Best Work of Art Masquerading as a Book

Building Stories by Chris Ware

Critics' Picks

The box containing Oak Park-based comics auteur Chris Ware's Building Stories (Pantheon) is so gorgeous that you may be tempted to leave it in the shrink-wrap to preserve its pristine collectability. But don't deny yourself the visual and literary pleasures contained within. Billed as a graphic novel, Building Stories consists of 14 separate items (15 if you count the 16-1/2" by 11-3/4" by 2" box, and I would), mainly telling the stories of the inhabitants of a Chicago apartment building, in particular that of a lonely young woman. In typical Ware fashion, the stories are deeply poignant, and the artwork is stunning: precise lines, bold colors, intricate details. The various items include actual books (one reminiscent of the old Little Golden Books children's series), pamphlets, booklets, comic strips, and the like, all totaling 260 pages. It's an absolutely remarkable collection.