Today, I’m switching up my content a bit. We’re taking a brief break from Lady Emily reviews, and reviews in general, for a more reflective piece.
Today, I want to talk about Graphic Novels. Specifically, I want to talk about why I don’t count Graphic Novels in my Goodreads Reading Challenge.
I want to start this article off by saying that I adore Graphic Novels. For a long time—from the start of my senior year of high school until basically junior/senior year of college (that’s 2013-2017/8, approximately) I could not get myself to finish reading a book. I wanted to—so badly. I’ve always loved reading. There have been many points in my life where escaping into a good book was my only reprieve from anxiety and depression. So losing that outlet, during one of the most stressful times of my life, honestly sucked.
Somewhat ironically, I owe my rekindled passion for reading to The Walking Dead. I think it was around my junior year of college—the days all blend together in my memory so I’m not certain anymore—that I finally started watching the show. It had been on for maybe six years at this point. My mom was obsessed. My fiancé enjoyed it. I was way out of the loop, as I often am when it comes to pop culture because god, keeping up with things is so time consuming.
I caught the tail-end of the episode where Rick’s group is cornered by Negan and I was honestly taken by the suspense. I think that’s the season six finale. So I had a few months to get caught up—and get caught up I did! I quickly became obsessed, just like my mom, and before I knew it I’d seen every episode.
Except the TV show wasn’t back yet, and when I obsess over something, I obsess over it. I needed more content to stop my brain from demanding we rewatch the show twenty-seven more times.
That’s when I started buying the Graphic Novel compilations. I bought the smaller compilations—not those giant compendiums they sell at Barnes and Noble because they were expensive, and huge and daunting, but the smaller volumes with a few stories in each.
I blew through so many of these it’s not even funny. And then I got into the Preacher comics. And then shorter Marvel comics, one-shot stories, even the Archie comics for a little while. Most recently I bought the first volume of the Sandman Comics by Neil Gaiman. I love Graphic Novels. Because when I found them, for the first time in ages, I was reading again. Because Graphic Novels are books. They are a story, and although the scene work is there on the page, drawn out for you, it still requires some imagination on the reader’s part. You have to decipher people’s tones, read people’s faces, put pieces of the story together with the clues—both visual and textual—available on the page.
I’ve seen so many hot takes over the years saying that Graphic Novels are not books. They shouldn’t count as books. Kids should not be encouraged to read comics. Et cetera, et cetera. Personally, I think it’s bullshit.
Recently, I started reading Graphic Novels again. I didn’t stop for any particular reason, other than that I’ve been distracted by all the other books on my shelves. Graphic Novels were the push I needed to get back into my earlier reading habits, and unfortunately I’ve been consuming a lot less of them than I’d like ever since getting back into traditional novels.
But when I finished reading one the other day—a Walking Dead book I hadn’t gotten around to yet—I found myself making the decision not to include this in my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge. I didn’t include it on my Goodreads account at all.
When I think of reasons why I made this decision, I feel like every good reason I come up with is hypocritical. Well, it’s supposed to be a Challenge. Does it really count if you read three of them in two hours? Does it count if I read eleven Lady Emily books in a two week period? Comparatively, I read those just as fast. But why should you count it with your other books? I count audiobooks I listen to, so why not this?
I couldn’t give myself a good answer to justify my decision not to include my comics and Graphic Novels in my reading challenge. I still have no plans to include this content in my reading challenge, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it may be due to the way I view this different media.
All reading is fun. Novels and Graphic Novels are all books. But to me, the connotations are different. Graphic Novels are fun. And that’s not to say that all books aren’t fun, but when I’m looking for something light, something to distract myself, I often find myself gravitating toward my comic book shelf. I’ve equated comics and Graphic Novels with leisure much more than I have traditional novels.
I mean, if you think about it, I made reading traditional novels kind of a chore. I set a reading goal that I feel like I have to meet, otherwise I’ll be a failure (which is something I’ve talked about before, and something I’m sure I’ll talk about at length again soon). I have shelves and shelves of books that I feel I have to read, because I spent money on them and because they’re pretty and collecting dust and because everybody else is talking about this book so I need to be in on the Twitter discourse and—
I think you catch my drift. I mean, I run a blog where I post almost exclusively about book-related content. I’d like to publish a book one day—several, actually—and reading is often research. And that’s not to say that I can’t accomplish the same kind of research through Graphic Novels—they’re great for studying dialogue in particular—but in my head, traditional books are the media I’m taking in to learn how to be a Better Writer. They’re books I read for self-imposed homework, no matter how pleasurable it may be to read them. Whether it’s for research, for a blog review, or for my reading challenge, I feel obligated to read traditional novels.
Graphic Novels, on the other hand, are a safe space I’ve created for myself. They’re free from this idea of “homework” that I’ve imposed on every other book I own. I can read—or not read—them without any consequence. I read Graphic Novels purely for the enjoyment of the story and the artwork.
This is why, at the heart of things, I don’t count them towards my reading goal. I want to keep this safe space, this one area in my life where productivity does not have to be measured and documented, pure. The action of reading comics is guilt-free. It’s reading done for pure pleasure, with no underlying intentions hiding beneath the surface. I can read them as quickly or as slowly as I like, and I can choose not to read them for months at a time if I don’t feel like it—and nothing, not even my own brain, can make me feel guilty about that.