A year in which Posy Simmonds publishes any book at all can never be a bad one. But Cassandra Darke (Cape) isn’t just any book: this glorious, inky black tale about a mean-spirited old bag of a Chelsea art dealer only provides yet more proof of her genius (I don’t use the word lightly). The perfect present, you should buy it for everyone you know. The other books on my list, however, should be aimed at friends and family a little more carefully. Liv Strömquist’s wild polemic-cum-social history, Fruit of Knowledge: The Vulva vs the Patriarchy (Virago), is just the thing for all the feminists in your life, particularly those of a younger generation; Red Winter by Anneli Furmark (Drawn & Quarterly), a tale of hard-left politics in 70s subarctic Sweden, will go down a treat with any recovering Corbynites you may know (and, for its watercolours, with those who love Tove Jansson); and the utterly irresistible Andy: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol by Typex (SelfMadeHero) will hit the mark with art fans, whether they love or loathe its subject.
Meanwhile, if you know anyone who liked the first two volumes of Riad Sattouf’s memoir The Arab of the Future (Two Roads), the third has just been published and is every bit as enjoyable as those that preceded it (our hero is now eight years old and wondering just how far his father will go in order to become an important man in the Syria of Hafez al-Assad). I enjoyed both Ancco’s Bad Friends (Drawn & Quarterly), a story of female friendship set in 1990s South Korea, and Slum Wolf (NYRB), an unsettling portrait of postwar Japan by Tadao Tsuge, who remains one of alternative manga’s most enduring figures, and recommend both for their transporting singularity and beyond brilliant drawings.
Finally, two fantastic books for (though not exclusively) the comics fan. The first is Dirty Plotte (Drawn & Quarterly), a magnificent two book box set that comprises the complete Julie Doucet, the Canadian artist whose funny, feminist and candidly intimate tales of the female psyche have never seemed more bracing or relevant (they date from the 1990s). The second is McCay by Thierry Smolderen and Jean-Philippe Bramanti (Titan Comics), a biography (even if not an entirely true one) of the great cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay.
Truly strange and truly wonderful, this is one for all those who love the creator of the classic strip Little Nemo, though it is surely guaranteed to seduce many other readers besides.