Ethel and Ernest – A bestseller in Britain, Raymond Briggs’ story of his working class parents’ relationship is a surprisingly moving exploration of love and war in the 20th century. Pantheon

Palestine: In the Gaza Strip – Joe Sacco’s first long-form work of comics journalism won an American Book Award in 1996 and has been re-released with a new introduction by Edward Said. His next work, Safe Area Gorazde: The War In Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, took the journalism world by storm in 2000. Both are must-read examples of the new graphic literature. Fantagraphics

The Golem’s Mighty Swing – James Sturm’s third graphic work of historical fiction is a fascinating look at the discrimination faced by a barnstorming Jewish baseball team in the 1920s. Drawn & Quarterly

Summer of Love – Originally published as a series called Nowhere, Debbie Dreschler’s look at a suburban teenager’s first fumblings at sex will resonate with anyone who recalls the anxieties of adolescence. Women’s magazines like Elle, Bust and Seventeen have praised Dreschler’s achingly realistic story; Time named it one of the top 10 comics of 2002. Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly – The best comics anthology on the market. Numbers 3 and 4 are beautiful coffeetable collections of European and North American work ranging from surreal dreamlike stories to detailed biographical essays in comic form. Hand these to anyone who needs convincing that graphic literature can be as powerful as the wordy stuff. Drawn & Quarterly

Berlin: Book One> – The first of three books in an ambitious, 300-page work by Jason Lutes. Meticulously researched and beautifully drawn, the story follows a large cast of characters living in Berlin between 1928 and 1933, as the Nazis rise to power. Drawn & Quarterly

Promethea – Alan Moore’s strange and wonderful romp through the world of magick and imagination mixes superhero fare with detailed explorations of mythology, Tarot and mysticism and a marvelously playful approach to page layouts. A good entry point to the new generation of literate comics for those who come to graphic novels through the X-Men or Spider-Man. America’s Best Comics

Ghost World, David Borig, Caricature – Three essential collections from one of the top artists in graphic literature, Dan Clowes. His alternately melancholy, goofy and emotionally wrenching work has been compared to Beckett; his mastery of the history of comics and the potential of the medium are second to none. Fantagraphics Books

Jimmy Corrigan – Chris Ware’s stunningly gorgeous multi-generational tale is one of the most heartbreaking novels you’ll ever read, graphic or otherwise. Along with Clowes, Ware has opened amazing new ways of storytelling; this book should be in every collection. Fantagraphics

Goodbye, Chunky Rice – Craig Thompson’s adorable, lyrical myth beautifully captures love, loneliness and the perils of the urge to wander. A small story that will have you in tears of joy. Perfect for teens and adults. Top Shelf Comics

Blood Song: A Silent Ballad – Eric Drooker’s last book was a collaboration with Allen Ginsberg, Illuminated Poems. This one drops words entirely to tell a poignant story of industrialization in Drooker’s trademark woodcut style. A gem. Harvest Books