HAMPSTEAD, N.H. — In a back room at Hampstead Public Library, library director Peggy Thrasher keeps a stash of new novels. If judged strictly by their covers, they look like comic books.
But they're not comics. The books belong to a genre called graphic novels. Up to now, the library has purchased graphic novels for the children's and young adult sections, Thrasher said, but the newest books are aimed at adults.
They're not on the shelves yet, but they soon will be available.
"We haven't had an adult graphic novels section in the past," she said.
The library decided to start one after Thrasher spoke with a graphic novel enthusiast, Tyler Martin of Exeter.
Martin, a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh master's program in library science, volunteers with area libraries while he is searching for a permanent position. For Hampstead, he compiled a list of 25 graphic novels, some classic and some new.
"There's a good variety," Thrasher said. "Some are part of a series and some are standalone. One is about the Holocaust. One is about a world where all the men are dying and only women are left."
The library decided to start the adult graphic novels section to serve readers who are more visual than verbal, she said.
"People learn differently and process information differently," Thrasher said.
More libraries are adding adult graphic novel sections, according to Martin.
"Exeter Public Library just started a small collection," he said. "Portsmouth has had one for two years."
Some graphic novels mix text and drawings, and are "quite literary," he said. Typically, graphic novels are marketed at people who have trouble reading.
"For struggling readers, who don't understand foreshadowing and literary concepts and the logical flow of a narrative, seeing words and pictures can help," he said.
Still, Martin said, comparisons to comic books don't do justice to the complex stories and character development of graphic novels.
"They offer something different to readers," he said. "Everyone doesn't appreciate Thomas Pynchon or Don DeLillo. Reading graphic fiction uses both sides of the brain."
Asked to name outstanding graphic novels, Martin suggested "Black Hole" by Charles Burns and "Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth" by Chris Ware.
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