Our August Reading List!
As our Book Clubs slowly began to recover from Comic-Con 2018, a new group of books was read and discussed in the hot month of August.
For the Balboa Park Book Club’s sixth meeting, the group chose to read The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Herandez Walta. Enticed by the promise of a non-traditional superhero narrative the club delved into the painfully typical suburban world created by writer King and artist Walta. Lead in the discussion by Andrew, the group explored what it means to be human alongside The Vision and his family, Virginia, Vin and Viv. The book itself was widely enjoyed by the club members, receiving the highest praise, and overall highest individual ratings of any book we have read as a group thus far.
The book itself struck most members as a masterful blending of art and narrative, with even the colors used by colorist Jordie Bellaire evoking the archetypal suburban landscape onto which many people project the American Dream. The group discussed the role of obsession and loss, and the extent to which they define the human condition, while also unpacking the concept of “the other” in society. Following The Vision and his family’s interactions with their suburban Virginia neighbors highlighted extremely relevant social commentary about the role of minorities and identity today.
The club has chosen to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, a graphic novel which has faced legal challenges, to mark Banned Books week in September. And has chosen to read March Vols. 1-3, by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, for the October meeting.
The Downtown book club was hungry for a book about TV cooking shows, so they selected Starve vols. 1 and 2 by Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj. This alternate universe tale of a troubled celebrity chef who is brought out of self-imposed exile to take on another season of the hit chef competition show he created received mixed reviews from the group. Some enjoyed the book as an entertaining page-turner that flowed nicely and had a satiric edge to it; Others had misgivings about the characters’ motivations and actions. Many felt there was a missed opportunity to more deeply explore the wealth gap and environmental disaster portrayed in the book, which felt glossed over. Instead it was a story about how a messy family drama was neatly tied up, which some members felt was an odd decision. Art-wise, some members felt Zezelj’s art worked well with the narrative in conveying the moral decay of the world. The Downtown Club will next take on The Hero Book 1 by David Rubin!
The Encinitas group’s August selection was Silver Spoon (volumes 1 and 2) by Hiromu Arakawa, perhaps best known as the creator of Full Metal Alchemist. Anyone expecting a similar ride to FMA, however, will be in for a shock, as Silver Spoon is very different. Many Book Club members were expecting to find the manga and anime standards of mechs, magical elements, or other tropes, but nothing of the sort can be found in Silver Spoon. Instead, the story focuses on a first-year student from the city and his experience attending a high school in rural Hokkaido that prepares its students for careers in the farming industry. One Book Club member said for the first volume they kept waiting for “the other shoe to drop” in terms of their expectations of what reading manga typically entailed, but enjoyed the story and felt much more engaged once they realized and embraced that the plot focused on ordinary, everyday life. All members stated they learned something new about the farming industry or Japanese culture, such as how Japanese students often attend schools with a career-focus from fairly early in their educational progress. The group members all loved one particular chapter, which focused on creating pizza from scratch, and it was interesting to discuss the complicated process of creating the food we eat and take for granted every day. All in all, the Book Club found Silver Spoon to be a quiet, charming, funny, and thoughtful read, and many members are planning to watch the anime version of the series, especially since the story seems well suited for that format. Next month the Encinitas group will be reading Fables Deluxe Edition (Book 1) by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham.
The enthusiastic Escondido Public Library chapter of the SDCC Book Clubs discussed Injustice: Gods Among Us by Tom Taylor. It was Blake’s first time moderating, and he came prepared with in-depth questions. We took a vote on who agreed with which side of the issue, and discussed the philosophy behind “doing the right thing for the wrong reasons,” or “doing the right thing, the wrong way.” We agreed that Superman seems to be in the second category, and that ideally we can stop all crime, but human nature isn’t that simple. The entire group also questioned the motivations of Wonder Woman, as by the end of volume 1, those are still unclear. The EPL group will read I Hate Fairyland, volume 1 by Skottie Young in September, as well as completing our discussion of Locke & Key, volumes 5-6.
