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I Resolve...

This year my New Year's Resolution is to branch out and read beyond the genres that I normally gravitate towards. It was great fun to start this challenge by ploughing through a stack of our newest graphic novel purchases during the holidays (A quick heads up: you can sign out any of the titles I mention from our WGSS Library's collection!)

Now just to clarify, graphic novels are actually considered a book format and are not a genre. That means I could still stretch my reading boundaries by selecting titles on topics I normally wouldn't read or maybe reading shortened versions of full novels I was otherwise hesitant to tackle. For example, I wanted to read Albert Camus' story The Stranger, because Ms. Robinson raves about it, however, I was wasn't sure that I had the time to commit to the full novel. By reading the graphic novel, I was able to enjoy a richly illustrated version of this classic and finally appreciate Camus' absurd and tragic journey into a world devoid of any rational meaning.

What else did I read? I tried a steam-punk fantasy called Castle in the Stars which provided some slightly unbelievable fun and non-stop action delivered through the most sumptuous full-colour illustrations. Are you a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender? If you are, you will certainly want to read the first two books in Faith Erin Hicks' The Nameless City trilogy. These titles have a slight historical feel but are definitely fictional with a focus on some quirky characters who don't conform to standards or plot expectations. I absolutely adored these two reads and can't wait for Hicks' to publish the last one in the series.

Books about sports are definitely not in my wheelhouse but I decided to take the plunge and read a number of them - all in graphic form, of course. The Boxer by Reinhard Kleist recounts the true story of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who immigrates to America and uses boxing as a vehicle to reconnect with those lost during WWII. An Olympic Dream, another Kleist graphic novel, is a sombre biography which retells the true story of a young Somalian 200m runner who risks her life to participate in the 2012 London Olympic Games. If you are interested in soccer, then you'll want to read another biography called Pelé: The King of Soccer. He was one of the first big superstars who defined true soccer talent before Beckam or Ronaldo showed up on the scene.

Next, I read the non-fiction title The Comic Book Story of Baseball which certainly helped me to understand more about this pasttime. It's pretty text-dense but you can easily flip through and read the parts which hold most interest. I followed this with another biography entitled Andre the Giant which explained the ins and outs of the world of wrestling - not as a sport - but as choreographed entertainment. Who knew Andrea weighed over 700 pounds at the height of his career! I also read a book about Mark Calloway, another WWE wrestler, whose career story is chronicled in Undertaker. My final sports-related read was a manga title called Fence about a "scrappy fencing wunderkind" who discovers "there's much more to fencing than just foils and lunges". I know that I said this book was manga, but it's delivered in a different format as it is published in a larger size, colourized, and read front to back - not backwards like true Japanese manga.

I usually prefer to read books that are more positive and uplifting, so I branched out by trying a few titles with slightly drearier themes. I started with Hey, Kiddo, the autobiography of bestselling comic author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka. At times it offered a downright depressing retelling, but also proved a highly readable "train-wreck" style account of Krosoczka's childhood growing up in a family that was far removed from normal. You may have even seen Krosoczka's popular TED talk on his childhood. Next I read The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refuguees, written and illustrated by Don Brown. If you've ever wondered about the Syrian refugee situation, this book will not only educate you to their plight but also provide you with in-your-face troubling snapshots of the ongoing challenges faced by refugees today. Definitely a book to make you think and consider how you can help. From such a large-scale human crisis, the next book is a more intimate focus about British mathematician Alan Turing. You may be familiar with Turing's WWII codebreaking work as featured in the recent movie "The Imitation Game", but the graphic novel The Case of Alan Turing takes a different turn to tell the lesser-known and tragic story of a "brilliant yet tortured gay man living in an intolerant world". It certainly made me aware of how societal norms have changed and yet feel so sad for the potential accomplishments Turing's genius was never able to achieve.

What are your resolutions about books and reading for the next year? Why not try a genre you've never explored before - it need not be a graphic novel. Maybe a mystery, high fantasy story, or a narrative non-fiction title. Come into our library and we'll be happy to make some suggestions. Maybe you can even recommend my next read by sharing your favourite genre!

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