Tom Gauld’s new e-book collects practically 20 years of literary cartoons

Following the release of his book Department of Mind-Blowing Theories in 2020, which brought together his extensive work for New Scientist magazine, London-based cartoonist and illustrator Tom Gauld has announced the publication of another collection of cartoons – this time featuring his weekly comic strips for the Guardian.

Released by Canongate, Revenge of the Librarians is testament to Gauld’s knack for literary humour and his ability to translate these witty takes into understated, visual comedy. The 150 cartoons within are a smorgasbord of simply executed jokes that can be easily consumed one after another, tackling all levels of the literary sphere from Game of Thrones to Jane Eyre.

Laid out across short arrangements of frames, each rendered in Gauld’s timeless and minimalist style, the illustrations take as their subject matter everything from writer’s block to bedtime reading routines.

He taps into and subverts well-worn tropes of storytelling – a princess in a castle suddenly becomes a bookworm with a new library – and plays with language, creating a set of increasingly complex German compound nouns to express the various emotional states felt by readers.

The topics featured are readily accessible to readers across the spectrum, from booksellers and buyers to publishers and writers. It doesn’t take long to find a character in which you can see yourself or a relatable situation, as you’re greeted by Gauld’s incisive takes on our reading habits, relationships and contemporary literary culture.

As always, Gauld’s humour is intelligent and instant – an approach the illustrator says draws heavily on Gary Larson’s comic The Far Side, which he’s described as one of the strongest, earliest influences on his career. “With these cartoons the idea is the big thing,” he told CR, in an interview about his work.

Revenge of the Librarians is published by Canongate;