Manga: The Complete Guide
Unless you've been living under a rock, it's hard to ignore the immense amount of manga that's been translated into English over the past couple of years. While comics from Japan have been published in English for some time before then, the boom of material in the 21st century has bordered on the level of staggering.
So, enter Jason Thompson's Manga: The Complete Guide. Thompson's work at Viz on publications like Shonen Jump have more than proven his credentials to work on such a book, although looking at the credits page he got assistance from an equally talented group of additional reviewers; this isn't a book written by a nobody that you can't really trust. Instead, it's a panel of intelligent, discerning voices that are ready to survey some 900-odd manga series now in English and tell you what they're about, how many volumes there are (both in English as well as in Japanese), its strengths and weaknesses, and more.
Now, for that alone I'd whole-heartedly recommend Manga: The Complete Guide. With so many series out there it's nice to have a reference book that you can grab at a moment's notice to find out what it's got to say about an obscure series you're going to try out like, oh, Petshop of Horrors. (Hey, three out of four stars. I approve.) You know what you're getting in for, and even just browsing the book and reading about random series might give you an idea of something new that you can try. But there's more, much more in this book just waiting for you to read.
For instance, there are no less than 38 essays that detail the different types and genres of manga. Want to know more about mysteries, or sports manga? Trying to find a comic for the friend that is also into history? These essays are extremely valuable, both for providing a strong frame of reference about the genre as well as offering suggestions for the top of the line books in that category. Being able to find out more about underground manga alone has made me nothing short of delighted.
There's also essays on the history of manga in both Japan and North America, a well-thought out discussion on, "What Makes Manga Different," discussions on age ratings, explaining how the Japanese language is structured, even a great index of works by creator. (And for those curious, in the back of the book is also a round-up of adult manga. There's something for everyone, here.)
I'll admit, I was a little skeptical when I first saw this book, but now I can't put it down. With 550 pages of information just waiting to be devoured, this is a book you'll find invaluable if you have any interest in manga whatsoever. Finally, an "Ultimate Guide" that lives up to its name. Definitely check it out.