This book will prompt readers to want to discuss what they have read and learn more about this period, and, luckily, it includes resources to support this. In addition to the graphic history itself, the book includes the trial transcript, a chapter of additional historical context, a reading guide, a timeline, a glossary, resources for additional reading, and a guide for teachers using this book in their classroom. This is an impressive book about a frequently overlooked aspect of history and is a great addition to any collection.
Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss – This new book is one that I am looking forward to reading. Written by the author of the National Book Award finalist graphic novel, Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, it delves into all aspects of the science and history of weather. In depth research combined with Redniss’ artwork makes for an impressive and unique volume that is a great option for anyone with an interest in climatology.
Have I missed your favorite nonfiction graphic novel by a woman? Let me know in the comments!
– Carli Spina, currently reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness