Hello my friends! This month the gals and I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman! It should come as no surprise to you that I love, love, LOVED it. It is well known that I am a Neil Gaiman fangirl. Therefore, it is no question that people usually come to me and ask questions like, “If I wanted to start reading Neil Gaiman books, where should I begin?” This question is generally so hard to answer because Neil Gaiman is such an interesting author, he writes all types of books, for all ages and levels of enjoyment. Due to his eclectic nature, I think that it is important to do a reference interview of sorts before recommending any of his books, you may read something by him and loathe it, but then pick up something else he wrote and fall in love. Keeping that in mind I decided I would put together a little guide on Gaiman. If you don’t know where to start, read on and let me help!
If you like fairy tales…read Stardust:
Stardust is much more than a fairy tale, and given Gaiman’s nature it holds a lot of so called “horror” aspects as well. Stardust is a coming of age novel, a novel about family. It is also a story about different kinds of love. Like those feelings of “love” that really turn out to be just being in love with the idea of who you want someone to be and not who they really are. Stardust has witches, fallen stars, and pirates. It’s filled with intrigue, bravery, witty banter, and a sweet romance. The best thing that I can say about Stardust is that it is often compared to The Princess Bride by William Goldman, how can a review get any higher than that? If you enjoy fairy tales, witty main characters, and novels filled with light and dark moments, then Stardust is the book for you.
If you want to laugh out loud…read Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett):
Good Omens is, in a word, brilliant. I am unfamiliar with the work of Terry Pratchett (I know, I KNOW) but I am looking to pick up his Discworld series immediately due to my love for Good Omens. In a nutshell, Good Omens is a story about the coming of the apocalypse. It’s the story of the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley, who would rather it didn’t interfere with their very spoiled lives, thank you very much. What comes next is a novel full of shenanigans from a mass of people who are trying to prevent the end of the world, not to mention find the Antichrist who is somewhere, being raised by a rather regular sort of family. Hilarity ensues, as Aziraphale and Crowley do their best to save the world while also trying to maintain some sort of dignity. If you can, listen to the full cast audio of this one as it is rather fantastic.
If you need something to read aloud to the kids…read Fortunately, the Milk:
I say read this aloud to your kids but if I am being honest I laughed out loud to myself while reading this while on the train home from NYC. Fortunately, the Milk is a great read aloud as it is funny and quick, not to mention the fact that it is filled with wonderful illustrations. Fortunately, the Milk is a hilarious story of time travel, and dinosaurs, and of the love of a father who really just wants to get home to his kids who are obviously in dire need of some milk for their morning breakfast.
If you like fables, mythology, superheroes and some philosophy…read Sandman:
That’s right. Sandman has all of these things and more. I wasn’t much of a reader of graphic novels before I picked up Sandman, but now I am completely hooked. So much happens throughout this series but ultimately the reader is taken on many journeys through many different places and time. We travel through Hell at one point, and Shakespeare’s time, and to an inn at the world’s end. We meet some superheroes, and some different gods and goddesses. I love this series so much because so much happens in each volume that re-reads are absolutely inevitable. Our main character, Morpheus, is one of the seven Endless (Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, Delirium) and as our title character much of the story revolves around his troubles. The only thing (potentially) negative is that I want MORE from the other Endless. NEED more, please.
If you need something a little different and dark…read Neverwhere:
Neverwhere is the perfect fantasy. It was so unlike anything that I had ever read before, and was the first audiobook I listened to that was read by Neil Gaiman. The story takes place in London Below, and is about those who have “fallen through the cracks,” so to speak. Neverwhere was one of the first novels I read where the villains actually scared me a little. It surprised me, and was one of the only books that had me falling in love with a secondary character (and on top of that, he was a Marquis!) which I believe to be a feat in itself. Neverwhere is unique, imaginative, and gritty. This is another of those I would recommend listening to the full cast audio as it was beyond brilliant. I just realized that I have read this book 3 times, once in print & twice in different audio formats. If that isn’t saying something…
If you like your middle grade with equal parts darkness and light…read The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book is (if i have to choose) my absolute favorite book by Neil Gaiman. As I was listening, I realized that I really cared about Bod and his feelings, I honestly felt my heart drop a few times while listening to particularly upsetting parts. The characters were magical, I adored the way in which Gaiman creates backgrounds for his ghostly characters to make them all stand out in a unique way. Overall this novel had me gasping and laughing out loud at parts. I fell in love with Bod and his story and to be quite honest would be immeasurably happy if Gaiman were to let us in on what happens to Bod after the novel ends. It comes highly recommended for those of you looking for something different, something that leaves the familiar tropes behind and focuses on character development while also maintaining the idea that it takes a graveyard to raise a child.
If you want to remember what it is like being a child living in an adult’s world…read The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane leaves the reader reminiscing about their childhood, trying to bring up memories long forgotten. It is a book that makes you think back at the way you looked at the world before it became so ugly, when your parents were your superheroes and everything was safe within your own little world. It is hard to look back on those times, to see how vastly different your life is and realize that things are never what they seem. This novel is not like other novels by Neil Gaiman, instead of coming on bold and strong as most of his novels, it creeps up on your and you are made raw by the different emotions playing through your mind as you read (or listen) to Gaiman’s words. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is like nothing I have ever read before. It spreads over many genres and bridges the gaps between ages. It is a story of friendship, coming of age, and battling monsters both real and imaginary. It is horrific, and lighthearted, ugly and so beautiful. In short, it is a glorious blend of all thing
If you need a novel that encompasses all things already mentioned, along with a whole lot of amazing mythology, mystery, and cons…read American Gods
American Gods was amazing, and it is nearly impossible to review as it is inclusive of so many things. I suppose it is important to tell you that my favorite things were the cameos, the hints and allusions to different people from history and mythology. American Gods had my heart breaking, and kept me thinking throughout. I had the best time putting clues together and enjoyed when I finally realized just who each character was representing. I loved that. I loved that Gaiman was able to create such an unusual world within one that already exists. I loved Shadow, I loved Wednesday, and Sam was definitely my spirit animal. Also the cons and the twists that I didn’t see coming? That rarely happens to me. I was thrilled at how things came together at the end. I honestly cannot say enough about American Gods. If you enjoy mythology, mystery, conmen, and unlikely heroes, then this is absolutely the book for you.
On the Same Page is a feature here on Books Take You Places that I am hosting along with two of my very dear friends, Amy (Check out her post on the gods found in American Gods) and Brittany (Check out her post on the different places traveled in American Gods). Essentially, we will be reading one book a month together and then doing a non-traditional review such as a playlist, character analysis, and so on…To find out more about this new feature, head on over to its dedication page!