Graphic Novels That Include Music Playlists

Within the past few years, a handful of newly published graphic novels have interwoven playlists into their storylines. Music is a great way to express feelings, make connections and (in these instances) add dimension to character experiences in an already rich reading format. The extra cool part? All the music featured in these books are actual songs and, even better, you can quickly find the playlists on Spotify (two of which were created by the authors themselves and are linked directly in the books).

Each title is unique from the others, but all of the titles celebrate music in a way that truly matters to main characters in their stories. Even though two of them were written with younger readers in mind, they are excellent titles for grown-up fans of graphic novels too. Be sure to check out the links to the playlists within each title highlighted below.

Winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the funny and inspiring autobiographical memoir A First Time for Everything by author and illustrator Dan Santat follows Dan on his first big trip without his family during the summer break before starting high school. In addition to the heartfelt story, music is front and center with a QR code to Dan’s summer mixtape on the very first page. The QR code itself leads to a webpage full of extra content and a link to the playlist on Spotify. This playlist is a great mix featuring a lot of hits, as well as songs themed to various stops in Dan’s itinerary. Definitely check out all the extra content using the QR code and be sure to read the bonus content at the end of the book.

Space Trash is an action-packed YA graphic novel about a group of high-school friends living on a dilapidated moon colony boarding school in a dystopian future. The all-girl clique known as “The Planet Stompers,” Yuki, Una and Stab are unapologetic and are constantly going against the grain while clashing with rival cliques. The trio eventually stumbles upon a stellar discovery, launching this new graphic novel series that’s full of punk rock and queer vibes by Jenn Woodall on an exciting trajectory. Where does the music come in? There are nods to music all throughout the illustrations with band posters, musical instruments, background music and best of all a full-page illustration with a complete playlist from Una to Yuki in the back pages of the book. Though there is no official playlist online from the author, I curated Yuki’s complete Space Trash Mixtape playlist on Spotify.

Author and Illustrator Sabba Khan's graphic memoir What Is Home, Mum? started off as a six-page contribution to a One Beat Zines anthology titled "Identity." These few pages grew into a 30-chapter personal narrative of Khan’s perspective as a second-generation Pakistani immigrant exploring their identity. Moving through generations and across borders while covering many topics like race, gender, class and religion, What is Home, Mum? is a moving read focused on self-reflection expressed with stunning pastel-toned illustrations. Before the first page, there is a small note indicating that each chapter is accompanied by a song that was important in the creation of the memoir. You can access the playlist anytime while reading by using the code in the beginning of the book which links to the playlist on Spotify. This playlist covers a range of genres across several decades in music and is such a great way to connect with the creative process for this read. Listening to the songs at the beginning of each chapter is an amazingly immersive reading experience.

Have you stumbled across any graphic novels, comics or manga that include playlists? Let us know in the comments below.