Columns > Published on January 22nd, 2018

What Do Superheroes Read?

You've read the comics and seen the movies, so at some point you've probably wondered about the stack of books on your favorite superheroes' nightstand. I know I have, so I called up a few and, despite their busy schedules, most of them answered their phones and talked to me about their reading habits. Here's what I learned.


If there's one thing Bruce Wayne has it's money. He doesn't have to wait for the paperback to drop. A few thrillers and classics adorn his bookshelves (you know how some rich folks like to keep the book display to a minimum for some bizarre/aesthetic reason), but what few people know is he has a second, secret library underneath the house. This second library is packed with titles like Grieving: A Beginners Guide by Jerusha Hull McCormack, I’m Grieving as Fast as I Can by Linda Feinberg, and Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything by Lucy Hone. I know most of you imagine Bruce training all day long to be an ass kicking machine, but the truth is he puts in the hours to learn to cope with the loss of his parents. That is one thing that hurts him deeper than any villain can, and he knows that reading about it can help. More power to him.


I don't mean to brag but Clark and I are buddies. It's a journalism thing. Anyway, he's so fast and strong and good looking that people tend to forget he is also freaking brilliant. Our reading tastes are similar in that we both read across the board. While his shelves are disarranged, a quick look at them will reveal a variety of books on a plethora of topics. Sure, there are some modern novels, contemporary stuff, classics, and a few graphic novels in there, but also journalism texts like The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson, and The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. Also, and probably because his father was a scientist, Kal-El also owns a ton of books about math, engineering, chemistry, and biology. I guess when you don't have to hit the gym, you have a lot of time to flex your brain, and Superman certainly does.

The Rainy Reader

Black Widow

I have to be honest: Black Widow's reading habits surprised me. Turns out she loves thrillers, spy novels, thick tomes of historical fiction, and books about serial killers. She's also a Russian novel buff, but told me these days she finds it hard to dig into the classics because her schedule doesn't allow for long reading breaks.


Bruce Banner is a poetry man! I know, I was expecting him to be a science guy, but it turns out he only likes to read things that keep him mellow, and poetry does that. Langston Hughes is his favorite, but he consumes every kind of poetry out there, including classic Japanese poets and a lot of work in translation. Another weird thing he told me is that he finds the current celebration of violence in fiction a tad troubling. He says that making the good guy great at violence creates a dangerous discourse that can lead to senseless/unnecessary violence to be seen as righteous. Unfortunately, we had to cut our call short because we started discussing poetry journals and submission fees and he hulked the fuck out and started smashing things. 


Black Panther

Talking books with Black Panther was an absolute pleasure. He is a big supporter of indie presses translating African authors and told me he is happy to see the start of a shift in publishing in which voices from Otherness are being given larger platforms. He reads a lot of novels by female authors and said last year he became aware of the lack of trans voices in contemporary fiction. Anyway, he also reads a ton of biographies. 

Captain America

Okay, so if you want to teach a class on great white dead authors, ring him up. Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Arthur Miller, Jack Kerouac, Louis L' know where this is going. Great guy, but not very diverse in terms of reading material.

Wonder Woman

Yeah, I have a crush on her. She makes me feel like I've read nothing. She has read, and reads, everything. And fast. Halfway through our conversation, when she started discussing her favorite feminist authors, I started daydreaming about having a march full of Wonder Women and dropping Trump smack in the middle of it. Anyway, super tastes across the board. Knows more about philosophy and mythology than most professors in those areas I've met. Truly a wonderful reader.


I won't tell you what I think of him now (used to love him as a kid). Here's our entire conversation:

Me: "Hey, Aquaman, I'm putting this thing together for LitReactor about what superheroes read. Would love to have you in there, man."

Aquaman: "Read? You want to know what I read? You know how much time I spend underwater? Fucking douche."


Zatanna Zatara

Not sure I should discuss most of what Zatanna told me, so here's the gist of it: the doors to the underworld are kept closed thanks to the vast collection of esoteric texts on her shelves. She keeps a copy of the Necronomicon in her purse and keeps De Vermis Mysteriis on her coffee table at all times. Stay on her good side. Seriously.

Iron Man

Turns out Tony Stark is not much of a reader. He mainly researches technology texts and digs into some peer reviewed journals while in the bathroom, but the only author he mentioned as a favorite was Chad Kultgen. Go figure.

What do you think? What would your favorite superheroes read?

About the author

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. Y

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