I like to read comics and I also like to learn. I also like to read comics to learn. If you’re not one of the many people who already read non-fiction comic books, then you might find these reviews and recommendations helpful on where to start.
The 14th Dalai Lama is a manga biography of Tenzin Gyatso and how he was named the new Dalai Lama at age 2. Framed as an autobiographical speech given by Gyatso, it chronicles his life growing up in a monastery in the Sangha and is intertwined with the Tibetan uprising. While this is a good primer on the early life of the Dalai Lama, with mostly detailed about his time before exile, and the problems between Tibet and China, it doesn’t tell much of Gyatso’s life post-exile. Despite this, it is an intriguing read with detailed and expressive artwork and intriguing author’s notes and bibliography.
Chester Brown’s Paying For It tells the story of his experiences with prostitutes after he and his girlfriend separate. I appreciated Brown’s ability to lay out every perspective in his book, and then hashing it out within the appendices and notes. It doesn’t hurt that the introduction is done by Robert Crumb, a ringing endorsement, and obvious evidence to any comic book reader that this comic is good. And it’s not just good, in my opinion, I thought it was one of the better comics I’ve read. Brown’s story is simple to follow, laid out more like a comic strip than a comic book. Whatever your opinion of prostitution, this a great read that is both fun and enlightening.
The Beats: A Graphic History is a comprehensive graphic novel of both popular and lesser known beat writers. It features writing and artwork by several contributors, but it is most closely associated with its main writer, Harvey Pekar, whose most widely known work was the series American Splendor, an autobiographical comic about his life in Cleveland as a fire clerk. The Beats introduces readers to the lives of writers, poet, artists and musicians of the Beat Generation. Ed Piskor’s art with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs is especially sharp, and the other artists offer a nice variety of looks.
More recommended reads:
Studs Turkel Working: A Graphic Adaptation by Harvey Pekar
Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story by Frederik Peeters
Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories about Mental Illness by Darryl Cunningham