There’s something about comics that elevates the written word which is plain to see in The Art of Living: Reflections on Mindfulness and the Overexamined Life. The new hardcover from Abrams ComicArts is by Grant Snider features a comic strip style with a complete “story” on each page. The word “story” is in quotes because in many ways this book is poetry paired with drawings made to make you think, reflect, and ultimately calm your nerves. It’s a bit about living, but in many ways, it’s also a book about slowing down and not doing anything at all to better respect and enjoy being alive.
Running 144 pages long, this hardcover has a well-made look and feel. The paper stock is sturdy and will last as long as your own rumination may run. Layouts tend to run nine to twelve panels per page, but the beauty of this book is how Snider seems to find new ways to tell these simple lessons. At their core, they’re more like poems.
And that’s what makes Snider’s work so long-lasting. The words themselves may stick with you, but when paired with clever visual ideas, albeit simple in style, the message seems to resonate even stronger.
In one example, Snider tells a story about the metaphorical room you need to think. Over seven panels we get smaller and smaller panels until what’s left is a single black dot and the idea that we give ourselves less room for ourselves if we work too much. In another titled “Uncertainty,” Snider uses a flashlight to explore what lies ahead. Sometimes it’s emptiness, other times too many signs, but the message stands to always keep going. Better yet, do it with someone else to make the uncertainty an adventure.
There are little truisms throughout, and while many aren’t necessarily brand new concepts, when paired with Snider’s visual style they stand out. Considering there are 144 pages and a story per page you basically get close to 140 messages about how to live your life. Not a single page is redundant or similar to the last. When you get to activities like swimming and running, Snider seems to come alive with new and innovative ideas. There’s something new and different from cover to cover, making this a great book to just open to a random page and enjoy.
The Art of Living: Reflections on Mindfulness and the Overexamined Life is a good lesson in creativity and looking inwards. We live our lives not knowing what the day may bring, or the future at that, but through this book, you can see our best lives are those lived to experience new and exciting things. It has the qualities of a coffee table book as anyone can open it and find something they’ll like, but has the permanence to stick with you and maybe even change your life.
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