35+ Best Graphic Novels of all Time
Graphic novels are a genre that Kirsten and I do not usually read. But, with the amazing illustrations and complex storylines, we wanted to have a chance to explore something new. We made sure to get his input to help us with this list of the best graphic novels of all time.
My son read graphic novels all the time and it was mostly his hype that convinced me to read a few to see what I think. What I discovered is an entirely new world of books. There is the hard-core, comic book type of graphic novel, animé, classic adaptations, original stories, and a gazillion middle grade. And yes, a gazillion is a real number, I checked.
I discovered that many of the most popular graphic novels are not my style. The anime and superhero/dark-world graphic novels didn’t appeal to me. Instead, we chose books that we have read or would like to read.
These graphic novels tell a story that we would read in novel form. The graphics in these books enhance the story. You know the old adage: a picture paints a thousand words? It is true for all of these amazing stories. These work for our reading 2019 challenge too! You can check out our newest reading challenge here.
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Best Graphic Novels of all time: Middle Grade
White Bird: A Wonder Story by R.J Palacio
This graphic novel came my way through my local bookstore and it was a beautiful surprise for me. I loved Wonder. The story was told beautifully and with compassion.
I wondered if I would be disappointed with how a story about the holocaust would translate into a graphic novel and whether the story could be told with an equal amount of compassion. Happily, I was not disappointed at all.
I absolutely loved this book. It is so poignant and powerful with a message of kindness that is so relevant today. This is the only graphic novel on this list of full-cast audiobooks
This is one of the best graphic novels of all time and can find this book in our best books for a 13-year-olds
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier has a unique way of incorporating sensitive subjects into her books without making them overwhelming or scary. In Ghosts, Cat’s younger sister, Maya, has Cystic Fibrosis. They have just moved to a new city where the air is easier for Maya to breathe.
Cat has given herself the role of protector of her younger sister and as the festival of Dia De Lost Meurtos draws closer, the two sisters each confront the idea of death in very different ways. Ghosts is really a story about connection to family. All of Raina Telegemeier’s books can be put in this list of best graphic novels of all time!
Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
I don’t think there is a boy (or girl) out there who has read this middle-grade fantasy series and not loved it. It is the only series that can compare to Harry Potter in terms of how much my son LOVES it.
This first Percy Jackson book is about our beloved Percy, who discovers he is a demi-god and must recover Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt. He travels into the underworld to locate the lightning bolt and, at the same time, try to save his mother.
His amazing adventures with Annabeth and Grover along the way create the foundation for all the books that follow in this amazing and epic series. If you love Percy Jackson, you should check out our 18 Exciting Books like Percy Jackson for Fans to Enjoy or our Epic Guide to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Books in Order. We had to include this book in a list of the best graphic novels of all time.
The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
Boys grow up to be shapeshifters and girls become witches. But, what if you are a boy who loves witchery? Would you show your talents if it meant you would be exiled?
This Middle grade challenges gender stereotypes and is a perfect witch book for any middle-grade fantasy reader. Not only is the story great and the illustrations gorgeous, but the message of this book made it a must for best graphic novels of all time.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
This graphic novel is a Newbery Honor Award Winner and was an easy pick for a list of the best graphic novels of all time. Astrid and Nicole have done everything together until now. Astrid wants to go to roller derby camp.
And thus begins a summer of friendship, finding yourself, perseverance, and girl power. after all, Astrid may be strong enough to endure middle school.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s imagination never ceases to amaze me. In this book, Coraline steps through a door and finds a house just like hers, maybe even better!
She meets another set of parents who want her to be their little girl. Can Coraline escape these parents and get back to her ordinary life? I am so glad we were able to include Neil Gaiman on this list of best graphic novels of all time.
More of the Best Graphic Novels of all Time: Middle Grade
Best Graphic Novels of all Time: YA and Adult
Maus: A Survival’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
A very interesting take on the Holocaust, this graphic novel set depicts the Nazis and the Jews as Cats and Mice respectively. It’s slightly easier to see the horrific acts of the holocaust visually when you aren’t looking at people, but I promise you, you will still be disturbed.
It’s one thing to read and imagine something and another to see it depicted. Art Spiegelman handles the subject matter with care, but it is still incredibly sad. Not only is this a banned book but there is no way that we could not include this in our list of best graphic novels of all time. This book belongs at the top of the list.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
This is a graphic novel that I read in a few hours. My son read it twice because “I loved the message that it’s okay to be yourself”. I have since lent it out. I don’t normally read graphic novels, but, I loved it!!! What a wonderfully inclusive story.
Prince Sebastian is pressured to take a bride because he is a prince. But, he is hiding a secret life in which he loves to wear dresses. This is a beautiful book and a must for a list of the best graphic novels of all time.
The Exile by Diana Gabaldon
How do we love Outlander? We cannot count the ways. The ninth book in the series, Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone, was released in 2021 and we are ready for the next book.
This epic story begins in 1945 when Claire Randall and her husband take a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate being reunited after the war. When Claire touches one of the standing stones, she is transported to 1743.
This is when the real story begins. In order to stay safe as an English woman in Scotland, she must depend on Jamie Frasier for protection. This book is definitely at the top of our list of best romance novels of all time but you will love it equally if you love historical fiction, magical realism, romance, or witches. This iconic epic saga has it all and now its in graphic novel format. How could we not include it in a list of the best graphic novels of all time?
Best Graphic Novels of all Time: Classics
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
An introduction to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit was the first fantasy book that I ever read. Smaug, a dragon, is the main antagonist in this story. This book opened up a whole new world and genre of book.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys his comfortable life close to home. When a wizard named Gandalf shows up on Bibloa’s doorstep with dwarves, they invite him on a quest. There, he will encounter Smaug, a creature named Gollum and find a ring that will change his life.
This YA fantasy is the prelude to the amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is an iconic book which made it an easy pick for the best graphic novels of all time.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
My mother was the first person to read this book to me and I was immediately drawn to Anne. She was smart, precocious, and has a way of making everyone love her while simultaneously finding new ways to get into trouble.
I read the book again when I was a teenager and then again as an adult. I will be reading this to my daughter next. Every time I read it, I am able to capture more of the nuances that are hidden within the pages. I am not sure if this book is more popular in Canada but, one day I hope to visit Prince Edward Island. This is one of my (Jackie) favorite books of all time and was an easy pick for the best graphic novels of all time.
Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant because, in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.
Offred remembers when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge, her husband Luke, and her daughter But all of that is gone now….
The book is scary because of how convincing it is. There is a reason this book by Canadian Author, Margaret Atwood, has won awards in addition to being made into a Netflix Series. Clearly, it needed to be included on a list of the best graphic novels of all time.
I’m hoping to start reading more graphic novels next year as one of my bookish goals. I just finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell so I’m excited to see she wrote a graphic novel. Also, I didn’t realize so many classic books were turned into this format.