This is a really well written and constructed guide to graphic novels. It is divided into eight clear sections, starting with what constitutes a graphic novel and the history of the genre with a 40 page graphic novel about writing comics as interlude before moving on to Fingeroth's selection of 60 best graphic novels, the writers, artist and publishers and finishing with a good informative section on Managa, a section on film adapations and resources. The layout is really attractive, with blue boxes in the margins providing information along the lines of 'if you like this, you might like...'. It is good but not great, and it isn't completely up to date, being published in 2008 it misses some of the major movements of the last four years, such as the rise of steampunk, and there are some puzzling omissions as to major writers and artists. However, a good starting point which has given me plenty of new information.
This is the first book to bring together the secret behind graphic novel: including the history, principles, practices, and techniques behind the medium- helping to develop a better understanding of the different between comic books and graphic novel's unique approach to visual storytelling.
The Rough Guide isn't as comprehensive, focussing in-depth on a top 60 graphic novels, referencing dozens of others. It also includes a short graphic novel about graphic novels, brief articles about icons of the genre (Eisner, Gaiman, Crumb, Moore, all the usual suspects and some not so usual), a piece about Manga, and quite a lot more.
As for how effective it is, it certainly brought to my attention a number of graphic novels I hadn't either considered or heard of before and I'm very glad it did.
Overall, not by a long way a definitive reference work, but not a bad introduction, and worthwhile. (The rating is really three and a half stars.)
Firstly, this is a book about graphic novels for the introductory reader. I am one of them. I want not only to read a good story but to be seduced by the art of the graphics. This book does a poor job all round. There is very little in the way of pictures of the 'cannon' the author recommends, and subsequently of story being told.
Secondly, they waste thirty pages on an irrelevant how to create a 'graphic novel' chapter!