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5 Books to Start Your New Year Off Right

If you’re anything like me, you over-analyze every early January decision in the hopes of setting the right tone for the new year, and the first reads of the month are no exception. They can’t be too depressing or challenging, but they need to have some kind of new year oomph to them–something inspirational, or that charges up my creativity. In the hopes that I’m not a complete weirdo, and there’s at least someone else out there who relates, I’ve compiled a short list of some great picks to start 2023 off right! Let’s dig in.


The Secret to Superhuman Strength book coverThe Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel
If you keep up with the BB blog, you may remember this was also Betty’s staff pick for this month! And like she said in her blurb, it’s a perfect choice for January. The latest release from comics legend Alison Bechdel gets into the nitty-gritty of the author’s journey with fitness.

Don’t worry, though! As opposed to any kind of diet book or how-to fitness guide that’s surely to make you feel badly about yourself, The Secret to Superhuman Strength is more of a reflection on how physical and mental health tend to go hand-in-hand, for better or worse. Just like Bechdel herself, many of us likely relate to the experience of wanting to dive head-first into fitness in the hopes that it will fix our lives, only to realize our happiness lies in more than mastering the latest health trends. Educational but not preachy, realistic but not depressing, this book is a great choice if you’re looking to head into the new year with a clearer understanding of what exactly it is you want from your health.


The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food book coverThe Comic Book Guide to Growing Food by Joseph Tychonievich and Liz Anna Kozik
It’s the time of year that’s ripe for developing new and exciting hobbies, and if you’re interested in actually sticking with the one you choose, this book may be the right one for you. Colorful and fun, The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food takes you through the prep, growing, and care of running a home garden, all wrapped up in a story told from the perspective of Mia, who’s a novice gardener herself.

This book manages to be super helpful without overwhelming you with an onslaught of directions and goals. It’s direct and easy to follow on top of being fun to read. Plus, you don’t actually need to start planting in January, which leaves plenty of time for planning your garden and how it will fit with your lifestyle and home. Green thumb or not, if you’re interested in gardening, this one is definitely the pick for you.


Things We Create book coverThings We Create by Axel Brechensbauer
Things We Create is a visual exploration and history of objects in all their complex glory. Why do we make things like iPhones? Why do some objects please us while others disgust us? What about objects that serve a utilitarian purpose versus ones that serve an emotional one?

Axel Brechensbauer tackles all these questions and more with incredible artistic style and academic rigor, while maintaining a fun and engaging text. This book will help you see everything around you in a renewed light, which is a perfect attitude to head into January with.


Blue Period book coverBlue Period by Tsubasa Yamaguchi
Definitely a recent favorite of the Betty’s Books crew (including Betty herself, who’s absolutely obsessed), Blue Period tells the story of high schooler Yatora who, despite his hesitance, discovers he has a passion for making art. Amped up with newfound purpose, Yatora decides his dream is to study at an art college, and in order to make that dream a reality so late in the game (compared to his peers), must dedicate himself to the craft.

Blue Period is a joy to read, and chock full of genuinely educational art tips and lessons. The pieces shown to be created by Yatora and his classmates are real works done by a myriad of artists, and the resulting art style clash is so visually engaging, I found that I couldn’t stop reading. This book feels so fresh in a way that’s perfect for January. Plus, the residual energy from Yatora’s inspirational reflections on what it takes to learn a new skill are sure to get you pumped up to tackle your own 2023 goals.


Understanding Comics book coverUnderstanding Comics by Scott McCloud
This one may be a little self-serving considering my profession, but it’s also a stellar read, so I stand by it. If you or someone you know is looking to get into comics, or simply better your understanding of what makes the medium so special, this seminal work is the obvious choice. The back cover is littered with praise from some of graphic literature’s most iconic voices (including Alison Bechdel!) and for good reason.

Scott McCloud expertly takes the reader through the technicalities of visual storytelling, and how a comic is so much more than some may think. Just like with reading an image-free text, graphic literature requires a certain type of literacy all its own, and McCloud helps us understand just how freeing and expansive your understanding of narrative in general can be once you master this literacy. Despite the complexity of the subject matter, he keeps it fun and understandable enough that anyone can enjoy it. In a desperate plea to end the idea that comics are “easier” or less sophisticated than image-free texts, I beg you… READ THIS BOOK!

Oh, I almost forgot. It’s a good January read, because duh. Start the year off right and learn how to appreciate graphic literature in all its richness. I promise you won’t regret it!