1) The Hawk is Dying by Harry Crews
Reading the right novel at the right time in one's life is the sort of thing that happens rarely in a lifetime. This story is about a man's commitment to complete something exceptional regardless of the fears and expectations of those around him. I don't know if I can name a narrative that has touched me more. I strongly suggest this book to anyone who has artistic inclinations and has felt been made to feel out of place because of them.
2) Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudolph Wurlitzer
The book opens up with someone drowning as a frozen lake surface breaks beneath the character's feet. The book offers that sort of sublime immersion. This adventure of a novel settles into some sort of unmovable crevasses of man's self-destructive dance with one's own impulse towards violence, liberty, and masculinity. A ridiculous story, like Sam Peckinpah and Salvador Dali...no wait more like Yves Tanguy. Actually it is just like Jaramusch's Dead-Man movie. In fact, I read somewhere that Jaramusch stole the idea for Dead Man from Wurlitzer. This book is fascinating and dare I say fun.
3) The Centaur in the Garden by Moacyr Scliar
Not since reading Italo Calvino have I been so charmed by the fantasical. This book is a joy to read. It is about a Centaur who becomes a man, and everything he loses along the way. Exceptional...fans of Calvino and Keret Erget should pick this up immediately.
4) The Living and the Dead by Jason
Jason is simply a master of graphic novella form. His work is best when there are few if any words. This story is simply told but makes such a deep comment about our need to be loved and it can drive us towards. Remarkable. And dont let the doggies and birdies turn you off from it.
5) Dogs and Water by Anders Nilsen
Stark. Powerful. I'd like to see more theatre as direct, immediate, and challenging as this book. Visually compelling without anything ornate. People ask me, what is the difference between comic books and graphic novels... well this is a great example of what a graphic novel is.
Chance in Hell by Gilbert Hernandez
I like both the Hernandez Brothers, but I love Gilbert just a little more. It was a toss up between this and Sloth.
Travel by Yuichi Yokoyama
Pretty amazing. Barely narrative, but still filled with a tension bordering even on menace. Every page is a challenge well worth your time. Never have I seen such immersive world building in a graphic novel.