You’ve probably never seen a book like this before. Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King (Fantagraphics, $39.99) is a pop-up book that retells the Iranian myth of the monstrous tyrant Zahhak and his defeat by the noble youth Feraydun. The fantastic art featured within is courtesy of Guggenheim fellow Hamid Rahmanian, drawn from his work adapting the Shahnameh, or Book of Kings. But it’s the pop-up engineering, designed by Simon Arizpe, that makes this book dizzying. Not only do some sections literally erupt from the page, but others unfold as booklets to continue the story, complete with smaller pop-up designs within. Myths remain popular fodder for the imagination, from Neil Gaiman’s adaptation of Norse mythology this year to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Literary Universe. But with nations across the world (including our own) turning to fear and nationalism, our responsibility to move past Norse and Greek mythology and learn the stories of other countries—their similarities, and their differences—is more crucial than it’s ever been. Kids will love this book, but adults will learn something from it too.
Chris Ware’s new collection, Monograph by Chris Ware (Rizzoli, $60), assembles countless strips, pages, magazine covers, sculptures, photographs, and other things into a thorough and astoundingly generous retrospective of the artist’s career. It comes replete with commentary written by Ware himself, who charts his path from RAW to Jimmy Corrigan to Building Stories and beyond. Reading this book is like touring the interior of a vast and seemingly impossible mechanism carved from space metal, while your tour guide chats amiably and bemoans the lack of carpets. There are also individual booklets within the book that you can flip through, and several of his New Yorker covers depicted in their full glory. For any fan of the cartoonist, this is probably the single best purchase you could make this holiday, a blueprint for everything Ware has done over the past few decades. But for artists, this is something even better: Chris Ware opens the door backstage, shows you how he performs the magic tricks, and then gives you a chance to do it yourself.
Roz Chast, longtime creator of the squiggly, charmingly absurd New Yorker cartoons, has written a profoundly moving meditation on mortality and the bonds between parents and children. Chast’s memoir, the story of her 90-something parents' final stages of life, tugs at the heartstrings while being as hilarious and vividly weird as you'd expect.