La Jolla continued their tradition of reading two books each month, opting for manga titles in August, starting with the aptly-named One-Punch Man by One and Yusuke Murata, wherein the titular character defeats all enemies with only one punch. The group shared their experiences reading the title, since some read the title digitally with guided view which proved to be quite helpful, and some had the traditional manga right-to-left reading experience with the physical copy. The quirkiness of the characters had some in the group wanting to know more backstory, and the overall light-hearted tone was appreciated. It was also commented that going forward, the group would consider watching and discussing the anime adaptation along with the next volume of this title, and that both the anime series and the next volume expands on the backstory of characters and setting to provide additional context to the story.
The second manga title was Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kushiro, and was also warmly received by the group, with multiple positive comments shared about the detail and linework of the art, as well as the simultaneously zany and grotesque character design. The creepy wackiness of elements of the story also spurred a fun discussion, such as one of the villains’ desire to create a literal Alita-pendant. The group also discussed the upcoming movie with eager anticipation, since the tone, visual design, and castings appeared to be greatly aligned with the manga title. Overall, the group seemed receptive to their first foray into manga titles, and would be open to continuing either of these two series. Next month, La Jolla will tackle Y, the Last Man vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra and Rat Queens vol. 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Laura Tavishati.
After the crazy, amazing, busy revelry of Comic-Con, it was nice to meet up in August at the Mission Valley Library to discuss The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Munsta Vicente. Set in a not-too-distant future (the Grandpa in the story would be in his mid-twenties today), there is no more Internet, and privacy is held in the utmost regard. In fact, people wear masks to protect their anonymity at all times. First appearing online, The Private Eye is available in beautiful collected print edition, and it set off a series of interesting discussions for the Mission Valley members regarding the consequences of sharing personal information online, having every private message made public, and being judged for the careless words sent out to friends on social media, which are to be forever remembered on the Internet now. Also an interest tangent topic of discussion: preferred reading places and positions! There is always something new to learn about one another! Not only was this a great selection, enjoyed by all, but it facilitated a deep discussion about the Internet, privacy, and the secrets we share via all of our technological devices. Next month, the Mission Valley group will be reading The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang.
For August the North Park Club read The Best We Could Do by cartoonist Thi Bui. The graphic novel is a multigenerational memoir chronicling Thi’s family of Vietnamese immigrants living in the United States and spans her parents’ lives before, during, and after the Vietnam War through the birth of her own son.
Several members were excited to read this Eisner Award-nominated memoir after attending panels featuring Thi and/ or meeting her in person and getting copies of the book signed at Comic-Con 2018 (where the writer/artist was a special guest). Their excitement was well justified, as this selection was universally loved by everyone in attendance. The book addresses themes of generational family trauma, motherhood, and immigrant experiences in the US, as well as the history of Vietnam, which almost every member of the group could relate to on at least one level. Several members were first generation Americans and saw a lot in common between the expectations and attitudes of Thi’s parents once they reached America and their own parents. Another member is pregnant with her own child and sympathized with Thi as she recounted the complicated relationship she had with her mother during her pregnancy and the birth of her son. Even members who couldn’t directly relate to Thi’s family experience were able to learn a much more interesting and even-handed history of Vietnam over the past century, with some incredulous over the one-sided version of events they’d learned in school.
On top of the eminently relatable story, everyone also loved Thi’s art, characterized by simple linework and gorgeous watercolor. Specific scenes, such as a dream sequence with an apartment floor made of water and a tattoo on the back of a woman melding into the shape of Vietnam were particularly stunning. Some members named this their favorite book club selection this year so far, with one member mentioning she’s trying to get enough copies of the book to teach a unit in her high school English classes.
Next month North Park will be reading an unintentionally prescient book (following the recent CW series announcement): Batwoman by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III, which collects Detective Comics issues #854-863.