Top 5 Best Neil Gaiman Books:
- American Gods
- Neil Gaiman’s Stardust
- Norse Mythology
- 3-Book Box Set: Coraline; The Graveyard Book; Fortunately, the Milk
J.R.R. Tolkien once famously said that phantasy writers are soldiers fighting to release people from the shackles of reality. Don’t want to argue with this prolific writer and a literary legend. Allowing a healthy dose of imagination, surrealism, and escapism into your life can only make it more interesting, exciting, and fun.
But where to start? The genre already spawned thousands upon thousands of great books.
We’ll tell you – start with Neil Gaiman. This guy is a living legend with a stake in virtually every form of entertainment ranging from comics to television. And he is probably the most accomplished phantasy writer that still walks the Earth.
His language is fun, writing style exciting, imagination unmatched, and he jumps from subgenre to subgenre seemingly without any effort. Whatever kind of phantasy you prefer – he already wrote it.
So, let’s take a quick look at some of the best Neil Gaiman books and try to find your perfect gateway to the world of phantasy.
5 Best Neil Gaiman Books: Detailed Reviews
1. Neverwhere – Best Book Overall
“Neverwhere” is a book with a complicated history. Initially, it started its life as a companion piece to the TV show of the same name. You would expect what seemed to be a glorified novelization of how almost forgotten series to fall flat on its face.
You would be wrong. Sure, the first edition of “Neverwhere” was a bit rough around the edges. But, through a couple of publishing iterations, Gaiman brought the book in the pristine shape we can read it now.
What is “Neverwhere” about? Well, much like other works of this author, “Neverwhere” deals with duality. In this case, those are London Above and London Below – a noir-ish twin brother of England’s capital populated with saints, angels, demons, knights, and numerous phantasy creatures.
The story follows Richard Mayhew, a young London-based businessman who enters London Bellow in an effort to save the girl named Door from two mysterious assassins. A classic noir plot that sends our straight hero down the spiral of mystery, explosive action, and right to the darkest bottom of the mysterious “Neverwhere.”
The heroes you will encounter here are interesting, villains some of the best Gaiman ever wrote, and writing is snappy and riddled with dry British humor.
So, if you want a dark take on “Alice in Wonderland” crossed with an explosive mystery thriller, this is the one for you.
- Excellent blend of genres
- Well-placed plot
- Intriguing characters
- Beautiful illustrations
- Excellent world-building
- Some aspects could be better fleshed out
2. American Gods – Best Premium Edition
If you ever watched the hugely popular “American Gods” TV show, we have some good news for you. The books are nothing like it. Sure, the basic plot beats are there, but the overall experience is wildly different. So, to get your Gaiman credentials straight, you need to read them both.
For those who have just tuned in, “American Gods” builds upon the ideas the author has already successfully explored in “Neverwhere.”
This time, our fish-out-of-water protagonist is the ex-convict Shadow Moon (yeah, he’s that cool) who is drawn into the brewing tensions between the Old Gods (Odin, Leprechaun, Easter, and so on), and the New Gods created by new trends in humanity (Media, Mr. World – a manifestation of contemporary globalization, Technical Boy, and others).
Since these gods gain power from the hopes and worship of humanity, the open warfare for the hearts and souls of human beings seems inevitable.
One of the great things about this book is that all these phantasy and high-concept creatures and deities are deeply rooted in the vivid Americana setting, which gives the author an excellent opportunity to play with their modern-setting takes.
And he surely does that. “American Gods” is a work graced with memorable characters, great plot, quirky humor, but a lot of emotional and grim elements along with each other.
If you have any interest in ancient mythology, this book is a must.
- A great blend of Americana and phantasy
- Classic characters in a new light
- Interesting plot
- Morally ambiguous and intriguing
- Knowledge of ancient mythology is preferred
- Dark, adult themes
3. Neil Gaiman’s Stardust – Affordable Pick for Younger Readers
If the name “Stardust” rings a bell in your head, you have probably seen the adaptation released to cinemas back in 2007 to generally positive reviews. And yeah, the movie was ok. The book, however, is simply excellent, so we recommend that you check it out – especially if you are a younger reader.
