Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Best Graphic Novels Reading Lists and the GNCRT

The Graphic Novels and Comic Round Table [GNCRT] is a newer division of the American Library Association. Their job is to provide information, programing, and best lists for the format much like the other ALA based best lists.

Today, I wanted to  point you to there because the lists they have been creating are excellent for collection development, display, and suggestions across all age levels.

Click here to get to their "Best Graphic Novels Reading Lists." They have a list for 2020, 2021, and their nominations list for 2022. Lists are broken up by audience, adult and children, as well as fiction and nonfiction. What I love about the final annual list is that they pick a top 10 overall and then have the full honors list below. There are many titles and they are all vetted by experts.

Also as you can see, all years' lists are linked on the main page, which makes the backlist super easy to access.

But what surprised me, and what I found super useful, was the fact that they have a running list of the nominated titles for the current award year. Click here to see the titles that have been nominated and seconded by a committee member already this year.  This list is a wonderful, real time, resource. Since the critical coverage of GNs is way too low considering their popularity and, quite honestly, excellence, I love that the GNCRT does this. It helps to elevate the format and provides more resources for those curating collection and helping patrons. As someone who bought for a well funded and popular GN collection from 2000-2015, I would have loved to have a resource like this. 

As great as these lists are, however, I would like to bring up a larger, gatekeeping issue. These lists are for a format. A format that is better than the awards landscape gives it credit for. Just because this official ALA GNCRT Best List committee exists that does not mean that all GNs are now excluded from genre or even literary awards.

I truly believe that the very best GNs are among our very best books [period]. Just as I believe that genre books can be among our very best books [period]. Just like a books can win the Coretta Scott King Award AND the Newbery Medal. Just because a "Black" focused book award exists, that does not mean those books get the Coretta Scott King Award and that is enough. They are also eligible for the overall best awards and have won.

And yet, while this last statement is well accepted now, we need to remember it took decades of the Coretta Scott Award until people accepted this. The argument was, well there is a "Black" award already so we don't need to honor those books with the overall award as well. And that was a common discussion. Now it seems wrong, but I assure you, it was COMMON.

The same thing happens with Graphic Novels. Only Maus has ever broken through, and it took a "special" award to make it happen. Because GNs are a format, the fight to mainstream the very best into our awards conversations is not as urgent as those that are race or ethnicity or religion or ability based [we have ALA awards for all of those things as well], but if we are striving to be as inclusive as possible, we need to  consider BEST as BEST regardless of if the story is told with pictures. And, I would argue, some books are better told as a marriage between words and pictures. 

Sorry for the side rant, but this is something I am in the midst of and trying to work out. Back to the wonderful work of the GNCRT.

Keep this page bookmarked because the GNCRT is doing great work and they have proved that they are here to stay and keep doing great work for years to come.

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