CBR Forum user Superlantern1987 asked for some Superman recommendations (midway through a thread on some post infinite crisis stuff) and I typed a little Superman starting list for him.
I think if you’re looking to read Superman, but aren’t looking to read everything (I’ll try to limit myself to 10 books/series near the start of superman’s career) this is a sort of good starting list:
Superman For All Seasons – My favorite early supes book.
Superman: Birthright – Not bad, some awesome moments, but not the best either. I don’t tend to get as into Superman drawn like tom welling (versus the way he is drawn in all star or for all seasons, which I love).
Superman: The Man of Steel – Volume 1 – essential for understanding modern age (80s and 90s) superman
Superman: Kryptonite – I enjoyed this more for the art than the story, to be honest. But it’s good early reading and doesn’t require much backstory to understand.
Superman / Shazam: First Thunder – Often overlooked, this is an awesome supes story, though it might be more focused on captain marvel. They are one of my favorite team ups, though. It’s done extremely well here.
Showcase Presents: Superman Family Vol. 1 – This is a Jimmy Olsen book, really, but if you want to see what the 40s and 50s were like, this will show you. You can check out other showcase volumes if you want to catch up on Silver and Bronze age.
Superman The Man Of Steel Vol 2-6 – these can be read in succession without worrying about other books between them. Surprisingly, this is only 1987, for 5 books. Obviously DC produces a LOT of superman.
There are a lot of books between them that fill in the blanks, but if you are on a budget, you can probably skip to The Death of Superman, World Without A Superman, and The Return of Superman. Then you’re pretty much up to date on the 80s and 90s at least.
As a side recommendation, any of the Modern Age World’s Finest books are not bad. Superman and Batman, of course. Not that Superboy/Robin one, which was pretty standard fare.
These probably aren’t the most important Superman books, but it was the Superman I grew up with (especially the Death and Return, I must have read and re-read those issues a million times, but I never owned the ending of that saga until a couple years ago when I finally bought the trades! It was major nostalgia hit.) Besides that, I just really enjoy life early superman stories. I like him best when he’s still finding his footing, for some reason.
By the way – I’ll probably be making/tagging an essential superman reading order that contains the main books you HAVE to read, then if you start getting obsessed, like me, you can go back to the full list and fill in the blanks on your shelf. I want to wait until I’ve read a lot more, though, I’m honestly only caught up until 1996 – after that date I’ve only read random books here and there.