You see, “Stardust” is a book set in an incredibly imaginative Tolkien-esque world and is, by all intents and purposes, a tribute to classic English phantasy literature. Good guys are good, bad guys are bad, and it is up to the brave people to summon the strength to put an end on the dark forces plaguing their world.
The story of the book follows young Tristan Thorn, half-human, half-Faerie who needs to leave his small town in rural England to venture behind the Wall that separates our world and the world of magic to retrieve a fallen star to the love of his life Victoria.
On his quest, he will meet exotic phantasy creatures, come in clash with the warlords of the world beyond the Wall and encounter three powerful witches with mysterious motives.
As you can see, all these plot points are very familiar and straightforward. But they were written to be such, rather by ending up that way by accident.
“Stardust” is a warm and endlessly romantic love-letter to high-phantasy, Celtic mythology and classic literature. A perfect escapist journey for younger readers.
- Beautiful, well-crafted world
- Great first phantasy novel
- Soaked in Celtic lore
- Impressive illustrations
- Mostly for kids and young adults
4. Norse Mythology – A Book for History Buffs
As you can see from the previous couple reviews, Gaiman always had a very intimate relationship with ancient mythology and used every opportunity to sink his teeth into this topic.
Well, “Norse Mythology” is nothing but that. You have a great author who decided to retell some of the most beloved legends, epic poems, and tales from the European North and spice them up with a touch of intrigue and personal flavor.
The great thing about this is that Norse Mythology itself is already a fascinating saga composed of complex and troubled characters, massive battles, and world-ending events. With the things as they are, Gaiman was modest enough to take a back seat and let the Norse sagas tell their own epic story.
He merely adapted them for a modern audience.
Still, the recognizable writing style of this author can be found throughout the book, so you essentially get the best of both worlds. The main drawback that comes from this equation is that the level of enjoyment you will get out of the book will largely depend on your interest in the very Norse Mythology.
But, if you are a history buff or simply like exploring forgotten civilizations, this work will knock you out of the park.
For an extra reading challenge – whenever you encounter Loki and Thor, try not imagining Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in these roles. It’s way harder than it sounds.
- Norse Mythology is very impressive
- A timeless tale of good and evil
- Memorable characters
- A fresh take on old sagas
- A niche topic
5. 3-Book Box Set: Coraline; The Graveyard Book; Fortunately, the Milk – Best Present for Kids and Their Parents
This neat box set includes three popular books aimed primarily at younger readers.
“Coraline” is a story of a young girl who finds a secret door that brings her to the world not that different from their own, but only more exciting and graced with an engaged pair of parents. However, cracks soon start to show, and Coraline must find her way back from the creeping darkness of this alternate reality.
“The Graveyard Book” is a book about a young orphaned boy adopted by the ghosts of the nearby graveyard after his parents were murdered by a man in black. All in all, a great mystery with a lot of twists and turns.
Finally, “Fortunately, the Milk,” tells the story of an overworked father who goes to a nearby store to buy cereals and milk for his kids only to end up on a series of unexpected and exciting adventures, not all of which take place in the present day.
What brings all these stories together is dark, quirky humor, imaginative writing, and in-depth exploration of the relationship between parents and their kids.
This makes them interesting both for young readers who will be impressed by the wild imagination of these stories, but also to their parents, who will get an entirely different perspective.
The less we say about illustrations and book covers, the better.
- Great illustrations
- Suitably dark and moody
- For readers of all ages
- Affordable price
- We would like to see more books in the set
Things You Should Consider Before Going Through The Best Neil Gaiman Books
So, these were the top five recommendations. Which one of them would we recommend the most? We’ll see that further down below. But, before doing that, we will need to cover a couple of important things.
For instance, not even the best Neil Gaiman books will be everyone’s cup of tea. Some of them are written for a specific demographic and age group. Others are probably not the best gateway to first-time phantasy readers.
Also, much like all other products decorated with a price tag, books feature a set of properties that make them a good purchase or waste of money. We will go through them too. So, look at this as a short Neil Gaiman buying guide.
1. How Approachable It Is For A First-time Phantasy Reader
- Of course, you may already be a well-versed phantasy reader looking for a way to branch out and explore new territories.
