We cannot deny it. We’re huge Neil Gaiman fans. If you don’t have any clue who Neil Gaiman is, then you are seriously missing out. Neil Gaiman is a literary rock god. He has a way with words that not many other authors can boast. Apart from that, he is a master storyteller and manages to combine humour and horror in such a way that you have to fall in love with his work. While I haven’t read all of his work (his bibliography is massive), I have read quite a lot. Now with the release of his latest work Norse Mythology, I felt like it was time to bring you a top 5 of Neil Gaiman novels you should read.
1. The Ocean At The End of the Lane
Some do not like this book but I have to say it is one of my all-time favourites.
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
Ocean is a book that either touches you or it doesn’t. But when it does, expect it to go deep. It’s a story about the innocence of childhood, loss and friendship and the inevitable change we go through on our way to adulthood. It is a strange story but it is beautiful. I read it in a few hours. Definitely worth it.
“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”
2. American Gods
American Gods is one of the longest novels Neil wrote, and this year the tv-series based on the book will air. The trailer for that looks promising already, but you can’t miss out on reading the book first. American Gods was first published in 2001, but the story is still very much relevant in today’s society. Some of us hold on to our religion and others worship technology. But what if there’s a war going on between the old gods and the new?
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.
This novel has a special place in my heart. It is the first Gaiman book I ever bought and read. Neverwhere is kind of a modern and creepy take on Alice in Wonderland, in which he takes us to London Below, a whole different world just below the capital city. It is a clever book with humour and enough creepiness to get under your skin. I might be biased as this is the story that introduced me to Neil Gaiman, but this is a great read.
Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.
4. The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard book is written for children, but it is still a story which appeals to adults. The book centers around a boy, Nobody Owens, who is raised by ghosts in a graveyard. The concept is interesting and it is executed well. The protagonist is one of Gaiman’s better characters. I love dark books for children and this was a story that interested me a lot as well.
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…
Another children’s book and probably one of the better known ones. The story of Coraline has always managed to creep me out. I love how Neil writes curious children who always manage to get themselves stuck in magical but dark worlds. Perhaps you’ve seen the film, but the book is even better. I imagine that I will force my future child to read this because it is so great. “But mom, I want to read Bambi!” Me: “No, you shall read Coraline and you will have nightmares about it. Good night, baby!” I would be such a great mom.
Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.