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Non-fiction graphic novels

Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, November 2016; written by Kelly Johnson.

I read a lot of non-fiction. As much information (good and bad) is available elsewhere, I tend to fall back to books when I want to learn something or need ideas or am interested in a topic, like history. I am a history loving girl, though I do have my favorite regions and time periods I am usually up for a good, concise history of almost anywhere. So, when I saw “Foundations of Chinese Civilization: The Yellow Emperor to the Han Dynasty (297 BCE-220 CE)” by Jing Liu I knew I had found my next history book. I was not disappointed. Jing Liu has done an amazing job of weaving general information about China’s past into a time line of rulers and rebellion that had been the system of dynastic cycles within China for centuries. He explains how China’s early belief system was not rooted in outside forces such as gods or energies, but with great men. Though one school of thought involves a brother and sister creating these great men, there was also a strong following for the idea that most early Chinese were wise, creative and strong, and so were revered by their descendants. Even today honoring their ancestors is an important part of daily life for many Chinese. Liu also shows how the geography of China and the “16 inch rain belt” have shaped development and government within China. While he notes that there were ninety-five dynasties through the time period he covers he focuses on the nine dynasties that are considered by most to be the major cycles. Though the overviews of each are somewhat short, he is able to convey enough information so one can feel they have a reasonable idea about the dynasty, how it came into being and how it fell. If one is curious about Chinese history but doesn’t want to wade through a large tomb, this is an excellent introduction to the topic.

Another non-fiction title I have perused recently is “Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride” by Lucy Knisley. We have a few other titles of Ms. Knisley’s work and when I saw this one I snatched it right up - especially since I had a wedding to help with recently. She has done a lovely job of sharing her wedding dreams, her wedding reality and many very helpful ideas in a really fun read. I really appreciated her advice on how much to take on one’s self and what can really be handed off to others and what should be just let go of and forgotten about! Reading her experiences and ideas helped me better deal with the wedding I was involved in - and gave me the perfect gift ideas for every engagement and wedding announcement I ever receive from now on.

Sometimes non-fiction topics are not about what you want to read, but what you need to know. After a person I know received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s I was curious about the disease, but couldn’t find anything about it that wasn’t confusing or excessively bori… hard to read. Then we got in “My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s” by Peter Dunlap-Shohl. This biography, while telling the author’s very personal story of Parkinson’s, also answers nearly every question I had about the disease. The ones it doesn’t answer are answers we just don’t have yet. I also learned quite a bit I had no idea about, such as the shaking widely associated with the disease is just one side of the Parkinson’s coin. The other side of that coin includes the increasing inability to get one’s body to move at all, suddenly not being able to walk forward, losing facial expression and speech issues. While most with the disease can live a “normal life span”, it is not an easy span. Information always, for me at least, helps with not only surviving but flourishing and this book has given me excellent ideas how to offer assistance as well as what might be the most useful. Definitely the information I was looking for told in a way I was not only able to understand, but also relate to, a truly interesting read as well.

If any of these titles interest you, don’t worry about having to look up their Dewey numbers to find them in the non-fiction section. While being non-fiction books and telling these useful, interesting things they are located in a different collection. Search the Graphic Novel section near the Teen Room and you will find all of these titles and many, many more non-fiction and fiction books organized by the author’s last name. Easy, interesting and informative – Good Reading!

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