The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
Persepolis  MARJANE SATRAPI
This is the story of a young girl growing up in Iran. Illustrated by Satrapi’s deceptively simple and yet wonderfully expressive drawings, it is a fascinating coming of age story – at times funny, at times pungent and with a sense of loss. Satrapi’s one rule of storytelling seems to be incredible honesty, which she directs at politicians, religious fundamentalists, angst-ridden teenagers and even herself, with often hilarious and always moving effect.
Maus  ART SPIEGELMAN
Very little can be said of this classic book that hasn’t been said before. It is the first comic book to ever win the Pulitzer Prize, it is credited with being one of the most important comics of the mid-1980s, and one of the first to illustrate the greater scope of the medium. The story of a Holocaust survivor, as told to his son, a cartoonist who depicts all the Jews as mice, the Germans as cats and other nationalities as other animals, Maus is an incredibly hard hitting tale of loss, of man’s cruelty to his fellow man, and ultimately of survival against all odds.
Bone  JEFF SMITH
This is one of the storytelling triumphs of the comic medium. An epic fantasy involving dragons, forgotten princesses, faraway lands and alien gods, it also depicts simple things such as village life and pettiness with a loving eye. Its hero Bone is the ultimate everyman, armed with his copy of Moby Dick he is ready to face all odds, and he often does. For everyone who’s ever wished Lord of the Rings was a bit funnier, easier to read and, dare I say, a bit less dull, I would suggest that you look no further.
Fun Home  ALISON BECHDEL
Alison Bechdel grew up next to a funeral parlour in America. From such a seemingly nondescript premise, she has written one of the most emotionally complex stories to have ever been told in comic form. Exploring her often difficult relationship with her father, as well as growing up and coming to understand her sexuality, this is one the most literate comics ever, and rewards multiple readings with something new each time.
Blankets  CRAIG THOMPSON
In page after page of beautiful drawings, Craig Thompson brings the world he grew up in to life until the reader is fully immersed in the fundamentalist Christ-ian, authoritarian world of Midwest America. From here we are with him when he meets the girl who becomes the love of his life, and we follow their story along every fall and rise, tapping into our own emotions of being in love every step of the way. Blankets is probably one of the most sincere expressions of first love in any medium, ever.
Sleepwalk / Summer Blonde [1997/2003] ADRIAN TOMINE
A collection of graphic short stories by Adrian Tomine, probably the undisputed master of the form. In story after story, Tomine explores questions of loneliness, human relationships, and what it feels like to be an outsider with his delicately precise drawings. His stories are aided by his uncanny ability to draw almost any human expression possible, some of which do not even have words or description but are instantly recognisable to the reader.
Understanding Comics  SCOTT McCLOUD
After mixed success with his comic Zot!, Scott McCloud tackled the most ambitious project of his career – to write a novel length essay about the art and skill in writing and interpreting comics, in the form of a comic. This volume is the product of that project, and has been universally praised by almost everyone to have ever written or drawn a comic as one of the best works on the subject. A must-read for anyone interested in comics, or interested in just the basic elements of good storytelling.
David Boring  DANIEL CLOWES
Daniel Clowes’ books are all set in an alternate reality whose most startling quality is its incredible resemblance to the world we live in. There is something in all of his characters that everyone can identify with, and through their lives Clowes explores questions of the human condition that few people in any medium are asking. Described as the comic equivalent of a Beckett play, Daniel Clowes’ book is anything but boring!
A Contract With God  WILL EISNER
Will Eisner is credited with being the father of the modern comic, (the Oscar awards of the comics industry are called Eisners!) and this is one of his pioneering works. Unique for their innovative pagination as well as distinct graphical style, Eisner’s stories are rooted in a fictitious New York neighbourhood called Dropsie Avenue, but the people living there can be found anywhere in the world.
It’s A Bird…  STEVEN T. SEAGLE & TEDDY KRISTIANSEN
Steven Seagle tells a semi-autobiographical tale that is both deeply personal and widely experimental. Working with painter Teddy Kristiansen, he presents a powerful story about memory, family, loss and our need for heroes.
Also recommended are Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s groundbreaking The Push Man and Other Stories and Abandon the Old In Tokyo, Harvey Pikar’s The Quitter, Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware, and Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Watchmen and From Hell.