News for Authors

Trends and Cultural Impact in Graphic Books: Novels, Memoirs, Comics, and More

by Phil Stamper-Halpin|February, 2023

From graphic novels to comics and manga to the once-niche genre of graphic nonfiction and memoir, visual books fit perfectly with the varied reading trends of the last couple of years. Read on to learn more about what’s new and notable in these formats.

Notable consumer insights from an ever-expanding category for teens:

  • Graphic novels resonate with thirteen-to-seventeen-year-old YA readers, and this group is much more likely than YA readers aged eighteen and up to enjoy YA graphic novels. YA readers aged thirteen to fourteen are particularly likely to enjoy YA graphic novels.
  • Comics/manga/graphic novels consistently rank as one of the top genres kids read for fun, often outranking other popular genres such as middle grade and young adult novels and books with favorite characters or movie tie-ins.
  • More adults are choosing comics/manga/graphic novels for their children to read for fun this year (37 percent in June 2022 versus 31 percent in June 2021).

There’s also been an uptick in graphic memoir and fiction in the academic and school market:

  • Graphic memoir and fiction are on an upward trajectory in both high school and college markets.
  • Mainstay graphic memoirs, such as Maus by Art Spiegelman; Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker; and March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell, are all very popular titles, making up a growing portion of the market share in the college adoption market.
  • The academic market is broad and full of opportunity—it’s just a matter of fitting the right book to the right course. For example, Marbles by Ellen Forney is popular in psychology, English, and literature courses.

However, despite these books’ success in the market, they often run into specific challenges with book banning and censorship:

  • Graphic novels and memoirs frequently end up as targets of book bans. Early last year, Maus was pulled from some school library shelves across the country. Not long after, a concerned Texas parent called the police because a school library stocked the queer graphic memoir Flamer. In 2016, the American Library Association listed This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki as the most challenged book, followed by Drama by Rania Telgemeier.
  • Graphic stories have the additional challenge of being contested as not “real” reading—though public pressure has slowly changed that narrative and shown that graphic novels can truly benefit reading skills, especially for reluctant readers.
  • Despite the controversy, sales of graphic novels and graphic nonfiction alike have seen consistent growth year over year.

Graphic stories have had a clear cultural impact, as seen in these articles from the past year:

Amid all this, Penguin Random House is proudly leaning in to the acquisition and promotion of these books. Readers clearly hunger for graphic novels, comics, and manga, as well as the emerging graphic nonfiction/memoir genre. To take a look at PRH’s collection of graphic novels and manga titles and learn more, click here.


Phil Stamper-Halpin is Associate Director of Author Development for Penguin Random House.