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Chris Ware Picks His Favorite Books to Gift
We asked Chris Ware, author of Building Stories, to tell us about his favorite books to give to friends and family around this time of the year. Here are his…
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"Maus" and MetaMaus" — Art Spiegelman. The first, and still the greatest, graphic novel/memoir/book of our age. As if "Maus" wasn't enough, "MetaMaus" explains how and why my generation of graphic novelists needs to try much, much harder. And as my wife said, "you know, Art is, like, a hundred times smarter than all you other cartoonists."
"Dear Life" — Alice Munro. I agree with Jonathan Franzen that Alice Munro is one of the greatest living writers; though her work is colorful, vivid and extraordinarily evocative, she somehow also writes about what is essential, uncomfortable and invisible, and in solid, interlocking prose that feels exactly the way we remember.
"The Complete Persepolis"— Marjane Satrapi. A modern classic of growing up in 1970s Iran told with lucidity, humor, unpretentiousness and an undercurrent of desperation that we Americans can only vaguely imagine, though this book will have you feeling every minute of it.
"The Original of Laura, or, Dying is Fun" — Vladimir Nabokov. The notorious unfinished novel, told in fragmentary prose and brilliantly presented as a facsimile of the writer's compositional notecards, here the reader wakes up on an operating table while under the knife of Nabokov's words. One of the strangest and most frightening books I've ever read.
"Selected Poems" — Vladimir Nabokov. Who in the 20th century better blended prose and poetry than Nabokov? A must-have from the master literary synaesthete, especially for those of us, like me, who know nothing about poetry.
"Life Upon These Shores — Looking at African-American History" — Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This generously illustrated and wonderfully readable 500+ page book spans 500 years, conveniently divided by topic, from the origins of slavery to the election of Barack Obama. Gates reminds us that the history of African America is really the history of America.
"Ice Haven" — Dan Clowes. Perhaps the most concise, condensed and self-accusatory example of graphic fiction yet published, with the amazed, can't-believe-he-made-it quality of the best model train diorama (with a parade of unreliable narrators and a child abductor, for good measure.)
"The Hive " — Charles Burns. One of the greatest cartoonists alive and also one of my best friends, in his last work "Black Hole" Charles wrote about the awkward shape-shiftings we undergo between childhood and adulthood; here, however, he approaches it entirely from within.