by Cassie Hall, et al., April 24, 2018, first appearing on Novelist Blog
Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War opened in the U.S. last weekend, and its sprawling cast of heroes and villains offers an irresistible readers’ advisory opportunity. Below, NoveList staff share book recommendations for their favorite MCU characters.
T’Challa (Black Panther)
Oh, T’Challa, we love you, and want to pick the perfect books for you. Bear with me, I have a lot of thoughts here. First, I choose the graphic novel Malika: Warrior Queen, by Roye Okupe. Malika, like T’Challa, is a warrior and ruler in Africa, with strong ties to her countrymen (and, hello, graphic novel?). To embrace his love of Wakanda, a nation that thrives on its technological advancements, T’Challa would likely enjoy Everfair, by Nisi Shawl, a steampunk story set in Africa. T’Challa obviously has the utmost respect for the strong women in his life — Shuri, Nakia, Okoye — so chances are he would enjoy books featuring strong female protagonists. How about the Akata Witch fantasy series by Nnedi Okorafor? And, since he’s so totally awesome, he would share his books with his fellow Wakandans (or donate them to the public library when he finished them). –Suzanne Temple
I’m assuming that Shuri, the smartest person in the MCU (fight me), has already read allllll the STEM books, and so I think she might want to try something different. Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper Cypher series features several elements that will feel familiar to Shuri — ancestral magic, people with unusual abilities, and a powerful heroine — but it’s set in contemporary Brooklyn, the kind of place that Shuri can explore now that Wakanda has emerged from isolation. Also, while she clearly doesn’t need fashion advice, Shuri might enjoy browsing Amber Keyser’s Sneaker Century. –Rebecca Honeycutt
Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier)
Much like his BFF (truly…these guys are old) Steve Rogers, Bucky will eventually need to catch up on pop culture. What better way to get him up to speed than by exploring concepts close to his heart? Chuck Klosterman’s witty and thought-provoking essay collection I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) explores pop culture villains like Bernhard Goetz and Darth Vader, and asks such philosophical questions as: Where do we draw the line between hero and villain? What does it mean to be a villain? Speaking of pop culture, Bucky is probably still confused about Tony Stark calling him “Manchurian Candidate” in Captain America: Civil War, so he should read Richard Condon’s nail-biter thriller as well – after all, he can empathize with Raymond Shaw, the Korean War veteran who returns home brainwashed to serve nefarious purposes. –Kaitlin Conner
Now that he’s free from the grips of Hydra’s brainwashing and has a sweet new (vibranium???) arm courtesy of Shuri, Bucky really just needs a hug. Call me Katniss because I VOLUNTEER. But seriously, someone get this guy a cozy blanket, a stack of Shel Silverstein books, and throw on some Bob Ross in the background. –Cassi Hall
Steve Rogers (Captain America)
History repeats itself, and Steve Rogers understands this more than most. He’d appreciate Timothy’s Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, which offers examples of how to protect democracy from authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, drawing parallels between current events and 20th century threats like the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe. Timely, reflective, and most importantly, concise — at 128 pages, it can be finished in one sitting — On Tyranny is the perfect read for Steve, a man ready to save the world but without a lot of time to spare. –Kaitlin Conner
Our very own Norse god! The obvious choice for Thor would be Norse Gods, by Neil Gaiman, but let’s face it — he would spend his time picking it apart. He may enjoy another Neil Gaiman book inspired by mythology: American Gods. Obviously, Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series would be a fun read, but you know he’d be getting into arguments with every Riordan fan he encountered, because he’s a god and thinks he knows everything. If this happens, steer clear of Thor, kids! –Suzanne Temple
Poor Loki. It’s hard when everyone sees your brother as the stronger, virtuous one, and you are the black sheep. He may feel that his path is set, and there’s no turning back. Did anyone ever tell him he’s loved? I believe the words and aphorisms of Mister Rogers can crack even the hardest heart. Loki should read The World According to Mister Rogers to learn his value and worth in the cosmos. Maybe it will inspire him to see the upcoming documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, too. –Lindsey Dunn
Pepper is a successful, high-powered businesswoman who’s likely spent years enduring the casual and not-so-casual sexism of corporate America, so I think she’d get a kick out of Penelope Bagieu’s Brazen, a collection of short comics profiling both famous and lesser-known women who forged various paths in directions they weren’t expected to go. –Kendal Spires
James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine)
In between striking up a formative friendship with Tony Stark at MIT and stepping into the War Machine suit in Iron Man 2, James Rhodes pursued a successful career in the U.S. Air Force. Given that background, Rhodey would likely enjoy the insight of Redeployment, fellow vet Phil Klay’s National Book Award-winning collection of short stories told in and around the Iraq War. –Kendal Spires
Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow)
Resident superspy (and former KGB agent) Natasha Romanoff would likely find upcoming thriller Star of the North compelling. Featuring a CIA agent infiltrating North Korea to track down her twin sister (who was abducted by North Korean operatives 20 years ago), this suspenseful and realistic exploration of an elusive government will appeal to Natasha, a woman all-too-used to a life in the shadows — and to going to great lengths to protect those she loves. –Kaitlin Conner
