It’s no secret: Stan Lee was a book lover. His passion for reading wasn’t just confined to books—he adored poems, newspaper strips, and of course, comicbooks.
But today we’re going to focus on books, particularly those titles and authors Stan was enamored with and inspired by when he was growing up. (Fun fact: One of his favorite authors as an adult was Stephen King!) Stan was such an avid reader that one of the first gifts his mother gave him was a little stand he could put his book on to read while at the kitchen table! “I remember it had little clips on the bottom to hold the pages in place,” Stan told Roy Thomas, author of The Stan Lee Story. “I treasured that little stand for years.” And if he didn’t have a book handy? Then Stan would just start reading ketchup or mustard bottles – whatever was in front of him with writing on it!
Below are some works Stan enjoyed as a youth. His favorite novels ranged from action to adventure to mystery to sci-fi and beyond. Some authors and titles are considered classics today, while others aren’t as well-known. Despite each books’ fame, you should be able to spot ideas and themes in the below titles that would go on to impact Stan’s own writing years later!
The Tom Swift series
Stan once called Tom Swift, the creative boy inventor protagonist of over 100 volumes, one of his role models when he was young.
The works of Shakespeare
Though Shakespeare’s famous prose wasn’t the easiest for Stan to comprehend, he was taken by “the rhythm of his words, by the flowery language, the ‘What ho, Horatio!’ type of outpourings,” as Stan told Roy Thomas.
Tarzan of the Apes
In an interview, Stan once said of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ iconic character, “I wanted to be like Tarzan.”
Jerry Todd and Poppy Ott series
Penned by Leo Edwards from 1923-1940, these two series of children’s adventure books were similar in storyline to the classic Hardy Boys tales. But one thing stuck out: Edwards incorporated letter columns into his books called the “Chatterbox” where he answered reader inquiries and even touted upcoming titles. The author’s informal style and friendly interaction with his fans stayed in Stan’s mind for a long time and inspired Stan’s Soapbox down the line.
The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man
The inventive H.G. Wells and his early science fiction tales, now considered classics, were among young Stan’s favorites.
There were several more writers young Stan admired too, like Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the list goes on and on. And now, his name ranks amongst the most famous writers of them all; those years reading certainly paid off!