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Building Stories

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,979 Ratings  ·  612 Reviews
After years of sporadic work on other books and projects and following the almost complete loss of his virility, it's here: a new graphic novel by Chris Ware.

Building Stories imagines the inhabitants of a three-story Chicago apartment building: a 30-something woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple, possibly married, who wonder i
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Pantheon
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 05, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
The title Ware chose for this wonderful assemblage of art work and words makes me think about the many ways in which authors tell their tales. It also prompts thoughts on how we size people up. Ware’s creation gives us plenty to say about story-building and profiling. Context, the narrative arc, appeals to our emotions, structuring, and connections among characters and to our empathetic selves all enter into it.

You’ve no doubt seen the box that houses the contents. In it are 14 individual bookl
MJ Nicholls
Beautiful box. Beautiful books and newspapers and foldout strips. An epic of the everyday. The graphic novel response to Ulysses, with all the humour and ebullience removed. Like B.S. Johnson’s book-in-a-box The Unfortunates, each of the separate components can be read in either order, and like that fine novel, each deal in part with loss and devastation and loneliness (and devastating loneliness). The protagonist of this novel is a miserable neurotic woman with an artificial shank whose entire ...more
Seth T.
Oct 20, 2012 Seth T. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
[Note: this review looks much better on the site from which it comes. And has more pictures.]

Building Stories by Chris Ware
[There are an unexpected number of grocery shots in this book.]

Back in March 2011, during that year's Tournament of Books, I was introduced to what might be best described as a concept book. Nox is Anne Carson's literary project to unearth the identity of her recently-departed, long-estranged brother. Instead of pages of text bound between a front and back cover, Nox is a box containing a robust accordio
May 13, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

This work contains, in a beautiful carton, fourteen discrete pieces: one that looks like a Little Golden Book; another as large and colorful as the Sunday comics; and another with print so small I had to take off my glasses to read it, same for the few small illustrations along the inner side of the bottom part of the box. I read somewhere that the creator of this work says it can be read in any order and I'm sure that's true, as the work is anything but linear. However, I read it in th
Eddie Watkins
Sep 29, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it liked it
Shelves: manga-comics
While I comport myself in a solid even-keeled way, topped by a serious face, inside I ride waves of turbulent emotions. My inner moods pendulum between absolute cosmic bleakness and star-hopping ecstasy, with an occasional glide through stretches of dull unspecified sadness. The rest is routine involvement in those things I enjoy doing, and so could be called happiness I suppose, though looking at me few would know.

The stretches of dull unspecified sadness are the least interesting to me, thoug
David Schaafsma
I just finished this brilliant, brilliant "book" (that comes in a game [and that is relevant, the idea of play, of reading and play] box) larger than a Monopoly box, with various sizes and colors and shapes of books and magazines and flyers and a children's book and a game board... Check it out, I think it is one of the most important events in the history of graphic literature, an instant classic. .. but it is not all play... He is not writing about superheroes in this graphic novel, he is writ ...more

Check out that photo above that I stole from Amazon. Isn't it pretty? It's a whole bunch of reading devices that fit into a colorful box. There's a hardbound book, there's a Little Golden Books-style book, a couple newspaper-sized comics, and several doodads and even two or three various whatchamajigs. It weighs in at six pounds.

This is the incredibly creative Building Stories by Chris Ware. In it, the reader discovers the lives of (mainly) four characters who share the same building. They're al
First Second Books
I finally got my hands on BUILDING STORIES and was disappointed to discover that all of the reviews that called it a "ground-breaking new format where the reader connects the pieces to assemble an apartment building full of interlocking stories" weren't literal. Guys, I really thought this book was a kit to build an actual model building! I'm so bummed!
Sep 05, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
A collection of interwoven graphic stories meant to be shuffled and read in random order, Ware's Building Stories has gotten a lot of attention in 2013 as comic writing continues to sidle awkwardly past puberty like a wimpy kid hoping to get past a group of dicks with their hats backwards before they notice him and take his lunch money. Metaphors, bitch!

It's reasonably effective. The lead story here, about a young woman who's convinced her life is awful and then later is convinced it's awful in
Gary Anderson
Dec 30, 2012 Gary Anderson rated it it was amazing
Where do we start? What do we do next? How do we make sense out of all this? With Chris Ware’s Building Stories, as with life, the answer seems to be, “Just keep going. It will all come together, probably.”

