I was compelled by otherworldly forces to come up with a list of read-alikes inspired by a recent favorite: Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim.
The narrative shifts between a couple of Midwestern best friends growing up together immersed in comic books, and a group of adult superhero/secret agents fighting for social justice–sort of. The novel is unconventional to say the least, a playful exploration of modern life and society told through a series of monologues. Eugene Lim is a master at making the superhero sequences feel ordinary and the ordinary life somehow fantastic.
In a one page chapter, “Meanwhile”, friends present and discuss a sort of epistemological question, resulting in a decision to “court chaos” and cut the blue wire, thus defusing the bomb and saving the city. This book is super, and super tiny, so if you need something quick, thoughtful, original, and funny to wolf down on your lunch break, grab a copy.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
A young Jewish artist and escape artist smuggles himself out of Nazi Germany to live with family in New York. Joining creative forces with his cousin, two average guys take on Hitler with their crime-fighting superhero comics.
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
“This is the story of what would happen if two teenage boys obsessed with comic book heroes actually had superpowers: they would screw up their lives.” Good enough for me, Goodreads!
(Also, Jonathan Lethem is my favorite Jonathan.)
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
The story of the real life man behind Wonder Woman is almost as mind-blowing as his heroine’s. A must read before or after you see the recent film. Seriously, I cannot recommend this enough.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
This doesn’t quite fit under the alter egos or origin stories heading but this captivating novel about two animators struggling with their success will resonate with fans of animated films and comics, and those fascinated by the lives of their creators.
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
This delightful comedy of errors about a gifted but hapless family of magicians, clairvoyants, and even astral projectors up against the CIA, the mafia and a scheming skeptic is a must read. It will charm the daylights out of you.