Natasha’s been in the spy game for a long time, and would find something to relate to in the exploits of Tara Chace, another espionage veteran and the protagonist of Greg Rucka’s classic Queen and Country comics. The series depicts both tense missions in the field and bureaucratic maneuvering in the office, and Natasha might even find it refreshing to read some straight-up spy tales that don’t involve superheroic dramatics. –Kendal Spires
Peter Quill (Star Lord)
At this point, it’s an understatement to say that Peter Quill has daddy issues; I wouldn’t blame him if he decides to keep up the charade that his real father is David Hasselhoff. If Peter’s still looking for solace, he might find it in the Hoff’s upbeat autobiography. Don’t Hassel the Hoff is at turns self-deprecating and self-congratulatory (sound familiar?) and, per Kirkus Reviews, “covers [Hasselhoff’s] life in standard greatest-hits format” — a narrative structure music lover Peter would dig. Reviews aren’t the greatest, but since when does Peter care about reviews? At the very least, he can catch up on the life of the father he wishes he had. –Kaitlin Conner
No one knows better than Peter Quill the maxim that “everything old is new again” (see: his treasured mixtapes, his love of sitcom tropes). No book explores pop culture’s cyclical nature quite like Ernest Cline’s nostalgic, action-packed Ready Player One (and its recent film adaptation), in which teenager Wade Watts escapes his dystopian world in 2044 for a virtual one that embodies 1980s pop culture. Self-made superhero Peter — call him “Star-Lord,” thank you very much — would see a kindred spirit in Wade, whose alliterative name is meant to recall superheroes of yore and whose passion for 1980s pop culture is unparalleled. –Kaitlin Conner
While I agree that Peter/Star Lord has daddy issues and loves all things nostalgic, if he’s at all representative of a male brain, what is really on his mind right now is a more practical, pressing matter. Now that Gamora seems ready to open her heart, how can he form and maintain a good relationship with her? It would be my duty as a librarian to guide him to the relationship book section. Mating Intelligence Unleased by Glenn Geher should do the trick. He has a lot of intelligence to gain in this ignored area of his life. –Lindsey Dunn
Clint Barton (Hawkeye)
Clint is possibly the only hero not present on the massively overpopulated Infinity War poster (having apparently been sick on Avengers class picture day or something), an amusing omission that puts me in mind of his more hapless counterpart and his canine sidekick Lucky in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye comics. Assuming MCU Clint holds a similar affection for dogs, I’d hand him John Grogan’s Marley and Me, because who doesn’t love crying their eyes out over someone else’s dog? –Kendal Spires
Peter Parker (Spider-Man)
Poor Peter Parker. He was just a sweet, nerdy kid, minding his own business, until — BAM! — he’s bitten by a spider and life is forever changed. I know for a fact (yes, a fact!) that Peter loves a good, goofy comic. Since he already lives the superhero life, I would recommend the Rick and Morty comics for a healthy dose of offbeat humor. –Suzanne Temple
Special mention (and possible spoiler): Miles Morales is incredibly serious, so would surely enjoy Game, by Walter Dean Myers. Miles and Drew both have strong families, live in New York, and are likeable characters who are just trying to keep their noses clean. –Suzanne Temple
Bruce Banner (Hulk)
This dude has some problems, and no one understands him. They think he’s just a big, green lunkhead inside a guy who can’t control his anger. Some obvious classics come to mind (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau), but as Dr. Banner is a very learned scientist, chances are he has already read these titles. To help him not feel so alone, Hulk would enjoy The Only Child, by Andrew Pyper, a take on multiple classic characters within one monster. Being the genius he is, Bruce Banner would want to hear about the scientific aspect of good and evil, so he would like The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip G. Zimbardo. (Honestly, though, how much of a genius could Bruce Banner be if he can’t take the proper precautions when doing his experiments?) –Suzanne Temple
For all the Avengers:
Ok, I’ll be honest. I really just wanted to make this recommendation and the more I thought about it, the more I believe that all of the finally-assembled Avengers would take something away from it. Worm is a completed web serial by the author known as Wildbow and clocks in at roughly 1,750,000 words. It’s a dark, complex, wildly imaginative superhero story that surprises (and often, shocks) at every turn. I will offer a warning that the word count isn’t the only reason Worm is not for the faint of heart — some of the more villainous parahumans (powered people) take on names like Jack Slash, Bonesaw, Hatchet Face, Acidbath, Lung, Murder Rat…and yes, they’re all even worse than they sound. Seriously, if you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to superheroes, superpowers, and especially supervillains, I promise that you haven’t.
Nat and Bucky would appreciate the moral complexity of Worm’s multitude of characters (fair warning: there are a lot of them), and Ant-Man would definitely relate to the protagonist’s powers. Many of the antagonists would have our big purple baddie Thanos wishing he could recruit them to the Black Order — and honestly, no shade to Marvel but the Slaughterhouse Nine make the Black Order look like a 90’s boy band. Worm is the single most ambitious work I have ever read, so it’s a fitting recommendation for the culmination of this ambitious franchise. –Cassi Hall
Cassi Hall is the Communications Specialist at NoveList, and unashamed by her love of supervillains.
Kaitlin Conner is a Readers’ Advisory Librarian at NoveList.
Lindsey Dunn is a Readers’ Advisory Librarian at NoveList.
Rebecca Honeycutt is a Readers’ Advisory Librarian at NoveList.
Kendal Spires is a Collection Development Analyst for Core Collections.
Suzanne Temple is a Metadata Librarian II at NoveList.