Building Stories is a challenging, rewarding reading experience. I can’t say book; I can’t say graphic novel; I can’t say comic. None of those words quite fit Building Stories. Chris Ware’s newest work is the story of woman’s life, and it comes in what looks like a game box, similar to Monopol
Michael Seidlinger
Nov 03, 2012 Michael Seidlinger rated it it was amazing
Inspiration, insanity, and sadness in one big box.

In essence:

Althea J.
Feb 18, 2015 Althea J. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics, highly-rec
This book gets all the stars.

Wow! Not only a crazy-innovative, unconventional format for telling stories with sequential art, but the actual stories are substantive and brilliantly insightful, AND the art is simplistically fantastic.

Each story adds so much color, fleshing out the history of a woman's life. And Chris Ware uses the graphic format to penetrate life on the surface and get into this woman's head in a way that is unique to the medium he is using. I LOVE BOOKS THAT RAISE THE BAR OF WHA
John Seven
Feb 18, 2013 John Seven rated it it was ok
The problem with Building Stories is that while Ware is still a skilled and intelligent cartoonist, in context of his own work it doesn't really represent any kind of move forward. It's really more of the same, with razzle dazzle in the form of packaging. The characters are moribund and whiny, endlessly going on their gloomy, bitter monologues to the point where the whole venture becomes tiresome. Part of this is due to the fact that Ware relies less on his visuals and presentation to tell a sto ...more
Feb 24, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing
A plot synopsis really doesn't do Building Stories justice. Chris Ware is telling a pretty simple story here - tracking the lives of a small collection of Chicago apartment dwellers over a 10 year period or so, with occasional flights of fancy in which the building itself is a character. Oh, and there's also a side story involving a bee named Branford. If you've read Ware's most well known comic, Jimmy Corrigan, you'll notice a lot of similarities: most prominently the trademark art style - intr ...more
Feb 14, 2014 Pixelina rated it really liked it
First impressions - Wow this is heavy!
Last impressions - Still heavy.
To label this as 'comics' as I did here is wrong on so many levels. But it is the word I picked for graphic novels, even though this is outside of that shelf too. This is like a box of melancholy, slices of lives lived in an apartment building in just on the outskirts of Chicago.

We follow the lives of the old landlady, the amputee woman dreaming of love, and of a young couple disappointed in how partnership turned out to be so
Nov 09, 2012 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
An amazing piece of art/literature that works on so many levels, absolutely brilliant and affecting and beautiful. From the box to each of the books/object within, each element works together and independently to build enough story for many years' worth of rewarding re-reads...
Apr 27, 2013 Dianah rated it really liked it
How to describe this strange yet wonderful box of loveliness? Building stories is odd, sweet, sad, beautiful and quixotic; yet that barely scratches the surface. Made up of what I can only guess are “chapters” in varied formats, with no true end or beginning, its sprawling size is a bit overwhelming straight out of the box. Yet the melancholy story of the tenants of an old building is fascinating despite (or, maybe because of) the fact that it’s a cartoon. It is an intimate look at the human con ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, 2012
Building Stories is a sprawling, obtuse, non-linear mess of a book, if it can even be called a book or any sort of unified narrative. It centers mostly around the life of a perfectly average woman who, like most of Ware's characters, spends most of her life being miserable. If you haven't heard of it or seen it, it's a set of 14 "distinctively discrete books, booklets, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets" that hails from the author of Jimmy Corrigan (probably the best comic book I've ever read), ...more
Alex Hern
Sep 04, 2012 Alex Hern rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feb 13, 2013 Keith rated it liked it
I remember my high school art teacher telling me a story once about when Bob Dylan met the Beatles for the first time at a party. According to my art teacher, Dylan saw the Four from across a room and sneered, "You guys have so much power, and you could do anything....and you choose to make this."

And in no way, obviously, could anything Chris Ware does be worthy of such vitriol. It's too smart, too intricate, too multi-faceted -- a monument to what craft, focus, and workmanship can create. And w
Jan 16, 2014 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014
I've not read many graphic novels where the protagonist didn't wear a cape or their underwear outside of their pants. With that confession out of the way I'd like to say that Chris Ware has done something special with the medium here.
His artwork is not lush; in fact it has a geometrical quality. Most of the panels are tiny, and large objects such as the building just provide another opportunity to showcase a lot of small panels.

