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  • Elizabeth Corrall

How Graphic Novels Made Me Fall Back In Love With Reading

When I started university in October 2022, my life was filled with books. Not only was I reading the set books, underlining quotes in them to use in my own essays. I was also branching out into the daunting world of academic essays, reading them once, twice, three times to ensure they were indeed relevant in my arguments. Copying quotes from these essays into my own notes that were then, naturally read and re-read once again. Even my own essays were read, proofread, and doubled checked before I submitted them. University filled my brain with words and no release.

Of course, this isn’t an unusual task to undergo. At any level, education is a daunting and overwhelming task to undertake. Reading all these books is just part of the process. Once you’ve reached undergraduate level, reading books is engrained as part of studying. Because of this heavy textbook that hung over my head, however, the act of reading for fun was something I had lost.

I stopped reading as a form of relaxation in my early teens. I found reading books to be a tedious and exhausting task. If I wanted to feel immersed in a universe, I opted to watch films. Films gave me the escapism of a book, without having to read for that sense of relaxation. Even with the escapism and narrative of a film, the act of holding a book, flicking through the pages was something I missed.

I confessed to a friend I had a level of conflict. I wanted to read but didn’t have a desire to sit and actually read. I felt like a hypocrite; I could sit and read over three hundred pages a week for university, but I couldn’t sit down and face ten pages of a book. As I am a lover of films, my friend suggested that I try graphic novels. They’re books, but they are simpler to read and follow.

‘Is that like, cheating though?’ I asked my friend over a grainy discord call,

‘If they help you read, I don’t think it’s a problem.’ Was his response.

Determined to read at least one book for fun before I finished first year of university, the next day, I set off with a mission.

The graphic novels section of my local bookstore was crammed into a silent corner. The space was small, only a few paces wide, but the shelves were full to the brim with books. They looked so different from other fiction books; brightly coloured, big text and bold illustrations that were begging to be read. For the first time in years, I stood in the book shop and browsed. Picking up title after title. Flicking through to see the varied art styles, different uses of colour and shading, different text – some handwritten, some typed – each creating a different effect. Each book was its own little universe. Not a universe that a writer spun from nothing that I then had to think of, that I had to use words to create. These were universes of artists who created the world for me, these universes were there to be explored through images.

I picked up You Look Like Death: Tales from the Umbrella Academy for £16.99. I had always been a fan of the Netflix adaptation of The Umbrella Academy, and when my bookshop didn’t have the original, I settled for the spinoff. The orange cover and comic book style illustrations pulled me in. I finished the book in two days. For the first time in years. I had sat down, read a book, and deeply enjoyed it. The world was built for me. I could relax whilst reading.

That was all it took for me to become hooked on the idea of graphic novels. I had been a long-time fan of the animated versions of Junji Ito’s stories. My newfound love of graphic novels was the motivation I needed to finally pick up a book of Ito’s stories. I first bought Shiver when in Forbidden Planet in London. The story of the Hanging Balloons has always been my favourite, so I figured it was a good place to start. Yet again, I found myself captivated by a book in a way I hadn’t for so many years. I finished Shiver in a few days, proudly telling myself that I had just read four hundred pages for fun.

My mind revived, everything felt a bit easier. Reading for university didn’t feel like such a gruesome task. Reading academic essays, set books, my own work was suddenly easy. It wasn’t exhausting. Reading has suddenly become an easy, normal task in my life again.

Over the last three months of my first year at university, I finished another five books; the entirety of the Heartstopper web comic, Fragments of Horror, I Am Not Okay with This, The Complete Maus, and finally, The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite.

I had an overwhelming sense of joy. When people asked about books, I could finally say I had been reading something. It sparked conversations, people saying how they had never even thought about graphic novels, people asking why I chose to read them. People seemed curious about my new interest and took an interest too. Conversations of books had left me feeling disinterested and unmotivated for so many years, but now, I felt like I had a perspective to offer when the conversation turned to books.

The draining act of reading for someone else, for the purpose of my degree had, well, drained me. When I turned to graphic novels, reading for myself and for my own enjoyment, that sinking feeling I had when I saw a book vanished. I can now say that, because I read graphic novels, I love reading. I love sitting down with a book and entering a universe, diving into the story. I have fallen back in love with the thing that left me feeling so drained. To read for yourself, be it a novel of fifty chapters or a graphic novel of only 170 pages, can be a reviving and rewarding experience. Reading doesn’t have to solely be for academia and the pursuit of intelligence. Graphic novels taught me that reading for myself opened up a whole universe of stories that are waiting to be read.


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