As a librarian, I read daily, whether it’s emails, tweets, blog posts, magazines, a variety of news sources (hard to call them papers anymore), and naturally, books. These words add up. I figured out once that I read about 200 words a minute on average, and when I count the minutes and hours I read over the course of a day, I reckon I read somewhere around 50,000 words a day. I’m sure I’m not alone, and I’m probably below average, compared to many people I know.
So it comes as a great relief to me to read books without words. The idea sounds strange, I know. How can you possibly read if there are no words? How can anyone tell a story without words? When we talk about stories, we can’t avoid using words, and we imply that stories can’t avoid using words either. It’s a strange little conundrum.
We’ve written about wordless books before, but those were children’s books that adults could read with their kids. Here are some beautifully illustrated books for adults (more or less!) that will engage you with a complete lack of words.
Spanish radical humanist and cartoonist Polyp tells the history of the world without using words, although there is a running text in the back if you need to fill some gaps.
Metronome, by Véronique Tanaka
The rise and fall of a love affair between a man and woman. You fill in the words where they could not.
Congress of the Animals, by Jim Woodring
Local artist Jim Woodring gives us his second full-length graphic novel. In this book, Frank loses his home, searches the world to find someplace new, and even leaves the Unifactor. Is this the end of Frank as we know him, though?
The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
A man must leave his home and make his way in a new country where he does not speak the language. He tells his story to other immigrants, who share their stories, all without words.
Ten Birds, by Cybèle Young
This one is geared for children – it’s about counting and problem solving – but beautifully shows some intelligent thinking on the part of some birds who need to cross a river.