The real story here is how Ware is able to use the compact panels
Duncan Wilson
Oct 05, 2012 Duncan Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unique. It’s very hard to describe this piece by Chris ware. Beautiful is possibly the best word. Both in terms of its style and its emotional depth. We get glimpses into the lives to the people that live on three floors of an old tenement building (as well as thoughts from the building itself and Branford the best bee in the world). all these lives intertwine with each other in a selection of wonderfully crafted items printed in notebooks, newspapers and even game boards :)
The people come acros
Jason Coleman
Apr 30, 2014 Jason Coleman rated it really liked it
Shelves: greatest-hits
Indisputably impressive. As an act of design, this is a staggering job. But the narrative stops at the tips of too many icebergs; the back stories you keep expecting don't ever materialize. I agree with not giving the reader everything—leaving some things unexplained or only half-glimpsed enhances the sense of life hurtling stupidly along—but spread over fourteen godforsaken pieces of art (shaped like 'zines, pamphlets, newspapers, or simple books), the conception overwhelms the story. Here's yo ...more
Alec Longstreth
Oct 07, 2015 Alec Longstreth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
It's amazing that Pantheon had the guts to publish this in the form it deserved. Chris Ware is one of a kind and we are very lucky that he uses comics to tell his stories. He pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the medium. I find his work incredibly inspiring. A project like this makes me want to work harder.
Sep 29, 2015 A rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2015
As someone who handles the printing and manufacturing of high production value illustrated books for a living, I have to say I was not at all impressed by this package. (No offense to the legendary Andy Hughes who handled the production on this -- quality is lovely, just not all that impressive.)

So apparently this artful jumble of 14 supposedly varied and unique pieces are meant to be a celebration of the lost art of printed matter, a return to the tactile ur-wonders of comics art, a paean to t
Dec 10, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing
I have a hard time reading graphic novels. I blame the fact that I learned to read at an early age, which made me skip right over the whole picture book genre and jump directly into chapter books.

So reading this was a challenge. Even more of a challenge? The pieces that make up Building Stories are not ORDERED in any way! For someone like me, who needs to be given directions, and likes well-defined beginnings and endings, this was mind-boggling! I didn't even know how to start reading this when
May 22, 2013 Sabahat rated it liked it
Very odd. Made me impatient at times but then again I feel that about a lot of books. I know I'd like to go back to some of the bits and pieces again. It captures the rhythm of everyday life in a story presented to us in an endless loop whose beginning and end it is hard to determine much like the book's physical structure itself. I do like it but i don't know, the small panels and the odd booklets get hard to deal with after a while. I sometimes wished the physical book itself was less unwieldy ...more
Apr 11, 2013 Dominick rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
It's hard to know what to say about this. On the one hand, it's a fascinating experiment: fourteen comics pieces, in various formats (including fold-out game board) and sizes (right up to newspaper size for two of the pieces), with no designated reading order. Therefore, readers to some extent "build" the story themselves by selecting the reading order. Ware probably has no equal when it comes to innovative page design. Many ways you might imagine a page being constructed or the panels being seq ...more
Tuğçe Sevin
Oct 08, 2012 Tuğçe Sevin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It comes in a large rectangular cardboard box, assorted as 14 various sized booklets, pamphlets, magazines.

There is no particular order to read them in. They contain a story of the lives of residents in a three-story Chicago apartment, and they give each reader the opportunity of experiencing a different and personalized book with the same material.

As in his previous works, this one also offers very powerful and emotional stories. They follow around the four inhabitants, who are somehow connect
Feb 07, 2013 Amy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Amy by: Harvard Square Bookstore
This work. BLEW. ME. AWAY. I read a lot; I'm tough to impress. This is easily one of the best things I've read in the past five years. It's part book, part immersive performance art. You decide where the story starts and its chronology but no matter how you pick it all still makes sense.

I'm reading Anne Sexton's biography right now and I find myself frequently thinking: I wonder what it would have been like to watch new forms come to life (imagist poetry, confessional poetry, the existentialist
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CHRIS WARE is widely acknowledged as the most gifted and beloved cartoonist of his generation by both his mother and seven-year-old daughter. His Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth won the Guardian First Book Award and was listed as one of the 100 Best Books of the Decade by the London Times in 2009. An irregular contributor to This American Life and The New Yorker (where some of the pages ...more
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“The whole experience reminded me of my own 'old lady' phase that I went through in high school while I was reading Somerset Maugham... The embroidered sweaters, the costume jewelry... I remember genuinely WANTING to be old then, to act as if the business of my life was already all but over, and that I was preternaturally wise because of it...

God, the stupid things you'll do to try and meet boys...”
“Newly Found Sugary Spill: Tastes Like Dried Spit or Old Soda” 1 likes
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