Humans are visual creatures. Seventy percent of the total sensory receptors in our entire body lie in our eyes. We process beauty with ours eyes faster and with more intensity than we do with any other senses. This makes picture books an absolute treat! Picture books intertwine images and words to create a narrative. The images can be made with a wide range of materials, including but not limited to oil paints, watercolours, acrylics and pencil.
The stunning images capture and hold our attention even when we’re just trying to skim or flip through these wonderful visual escapes. But when we pause and take it all in, we notice just how much thought goes into each illustration. The words, too, are carefully crafted. It comes together in a compact book that almost always makes us wish for more pages.
I think picture books for adults are wildly underrated. They’re rarely given the value and appreciation they deserve. Let’s try to fix that, shall we? Here’s a list of some of the best picture books for adults I’ve come across. They’re about a wide variety of themes like platonic love, fear and history. I hope you cherish them the way I do.
If you follow Mari Andrew on Instagram, you’ll be familiar with her heartwarming, tender comics. This picture book contains all of that magic and more. The beloved artist articulates her journey of embracing the sunshine, lightening, clouds and stars of her life.
She writes in her introduction, “Trying to keep up with my self-induced pressure to be positive was exhausting, so I made some decisions to be true to my own experience. I stopped using the phrase “I feel like I should” and instead tried to show up for the emotions I was feeling in that moment.” She tries to do exactly that with bright, beautiful colours and simplistic illustrations.
What To Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom To Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman
Hallie Bateman’s glaring realization that her mother might not be around forever led to her asking for a step-by-step guide to get through her loss. The mother-daughter duo came up with this wonderful graphic guide about navigating through grief.
It will make you smile, tear up and feel the warmth of a hug when you cannot physically get one. Suzy Hopkins’s humor and wisdom makes the devastating loss of losing someone you love a little less heavy. Hallie’s colorful illustrations capture the tone and essence of the words. This book is warm despite its difficult theme. It shows us how to continue to express our love for someone after we cannot physically hold them close anymore.
I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You by Yumi Sakugawa
This is an adorable little illustrated ode to platonic love. It has a line that goes, “Because what you find to be beautiful, funny and heartbreaking in this world is what I find to be beautiful, funny and heartbreaking in this world.” That’s got to be one of the most charmingly accurate definitions of platonic love (or well, any love) that I know of.
The illustrations are simple and sweet. They capture just how pure, intense and uplifting friend-love can be. It’s an extremely quick read. I’d recommend picking it up and sending it to your friend-loves while you’re at it.
Embroideries By Marjane Satrapi and Anjali Singh
This was such a quick, fun read. We get to watch fascinating women in Marjane’s family getting together for tea and chatting about their lives. They gossip and open up about love, sex, and men. The absurdity of some of their stories had me chuckling out loud. The illustrations only added to that. Pick this up for a deeply personal and thoroughly entertaining look into the private lives of Iranian women.
My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown by Meera Lee Patel
Meera Lee Patel’s stunning watercolor illustrations are enough to intrigue anyone. Add to that insightful advice about an emotion we all feel, and you’ve got yourself a book to be reread often and cherished each time! Flip through this gorgeous picture book to navigate your fear and maybe learn to be its friend.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
This book is filled with wisdom expressed with tenderness. The simple yet charming illustrations make this book brilliant. It’s a heart-warming picture book about friendship, kindness, and self-love.
I love how it has something for readers of every age. In fact, the author writes in his introduction, “This book is for everyone, whether you are eighty or eight – I feel like I am both sometimes.”
Sapiens A Graphic History, Volume 1: The Birth of Humankind By Yuval Noah Harari, David Vandermeulen and Daniel Casanave
Everyone has been gushing over the nonfiction title Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind for quite some time now. This graphic adaptation of it does not disappoint at all! It’s filled with bright, beautiful illustrations. It walks us through the brief history of homo sapiens in an educational yet accessible way.
Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini and Dan Williams
This powerful book is a letter from a father to a son as they leave a war-torn country for a safer place. It is inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed upon the beach in Turkey while he was trying to flee the country with his family.
This short, heartbreaking novel is filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations. It brings out our empathy, compassion and need for action. The proceeds from this book will be donated to the UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency) and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help refugees around the globe.
For more best picture books for adults, check out 16 Picture Books Just For Adults and our Picture Book Archives. For more on the state of adult picture books, check out Why Aren’t There Picture Books for Adults?