LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, not because Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History (Second Edition) by William B. Jones, Jr. (2011) wasn't an interesting book, but because I tried to read it while I was reading two other things and moving into a new house! Not really recommended practice if you are digging into a reference-y book on an unfamiliar topic.
In Classics Illustrated, Jones gives us a comprehensive history of a long-running series of stand-alone comics that illustrated great works of literature from around the world. The series began in the mid-1940s and had its ups and downs before fading away in the early 1970s, but not before expanding to dozens of countries and encompassing a huge number of adapted titles.
Jones leads us on a roughly chronological path through the history of the series, including detailed biographical sketches of the founders, artists, writers, owners, and even support staff that molded the comics over the decades. What could be a dull topic to any but the biggest fans of the comics kept my interest through Jones' enthusiasm for the topic and the extensive illustrations -- mostly black and white shots of comics panels, along with two sections of color plates of covers.
From the beginning the series had to defend itself against comics fans who thought it was too dull and educational and educators and defenders of public morals who thought it was too much like a regular comic book, but it always kept a solid fan base of the young boys and girls who grew up with the comics. And some of them, like Jones, grew up into the collectors that will find a book like this so valuable. For readers like me who hadn't ever read a Classics Illustrated adaptation, the illustrations and peek into comics history can definitely stand alone.