I was introduced to the superhero genre by watching MCU movies. Weirdly enough, it never really occurred to me that I could get superhero stories from novels too until I stumbled upon a few of those books in my local library.
I want to highlight seven of my favorite superhero books because they deserve so much love, and even though a few of these are pretty popular, they could always use more appreciation. Others on this list are less popular but no less stellar. And as I become less and less interested in the oversaturation of superheroes in TV and film, I’m still magnetically drawn to superhero books — and I still come back to these ones again and again to reread them.
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
When Nova, aka Nightmare/Insomnia, infiltrates the superhero organization, the Renegades, for her villainous found family, the Anarchists, she has no idea just how genuinely good-hearted some of these heroes can be — especially Adrian, aka Sketch, who can make anything he draws come to life. But as their stories entangle further, Nova and Adrian find themselves in a complicated war where heroes can be villainous and villains can be heroic.
The day I stop raining praise on Marissa Meyer’s work will never come. Renegades is one of my favorite-ever superhero stories (including the MCU and the DCEU). There’s no shortage of variety when it comes to superpowers and types of heroes and villains — the wide range of abilities rivals even My Hero Academia (and some of them are just as delightfully unique). With a beautifully large cast of colorful characters and plenty of superpowered fun to go around, Renegades will always sit prominently on my bookshelf so I can reread it whenever I want.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
What happens when a super turns tyrannical? Poor David witnessed the result firsthand when a superpowered Epic, called Steelheart, murdered his father in front of him. Now, a decade later, David joins an underground organization, the Reckoners, with the hope of killing the rampaging Epics and ending their reign of terror.
This book was my first introduction to Sanderson’s work, and I could not have asked for a better book to get me started. Every moment of Steelheart is either wild with adrenaline or pulsing with intrigue. I’m of the firm conviction that no one can write an action sequence quite like Sanderson, with vivid visuals and excellent momentum when it comes to pacing. I was thoroughly enthralled, from beginning to end.
The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas
Abby has plenty of experience dealing with superheroes — after all, her brother is the city’s beloved hero, Red Comet. Living with a superhero has become part of Abby’s daily routine despite the fact that she has no powers, but she follows her own dream by being a part of her school’s drama department. Completely normal…until the appearance of a mysterious vigilante known as the Iron Phantom. All of a sudden, Abby is caught between her heroic brother and a friendly neighborhood villain.
I’ve said countless times here on the ole blog that I’m not typically one for romance. But add some superpowers, mystery, and theater, and I’m on board! I love how charming and wholesome these characters are, especially the shy but lovable Rylan. Reading and rereading this book gives me so many warm fuzzies that it’s become my comfort book!
Red and Black by Nancy O’Toole
Dawn has always loved superheroes, but she never would have thought she’d become one. Under very mysterious circumstances, Dawn has become Bailey City’s first real superhero, Miss Red and Black, complete with super strength, durability, and a built-in superhero costume. Unfortunately, there are plenty of things Dawn doesn’t yet know about being a superhero — one of them being that her nemesis, Faultline, just so happens to be her charming date, Alex.
This is probably my most-reread superhero book (it’s on a lot of my recommendation lists), and for good reason. O’Toole takes such joy in creating her characters, the story world, and every superpowered action sequence; her passion for the story is felt on every page. There’s just something different about reading a book and being able to tell just how much love was poured into it. Now that I think about it, Red and Black is due for yet another reread…
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
In a world where superpowers are common, Jess is part of a superpowered family — but has no powers herself. Undeterred by her circumstances, Jess throws herself into working on her college applications and finding an internship opportunity that’s too good to be true. She’s looking at a work opportunity that looks good on resumes, a chance to be closer to her crush Abby, and a blooming romance with the mysterious but charming M! The only downside? She’d be working for the worst villain in town.
This is a super fun story (if you’ll pardon the pun!). Whenever I need a cute little romance, with a touch of heroics and a dash of mystery, this book is always a solid choice. Short, sweet, and full of heart.
H.I.V.E.: The Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Mark Walden
Equal parts clever and devious, thirteen-year-old Otto has always been able to take control of any situation, which, unfortunately for him, attracts the attention of H.I.V.E., the Higher Institute of Villainous Education. Kidnapped and confined to the volcanic island that serves as the school’s homebase, Otto refuses to let himself be controlled by H.I.V.E.’s supervillain leader Dr. Nero. What else is there to do but gather a small but trustworthy team of villains-in-training and plot an escape?
H.I.V.E. holds a very special place in my heart. Although this is technically a supervillain story, rather than a superhero one, the protagonists are a delightful mix of mischievous and heroic, to varying degrees. The series holds plenty of surprises, and the action beats are fantastic. Even though this is a middle-school read, I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow H.I.V.E. and Otto, Wing, Laura, and Shelby.
Wayne Family Adventures by CRC Payne, Art by Rhett Bloom
Ever wanted to know what Batman and company do when they aren’t fighting crime? Stopping bank robbers and costumed supervillains is great and all, but sometimes the many members of the Bat Family just need a break, a movie night, or a date. Each issue is a bite-sized storyline featuring one or a few members of the Bat Family just living life — just because you’re a superhero doesn’t mean you aren’t relatable.
Okay, so this is technically not a book. But, while my knowledge of comics is limited, I have read my fair share of web novels, and this one is a perfect mix of superheroes and bite-sized slice-of-life moments for the characters. I love experiencing a day in the life of the Bat Family, and this is just the sort of light-hearted fluff that makes up for the incredibly angsty and edgy Batman media I typically consume. Plus, it’s perfect for my ever-shortening attention span.