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5 graphic novels and poetry books from 2012 you need to read

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The Globe's Books team is sent thousands of books every year: novels and poetry, mysteries and histories, memoirs and coffee-table books, erotica, exotica, graphic novels, self-published books, books sophisticated and crude, even textbooks. From this rich array we select only the most promising for reviews - and then only those that wowed our professional readers for our annual 100 list. Herewith, the titles reviewers couldn't put down, couldn't stop talking about, and insist you stock up on, too.

Antigonick

By Sophokles, translated by Anne Carson,

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M&S

Anne Carson's work is more of a rewriting than a translation of Sophocles's great play about the conflict of conscience in law, with Antigone defying Athenian law to bury her brother. Carson's version, in which Antigone is given a severe case of martyr's complex, is an original reading, both riveting and humorous. Bianca Stone's illustrations are immediate and visceral, and Robert Currie's overall book design has elegance and strength. -- Ewan White

Monkey Ranch

By Julie Bruck,

Brick Books

It has been nearly 13 years since Bruck's last poetry collection, and Monkey Ranch, which has won the Governor-General's Award for poetry, shows both her craft and worldview have grown, acting like a lens, magnifying and focusing her bright, youthful gaze on things intellectual and domestic into a mature, white-hot point, the kind kids might use to kill ants or set newsprint ablaze. -- George Murray

Hark! A Vagrant

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By Kate Beaton,

Drawn & Quarterly

This delicious gallimaufry makes mock of cows sacred and profane with equal relish. Drawing from history, literature and her own wacky well of inspiration, Beaton takes on the likes of Beethoven, Kierkegaard, King Lear, superheroes (Wolverine gets domesticated), The Great Gatsby and sexual high jinks of various sorts and eras. Most of the strips are accompanied by Beaton's comments: arch, bemused, combining irreverence with respect. -- Martin Levin

Building Stories

By Chris Ware,

Pantheon

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Chris Ware has broken up his story into 14 smaller books, contained within a large box, in part to reinforce one of the major narrative themes of Building Stories, the fragmented nature of modern urban life. But the separate booklets are also, each of them, beautiful objects with the narrative specifically tailored to the physical form in which they are encompassed. There's also a wonderful story embedded here, about a nameless woman. She is boxed in by life and cornered in buildings, but remains resilient, observant and sharp-witted. -- Jeet Heer

Are You My Mother?

A Comic Drama,

by Alison Bechdel,

HMH

Perhaps the best proof for the secret rapport between the Freudian tradition and cartooning is Alison Bechdel's stunning graphic memoir, in which psychoanalytical ideas are brought convincingly to life in pen-and-ink form. Here, she tackles the even more recalcitrant problem of finding comfort in her agitated relationship with her mother. Helen, a very intelligent, witty and accomplished woman, but also often emotionally distant and withholding. -- Jeet Heer

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