The best books with a protagonist who has extraordinary capabilities

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved peculiar heroes and heroines. Characters with strange gifts and an equal number of challenges. It started with Sherlock Holmes, whose mind fascinated me. As a child, I gravitated to the unnatural protagonist, Tarzan, in the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was never a big fan of Superman, I preferred people who adapted quickly to new surroundings and could think on their feet. Once I began my writing career, I kept those protagonists in my mind. Four novels in, I do my best to capture their spirit and determination to overcome whatever lands in front of them.

I wrote...

The Bitter Past

By Bruce Borgos,

Book cover of The Bitter Past

What is my book about?

In the high desert of Lincoln County, Nevada, Sheriff Porter Beck, a retired military spy with a quick-draw sense of humor, is trying to solve the gruesome murder of an ex-FBI agent. When the Feds send out alluring Special Agent Sana Locke to help, Beck is immediately suspicious, but it's not a case he can solve on his own.

Beck and Sana work to connect the dots between the current murder and a decades-long manhunt for a Soviet spy who may have infiltrated the ultra-secret Nevada Test Site, where America once tested its growing nuclear arsenal. Love, duty, betrayal, and secret after bloody secret are all a part of The Bitter Past.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Red Queen

Bruce Borgos Why did I love this book?

I loved this book because Antonia Scott might just be my favorite protagonist of all time.

She’s literally the most intelligent person in the world, with an I.Q. of over 200. She’s plagued by guilt and awkward social skills, but she has more crime-solving abilities than an entire police force. She’s Sherlock Holmes on steroids, with a hyper-intelligent sense of humor!

By Juan Gomez-Jurado,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Red Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now an Amazon Prime Original series, Red Queen is the first in Juan Gomez-Jurado's internationally bestselling thriller series, translated by Nick Caistor. Winner of the Cognac Prize 2022 with more than two million copies sold in Spain alone.

Sunday Times - Best Thriller Books of the Year

'A Spanish spin on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo . . . A female Sherlock Holmes' - The Times

You've never met anyone like her . . .

Antonia Scott is special. Very special. She is not a policewoman or a lawyer. She has never wielded a weapon or carried a badge,…

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Bruce Borgos Why did I love this book?

I loved this book because it’s a World War II story (my favorite time period), which I can’t get enough of, and its protagonist, Marie-Laure, is a young blind girl. By the time she’s twelve, she has learned to navigate Nazi-occupied Paris from a miniature of the city her father has built for her.

This is a girl with many fears, her blindness being just one, but she pushes through them all in order to help her country overcome its worst nightmare. Her bravery is off the charts!

By Anthony Doerr,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.'

For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic…

Book cover of Everything Matters!

Bruce Borgos Why did I love this book?

I loved this book because it’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and its protagonist, Junior Thibodeau, knows something no one else knows. It’s a secret given to him in the womb: he knows when the world will end.

I was amazed at how Junior, knowing what he knows, searches for and ultimately finds love and some meaning in life. I laughed my way through a story about a world on the brink, and I’ve read it a bunch of times. Whenever I need really intelligent humor, this is the book I pick up! 

By Ron Currie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everything Matters! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Startlingly talented . . . he survives the inevitable, apt comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and writes in a tenderly mordant voice all his own." -Janet Maslin, The New York Times

In this novel rich in character, Junior Thibodeau grows up in rural Maine in a time of Atari, baseball cards, pop Catholicism, and cocaine. He also knows something no one else knows-neither his exalted parents, nor his baseball-savant brother, nor the love of his life (she doesn't believe him anyway): The world will end when he is thirty-six. While Junior searches for meaning in a doomed world, his loved ones…

Book cover of Slow Horses

Bruce Borgos Why did I love this book?

I loved this book because it’s about misfits. In this case, misfits who are spies. Spies who have screwed up and disgraced themselves and their masters at the British Secret Service. They’re led by the disheveled and malodorous Jackson Lamb, who is so smart he disdains everyone around him.

He and the Slow Horses get all the bad assignments, but I loved how each of them possessed special skills and a desire to redeem themselves. I think Mick Herron is the master of humorous spy fiction!  

By Mick Herron,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Slow Horses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Now a major TV series starring Gary Oldman*

'To have been lucky enough to play Smiley in one's career; and now go and play Jackson Lamb in Mick Herron's novels - the heir, in a way, to le Carre - is a terrific thing' Gary Oldman

Slough House is the outpost where disgraced spies are banished to see out the rest of their derailed careers. Known as the 'slow horses' these misfits have committed crimes of drugs and drunkenness, lechery and failure, politics and betrayal while on duty.

In this drab and mildewed office these highly trained spies don't run…

Book cover of The Peacock and the Sparrow

Bruce Borgos Why did I love this book?

Author I.S. Berry’s debut is perfect for people like me who love a realistic spy story.

Her protagonist, Shane Collins, is straight out of a John le Carré novel, and his superpower is a dogged determination to end his long, questionable career by doing something right. This jaded spook is in Bahrain, caught up in the Arab Spring.

I adored how Berry captured the reality on the ground and the complexity of the modern world, and I loved the complexity of Shane Collins, a man on his way out who finds real love and something to fight for, maybe for the first time in his life. 

By I S Berry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Peacock and the Sparrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


During the Arab Spring, an American spy’s final mission goes dangerously awry in this explosive and “remarkable debut” (Joseph Kanon, New York Times bestselling author) from a former CIA officer that is perfect for fans of John le Carré, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Alan Furst.

Shane Collins, a world-weary CIA spy, is ready to come in from the cold. Stationed in Bahrain off the coast of Saudi Arabia for his final tour, he’s anxious to dispense with his mission—uncovering Iranian support for the insurgency against the monarchy. But then he meets Almaisa,…

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The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

Bill Hiatt Author Of Different Lee

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Insatiable reader English teacher Life-long learner Hiker Webmaster

Bill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Guaritori awakens from a coma to find that he's lost twenty years--and his entire world.

Fiancée, family, and friends are all missing, perhaps dead. Technology has failed, and magic has risen, leaving society in ruins. Most survivors are at the mercy of anyone who has strong enough magic. Guaritori has none. He finds a protector, but his troubles are far from over.

The new society in which he finds himself is superficially friendly but surrounded by enemies and full of secrets. Guaritori doesn't know it yet, but the biggest secret is his. If his protector knew who he truly was, she would kill him.

The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

What is this book about?

Coming out of a coma after twenty years, Guaritori--Garth to his friends--discovers that the world he knew no longer exists.

Advanced technology has failed. Magic, which he didn't know even existed, has become much more powerful. Supernatural groups battle for supremacy, forcing human beings to seek shelter wherever they can find it.
Garth's only hope for survival lies with a varied group including a shape-shifter, an alchemist, a tarot card reader, a blacksmith with a flaming sword, and others. But a prophecy foretells that he will bring about the downfall of their leader, the mysterious Ms. M.

Even worse, Garth…

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Interested in self-actualization, the Arab Spring, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about self-actualization, the Arab Spring, and presidential biography.

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