- But, we have to admit that Gaiman’s body of work usually has surreal scenes, quirky humor, and sensitive subjects. All these things may seem off-putting to the people who are still exploring the genre. We did our best to point out these things in the reviews above.
- So, if you are on the fence about the whole thing, you should probably start with some more approachable titles.
2. The Topics And Age Considerations
- Although Gaiman’s books are well-written and genuine page-turners, the famous author didn’t shy away from some sensitive and age-inappropriate topics. If you are a younger book-lover or are buying the book as a present to a minor, these books are probably not the best pick.
- On the other hand, some of its titles are a pure child or young-adult fantasy. They may not prove to be the most engaging reading for the more seasoned book-lovers. Still, going down the memory lane and revisiting your inner child can be a more than pleasant experience.
- It’s really up to you and what do you want to get out of your next reading.
3. Ease Of Reading
- Here, we are not talking about the topics or some of Gaiman’s quirkier moments. We are just pointing out that some of the books are way harder to read than others. Usually, due to corner-cutting.
- For instance, one of the most common victims to this practice is Douglas Adams’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy.” Most of the publishers out there are releasing the entire series set in this universe squeezed between the covers one big, fat, book sold at an affordable price.
- Seems like a good purchase, right? Well, only if you can read microscopic letters and poor letters to paper contrast. Believe us, reading these cheap editions is a chore.
- Gaiman’s books are no stranger to this practice. So, check how the letters look and try reading a couple of passages under less than perfect lighting conditions before spending the money. Related: The Best Book Light
4. Hard-cover Vs. Paperback
- This argument is probably as old as the books themselves. You know the story – hard-covers are usually more traditional looking and can last for generations. Paperbacks are flashier, more contemporary, and far more affordable.
- What most of the avid book-lovers won’t tell you is that they can last pretty darn long – especially if you don’t read them too often, and put some effort into the maintenance.
- So, if you are not sure whether you want to complete Gaiman’s body of work on your shelf or give phantasy a second chance at all, paperbacks do some like a more worthwhile purchase. As for avid collectors among you – hard-covers are your only choice.
5. Cover Design
- Here, things are very simple. Well-designed covers will look great when you put them on the shelf. And, call us shallow, but they are for some weird reason just more comfortable to pick up and read.
- We will use this opportunity to alert you to another thing we simply can’t stand – movie and TV show-inspired covers. Avoid them like the plague. Sure, they will look cool the year when the show or the film was released, and publishers will certainly use this opportunity to milk the wide audience of its money.
- But believe us, they will become dated in a matter of years if not months. When this honeymoon is over, you will probably do your best to hide them away from your judgmental guests.
See Also: The Best Anger Management Books
Final Thoughts And Recommendations
And now it’s finally the time to see which one of these best Neil Gaiman books makes the most worthwhile purchase. Our job here was near impossible. All these works have their own distinctive flavor and are all flawlessly written.
But, we had to single out three of them, so we went with things like price, cover design, and broad appeal. Still, all these five books (and sets) should be on your reading list.
With that out of the way, here are the top three books that should enter your collection first.
The best book overall: Neverwhere
- This decision may be a bit controversial, but then again, all of the books we covered above are “the best book overall.” What made us push “Neverwhere” to the number one spot is the beautiful world the story takes place in, great characters, and a cohesive mix of genres you will hardly find anywhere else. In short, “Neverwhere” has something for everyone.
Best premium purchase: American Gods
- In comparison to “Neverwhere,” “American Gods” definitely seems like a more polished and fleshed out book. But, on the other hand, the narrative is decisively darker, the themes it explores more complex, morally dubious, and provocative. And then, there is the adult content. That doesn’t change the fact “American Gods” is a terrific book. But, probably not for everyone.
Best affordable pick: Neil Gaiman’s Stardust
- “Stardust” is a phantasy book for the people who have never read phantasy. Or heave read it to the point where they can truly appreciate all small nods and homages in this story. Either way, the story itself is warm and easy to read. This specific edition spices everything up with an affordable price and imaginative illustration. Great deal if you ask us.