The 10 Best Graphic Novels for Students to Read This Summer

Looking for something exciting to read this summer? Here are 10 gorgeous and immersive graphic novels that are must-reads for college students.

portrait of Kim-Ling Sun
by Kim-Ling Sun

Updated June 10, 2022

Edited by Hannah Muniz
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The 10 Best Graphic Novels for Students to Read This Summer
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Wishing for something different to add to your summer reading list? Look no further than the world of graphic novels!

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Ready to start your journey?

Their stunning illustrations are the perfect literary eye candy you need for a poolside read. And with complex, engaging narratives, you won't want to put these fun summer reads down.

From fantastical worlds, to classics brought to life, to intimate memoirs, to works that reflect on the darkest hours of our history, you can find a graphic novel that's the perfect fit for you.

Explore our picks below for the 10 best graphic novels to read this summer.

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1. "Beowulf" by Gareth Hinds


This 2007 adaptation of the Old English epic "Beowulf" by award-winning graphic novelist Gareth Hinds promises to enthrall you as you embark on the classic hero's journey.

The story begins with King Hrothgar, whose lands have been ravished for years by a monster named Grendel. Hearing of the king's plight, the noble warrior Beowulf travels to defeat the monster, facing various obstacles along the way.

Hinds' use of detail and vibrant colors make the battle scenes come alive.

2. "Fangs" by Sarah Andersen


Written and illustrated by Sarah Andersen, who is best known for her webcomic "Sarah's Scribbles," New York Times bestseller "Fangs" (2020) tells the love story of a werewolf and a vampire.

Three-hundred-year-old Elsie has never met her love match — until now. At a bar, she crosses paths with a werewolf named Jimmy. The two have a great time connecting despite their differences, and so begins their unlikely love story.

This graphic novel provides snapshots of their relationship that form a humorous narrative of what it's really like to fall in love.

3. "Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation" by Damian Duffy


Originally written in novel form by Octavia E. Butler in 1979, "Kindred" finds new life in Damian Duffy's 2018 graphic novel adaptation, with illustrations by John Jennings.

The sci-fi story centers around a 26-year-old Black woman named Dana Franklin, who is transported back to the 1800s to a Maryland slave plantation. Dana is quickly charged with the responsibility of saving the lives of her ancestors, specifically that of Rufus Weylin.

Through her travels, Dana steadily gains a deeper understanding of both her ancestral history and herself.

4. "Graceling" by Kristin Cashore and Gareth Hinds


Kristin Cashore's fantastical novel "Graceling" springs to life thanks to Hinds' vivid artistry in this 2021 graphic novel adaptation.

"Graceling" follows the story of Katsa, the king's niece and a person born with a rare skill known as a Grace. Once Katsa's ability to kill others barehanded is revealed, her uncle makes her travel the kingdom to carry out his demands. Disgusted by the acts she's forced to commit, Katsa decides to work in secret to spare the innocent from the corrupt.

5. "Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History" by Art Spiegelman


Art Spiegelman's compelling Pulitzer Prize-winning work from 1986 continues to resonate with modern readers. In "Maus I," mice and cats function as allegories, with Spiegelman playing on the cat-mouse metaphor to recount his father's experiences during the Holocaust as a Polish Jew.

Spiegelman's simplistic style echoes through the black and white palette as he mines his family's history to unlock the truth about his relationship with his father and to ultimately gain a deeper understanding of himself.

6. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Tony Lee


In 2006, Seth Grahame-Smith penned a parody of Jane Austen's iconic 1813 novel "Pride and Prejudice," infusing the classic text with the ever-popular genre of zombie fiction.

In this 2010 graphic novel version, adapter Tony Lee and illustrator Cliff Richards bring Grahame-Smith's work to life — or as alive zombies can be. This adaptation of Austen's comedy of manners oozes excitement as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet try to marry off their five daughters, who are trained martial artists ready to kill zombies roaming the English countryside.

7. "They Called Us Enemy" by George Takei


This poignant 2019 graphic memoir written by George Takei and illustrated by Harmony Becker recounts the "Star Trek" actor's experience growing up as a Japanese American during World War II. Takei explains how he lost everything and was forced to live in internment camps.

The personal narrative touches on the social and political impact of growing up while suffocating from the barbs of internment and how these experiences helped shape Takei into the vocal activist he is today.

8. "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" by Alison Bechdel


Cartoonist Alison Bechdel is best known for her comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For" and for creating the Bechdel test, which is used to analyze women's representation in fiction. "Fun Home" is a 2007 autobiographical work that demonstrates Bechdel's ability to "spin garbage into gold," as she writes.

Lush in both language and image, the graphic novel follows Bechdel through adolescence as she navigates issues of identity, specifically coming to terms with her own sexuality and her father's death. Meanwhile, her family attempts to keep up appearances as the model Christian family running a funeral home they affectionately call the "fun home."

9. "The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes" by Neil Gaiman


From New York Times-bestselling author Neil Gaiman, "The Sandman" (1989) is often considered one of the best graphic novels of all time. This series, which was reprinted in 2018 in recognition of its 30th anniversary, depicts the unique world of dreams and nightmares.

An occultist attempting to capture Death ensnares his sibling known as Dream. Once Dream escapes from decades of imprisonment, he embarks on a quest for his lost objects of power during which he undergoes numerous trials and tribulations.

10. "Blankets" by Craig Thompson


Created by Craig Thompson, "Blankets" (2015) is an award-winning coming-of-age story and graphic memoir set in a small Midwest town during winter.

As he matures, Craig becomes estranged from his brother, all the while dealing with a barrage of bullying at school. Feeling isolated, Craig ponders running away, but his outlook quickly shifts when he attends church camp and meets Raina.

Thompson's life story, thinly veiled as fiction, wrestles with universal themes of faith, obligation, and love.

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