From poking fun at single life to celebrating neuroses, these illustrated books make excellent gifts for readers who appreciate the unexpected.

Single life, in poems
Writer Beth Griffenhagen (single) and artist Cynthia Vehslage Meyers (formerly single) have put pen to paper to create a witty, wistful ode to single-dom in Haiku for the Single Girl. Women surely will relate to each short poem with a rueful sigh, sympathetic eye-roll or knowing smile. Meyer’s line drawings nicely complement the haiku, whether the subject is cleavage, biological clocks, lost love or gaydar. From “I feel its approach,/Inevitable as death:/Internet dating” to “Men don’t realize/We women thrill to conquest/As much as they do,” Haiku for the Single Girl offers insight and entertainment in hilarious and easily digestible bits.

Consider the quicksand
Roz Chast is a longtime cartoonist for the New Yorker. She’s also an anxious person (it runs in her family) and an insomniac. Those two characteristics have been happily married in What I Hate from A to Z, Chast’s neurotic, comical and—depending on your anxiety level—unsettling compendium of the author’s pet peeves and personal nightmares. Her clever take on the big, often bad world in which we live depicts a balloon as an “imminent explosion” and undertow as “the ocean, pulling you to your watery grave.” There are positive takes, too, like the upside of mausoleums: If the person inside is still alive, at least they can bang on the door and be let out. Chast’s collection would make a splendid gift for your favorite worrywart, or a warning for the carefree sort who should worry just a little bit more.

Love and hope, online
Ah, love at first sight . . . the stolen glances, the thrill of the unknown. But what if the moment passes without a word? There’s always the Internet, specifically the Missed Connections section of Craigslist. In Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found, Sophie Blackall muses on love and relationships and describes her own near miss: In 2009, a subway seatmate stepped off the train and mouthed “Missed Connections” to her through the window. She looked up the phrase online and, after reading hours’ worth of Missed Connections listings, her popular blog was born. Using Chinese ink and watercolor paints, she interprets ads by men and women, young and old, sassy and shy. Her lovely book offers a testament to romance in its many forms, from a fleeting encounter to decades-long yearning, with titles like “Greenpoint Laundromat,” “We Shared a Bear Suit” and—hooray!—“I Can’t Believe I Found You.” 

Laughing through the ages
What if Susan B. Anthony were on “Sex and the City”? Or Odysseus checked out Facebook? Or Brahms fell asleep during a Liszt concert? Those are just a few of the many hilarious historical oddities pondered by Kate Beaton, creator of the celebrated Hark! A Vagrant. She began the weekly webcomic in 2007, and today, her website gets 1.2 million monthly hits. In Hark! A Vagrant she takes a fresh and funny look at the literary canon (noting that Robinson Crusoe’s Friday got a raw deal, and the Bront√ęs romanticized “douchey behavior”), plus politics, science, gangsters, saints . . . whatever inspires her skilled pen and sharp mind.

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