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It’s all about the art (books)

Local authors deliver high-quality art, comics and atlases

One of several photographs featured in the photography-prose compilation High Risk by James Smith and Jody Poorwill, published in March 2019 by Sand & Gravel Press. Photo credit: Jody Poorwill, courtesy of Sand & Gravel Press

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What better way to welcome the sun back into our lives this April than by heading to the park with a good book ... or two ... or three ... or four ... okay, you get the point! There's something magical about cracking open a new book while lounging in the grass as the sun shines down on you, kissing your face. To help you actualize that glorious spring experience, we put together a short list of our highest recommended books for April -- all of which were published within the last month and written by local authors:

High Risk by James Smith and Jody Poorwill

Never has the payoff for reading on a lazy, Sunday afternoon been so high as it was when I picked up High Risk by James Smith and Jody Poorwill. This little beauty is a short read -- one hour, tops -- but its heavy-hitting combination of full-color photographs (by Poorwill) and prose vignettes (by Smith) will leave you begging for more. Published by Sand & Gravel Press in March, this book revolves around the narrator's experiences in therapy over the course of their adult life. The story is equally achingly funny and heartbreaking. It's chalk-full of cringeworthy moments that are too awkward to be anything but true. Combine that with high-contrast, stunning photographs on almost every other page throughout the book, all of which highlight easy-to-recognize locales in Tacoma, and you've got yourself a guaranteed good read. If you've ever been to therapy or struggled with mental health, you will appreciate what this book offers to us on a beautiful, yet tarnished, silver platter.

Invisible Kingdom by G. Willow Wilson

If you're on the hunt for a (barely) lighter read, pick up a copy of the brand-new comic, Invisible Kingdom, by local author G. Willow Wilson and artist Christian Ward. Released mid-March by Dark Horse Comics, Invisible Kingdom is a science-fiction story set in a far-off galaxy. Its artwork is best described as "trippy," with a fantastic array of saturated, day-glow colors and sweeping scenes of outer space and other-worldly ruins. It has two main storylines, both of which tip readers off to a galaxy-wide conspiracy linking a religious sect and a bloodsucking mega-corporation. Has the story been told before? Sure, but the ghostly art, humanity of the characters, and our trust in Wilson as a phenomenal storyteller kept my head deep in the pages of Invisible Kingdom until the very end. Just like Wilson's other works -- including her novel Alif the Unseen, memoir The Butterfly Mosque and graphic novels Air, Cairo, Ms. Marvel and Vixen -- Invisible Kingdom is a delightfully nuanced story worth reading. 

Best Coast: A Road Trip Atlas by Chandler O'Leary

Did someone say road trip? With spring break upon us and summer right around the corner, this is the perfect time to invest in a copy of Best Coast: A Road Trip Atlas: Illustrated Adventures Along the West Coast's Historic Highways by Chandler O'Leary. This quirky, playful book is an illustrated road trip atlas, or a "curated starter kit for your own West Coast adventure," according to the book's introduction. The Best Coast includes over 400 watercolor illustrations and 99 maps, all created by O'Leary and inspired by her personal travel experiences. For those intimidated by the uncertainty of travel, O'Leary also includes travel tips, packing lists and city guides for West-Coast adventures through the California-Oregon-Washington corridor. All you need to do is decide whether you want to embark on an inland or coastal route, then flip to the appropriate section of the book to learn all about it. Need to know how many miles you'll actually drive, or how many lighthouses or drive through trees are on the coastal route? Wondering what the best splurge or the weirdest city on the inland route is? Crack this full-size collector's atlas open to find out.

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