Every Hero Has a Story: A Summer Reading Booklist

For the first time in several years, my library is using the collaborative summer reading theme. For all ages, we’re building some programs and reading suggestions around the idea that “every hero has a story.”

Each year, we include a list of 30 suggested titles in the summer reading booklet that has all of information on completing summer reading and all of the programs going on. This year, Miriam, the teen librarian, and I sat down and thought about all different types of heroes and started building a booklist. These are also the books she booktalked when visiting schools to promote summer reading.

When making the list, we tried to include books for younger readers (our Teen Zone serves incoming 6th graders during the summer) but also titles for older teens. We wanted a mix of nonfiction and fiction, all sorts of genres (not just sci-fi and adventure superheroes) and also books with characters from all sorts of racial and ethnic backgrounds. There are a lot of elements to balance. We also wanted some new releases and some older titles, and a few graphic novels thrown in. It was a lot to consider! We whittled down a list of more than 50 to these 30 titles and grouped them by themes: anti-heroes, superheroes, today’s heroes, historical heroes, and books to help teens find the hero in themselves.


The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

Adam believes he has fallen in love at first sight. But when you meet your love at your OCD support group can you hope for a ‘normal’ relationship?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

A young woman discovers an amazing power that might just be the key to saving her country. But who can she trust in a dangerous and strange world of politics and intrigue?

A Hero at the End of the World by Erin Claiborne
Goodreads |Amazon

Ewan was ‘the chosen one’ destined to defeat an evil tyrant – that is until his friend Oliver steps up in his place. Now Ewan wants the life he thinks Oliver stole from him…but he might just have to become evil to do it. Great for fans of Harry Potter!

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Goodreads |Amazon

What could the final resting place of a Welsh King have to do with a small town in Virginia? Search for answers in this strange and fantastic series by Maggie Stiefvater.

Sway by Kat Spears

Since his mother’s suicide Sway hasn’t cared about right or wrong, legal or illegal. He just cares about business – getting people whatever they want. But then he meets someone who might change everything.


Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Great for fans of Marvel comics or movies! Every hero and villain has a weakness, and figuring out what it is is the key to bringing them down.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Based on the 1940s comic strip about the Green Turtle (possibly America’s first Asian-American superhero,) The Shadow Hero tells the story of Hank, a young man who is pushed to become the superhero his mother wishes him to be.

Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Growing up as a sidekick is definitely not all it’s cracked up to be.

V is for Villain by Peter Moore

Brad is sick and tired of being treated like nothing just because he doesn’t have a super power. When superheroes behave this badly are the villains really so bad?

Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

Even superheroes have to do laundry.

Today’s Heroes

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

Read the amazing story of Malala Yousafzai’s life so far. The youngest Nobel Prize winner, Malala’s story of activism is inspiring and eye opening.

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince and Elaine DePrince

Follow your dreams no matter what! Michaela DePrince overcame incredible difficulties, horrific experiences, and racism to finally become what she always dreamed she’d be – a ballerina.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

This is an amazing story of new and broken dreams, old acquaintances and new romances, and the struggle to keep going with the help of your friends.

The Chance You Won’t Return by Anne Cardi

A young woman wrestles with the every-day struggles of being a teen while at the same time dealing with the serious problem of her mother’s delusions.

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Join Harry and his punk band, The Scar Boys, as they make music, escape their troubles and find themselves.

Historical Heroes

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
Goodreads | Amazon

At the end of WWII not all the guilty were caught and brought to trial. Follow the story of Adolf Eichman and the people who spent 16 years tracking him down.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Goodreads | Amazon

Read this ‘confession’ and learn about the life of a young woman from WWII Great Britain and what happens to her when she’s captured by Nazis.

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Goodreads | Amazon

What would you be willing to give up to follow your dreams? Follow Victoria around 1909 England as she rebels against a strict society to become an artist and earn a voice in the world.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
Goodreads | Amazon

Three generations of Puerto Rican women clash in this novel set in Spanish Harlem in 1969 New York City. Evelyn, the youngest in the family, struggles to fit in to American culture and to find her role in the civil rights movement.

The Silver People: Voices of the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle
Goodreads | Amazon

In this beautiful novel in verse Margarita Engle tells us the story of the Panama Canal and the people who built it despite incredible hardship and cruelty.

Heroes of Myth and Legend

Summer of the Marioposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Goodreads | Amazon

Five sisters go on an epic journey to return the body of man to his family. Amazing creatures from Latin-American folklore and myth help and hinder them on their journey.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield
Goodreads | Amazon

Two stories for the price of one! Alternating chapters introduce you to Darcy, a young author struggling to meet her own expectations and those of her publisher; and Lizzie, the character Darcy created.

The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton
Goodreads | Amazon

Two teens go on a quest to find the missing god Baldur and save themselves. Great next series for fans of Percy Jackson or Norse mythology.

The Story of Owen: Dragonslayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston
Goodreads | Amazon

How would our world change if dragons really existed…and they kept burning down your town?

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
Goodreads | Amazon

Magic, dizzying plots, amazing characters, and a really cool fantasy world will make you love every moment of this series.

You Be The Hero

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
Goodreads | Amazon

Be inspired to do amazing things no matter what you’re up against. Learn about William Kamkwamba and how he taught himself to build a windmill to bring water to his parent’s farm using an old bicycle, discarded PVC pipe and other scraps.

Batman Science: The Real-World Science Behind Batman’s Gear by Agnieszka Biskup
Goodreads | Amazon

What would Batman be without his gadgets? From batmobiles to batarangs this book checks out each of Batman’s tools and let’s you know if they’re science fiction, science fact, or a little of both.

How To Build A Hovercraft by Stephen Voltz
Goodreads | Amazon

No, really! That’s just one of the fun science projects you can try from this book.

Fashionable Selby  by Todd Selby
Goodreads | Amazon

From first drawings to final product check out the creative and crazy clothes in Fashionable Selby.

Geek-Art: An Anthology by Thomas Olivri
Goodreads | Amazon

Everything from Edward Scissorhands My Little Ponys to Sesame Street characters drawn as circles. Check out this awesome art collection and be inspired.

What books are on your summer reading list? What’s your favorite book about a hero? 


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