Comics for adults, books by Lisa Brown and Jane Zei

Sometimes I want a fun read that I can jump into and finish in under an hour. That’s why I picked up Long Story Short: 100 Classic Books in 3 Panels by Lisa Brown and Success is 90% Spite by Jane Zei. Both are comic books for adults.

In Brown’s book, she literally uses three panels (which is how old-school comic strips were printed) to summarize the salient points of classic literature. Of course, she hits the points that make her comic the funniest. My favorite, because I’ve read the book a few times and even used it as a text when I taught fiction one semester, was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

I took this photo with my phone, so the right side is slightly blurry. Sorry!

I recommend you read Lamott’s book, and that is another strength of Brown’s comics: you may be interested in picking up certain classics you haven’t read just based on how she’s summarized them! Another favorite of mine appeared, the summary of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Now, my question is does the comic make sense if you have not read the book? I suppose that’s up to the reader, whether they feel left out or in on the joke. There were several novels I have not read, and mostly I found the comics funny, appealing to my bookish nature. Slaughter-house Five in particular made me sit up and say, “Whaaaaat??” Now I have to read it.

Jane Zei’s book, Success is 90% Spite, is about the cartoonist’s life. Each comic is (typically) one page, so it also reads much like your old-school comic strip from the newspaper. However, like many contemporary female cartoonists, her comics are about anxiety, being an introvert, and awkward social situations. She’s also really competitive, motivated less by the desire to do well and more by the need to destroy other people. She did a “Weekend Warrior” challenge, which is when friends try to do the most steps on their FitBit Friday through Sunday. Zei surpassed her friends by over 50,000 steps. Hence the name, Success is 90% Spite.

I did find myself laughing out loud, especially when describing situations pertaining to bodily functions, like eating or using the bathroom. Here are two examples, just to give you a sense of the style and humor:

The way she provides a narrative and a timeline make the comic relatable, especially that modern menace, the phone, which helps us forget time and space (and the fact that we’re at work).

I find humor in this one because I think we’ve all had one of those extra hungry days during which you eat your lunch unrealistically early and then panic the rest of the day because you have no food. Stealing Dan’s lunch just seems like the next logical step at this point! Part of why this comic made me laugh is because in a comic earlier in the book, Zei describes how she’s eating a healthy breakfast and doing a potion controlled lunch, then a healthy dinner — only to find herself after midnight scarffing pizza because all of her “health” food provided little sustenance.

So, even if you’re not a graphic novel fan, you can’t go wrong with a book of comic strips. Graphic novels can get complicated and drawn out; a comic book is quick, simple, and give you a fun pause in your day.


  1. I think I’ve read Long Story short. Or maybe it was a book where the author summarized the books in a haiku? Either way, stuff like this is fun. And yes, Slaughterhouse 5 is great 🙂

    Success is 90% spite looks like fun, especially the pooping at work one, which, when the bathroom has multiple stalls, takes on additional hilarity.


    • My favorite part was the 10-minute Mark when she realizes that she’s at work. That moment where you realize you forgotten time and space is really bizarre. I’ve done it while reading. There’s always a moment when I hope that I didn’t just absent-mindedly let out a burp or something while I’m in public reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Slaughterhouse 5 is on my shelves waiting for me to pick it up! I hadn’t heard of Long Story Short but I love the idea. (Though I listened to Bird by Bird over my break and have to confess I didn’t like it at all! It was so full of therapy speak!)


    • Anne Lamott does have a lot of spiritual navigational ideas, and some of her books I find completely intolerable. Mostly the ones where she’s talking about christianity, the what she’s saying doesn’t even sound like christianity, but her own hybrid of a bunch of stuff. I suppose I found it helpful in being motivational at just the right time in my writing career. Would you be interested in doing a read-along with Slaughterhouse-five? Starting in, let’s say, the first week of June? Maybe the last week of May?

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      • Yes, the weird not-very-Christian Christianity in Bird by Bird aggravated me too. I do see its value for exercises and so on however. I also didn’t love the audiobook narrator, who chose to give every annoying character a (very bad) English accent, so possibly if I had been reading a physical book I would have had a more positive response!

        Yes, a readalong would be lovely! Probably not until June though – May is one of my busiest times at work so I won’t be able to get to it until then. That sounds great!


  3. I don’t get the impression the three panel classics make sense if you haven’t read the book, but, hey, they’re clever, and I think I’ve seen them somewhere before.
    When I go away I generally take three or four days’ lunches with me. The latest I can wait for one lunch is 11.30 (I have breakfast at 5.30); and my biggest problem is getting the munchies after dark and eating all my remaining lunches at once.


    • Oh, Bill, that last sentence! That made me laugh. You’re like a gremlin. I have to wonder if we all behave in this gremlin fashion, if that means that we’re meant to eat more than we’re told to eat. It can’t just be a thing about willpower if we’re all getting hungry in the same way. Right? The other night I was really hungry so instead of having one apple with peanut butter for a snack I had two apples with peanut butter for a snack. Then I proceeded to lay in bed for half an hour because my stomach hurt, telling Nick that I felt like a human storage bin. So, maybe there is something to this restraint business.


  4. These were so cute! I also love the title Success is 90% spite LOLOLOL

    My husband Aaron loves the Strange Planet comics, in fact he got three that were related to cats and reading (our families faves) and we framed them and put them up on our wall haha


  5. These both look great! I took a packed lunch when I was supporting friends running the London Marathon the other month and totally almost ate my lunch on the train down! Then I just ate it in front of runners instead …


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