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13 Stellar Books Recommended by Neil Gaiman

By Stephanie Brown

Let the storytelling maestro guide you to your next great read.

Hugo Award–winning author Neil Gaiman is one of the top fantasy writers working today. Not only has the pioneering artist written across multiple mediums and genres — beginning as a journalist before moving into comics, graphic novels, children’s books, speculative fiction narratives, and fantasy film and television — he’s also a voracious reader who credits his literary success to the librarians who fostered his passion for books.

Whether you have a dog-eared copy of American Gods on your nightstand or you just binged The Sandman on Netflix, you’re sure to find something wondrous on our list of books recommended by Neil Gaiman.

The Kingdoms of Savannah

By George Dawes Green

Beneath the surface of this modern Southern mystery by George Dawes Green is a nuanced exploration of Savannah’s dark and complicated history. Gaiman praises Green’s beguiling new detective novel as “the apotheosis of Southern Gothic Noir,” particularly the way the author casts the city of Savannah as both its setting and its anchor. While it “reads like a thriller,The Kingdoms of Savannah is really “about a place and the people in that place.” Gaiman goes on to celebrate the rich tapestry of local history and lore threaded throughout Kingdoms, saying that this novel “could only have been written by someone who knows Savannah and its stories intimately and wants them to be told.”

Horns

By Joe Hill

Joe Hill’s second novel is about a man who embarks on a bender on the one-year anniversary of his girlfriend’s murder. He awakes the next day with a splitting headache and discovers he’s sprouted horns. Not just horns, but horns with otherworldly powers that will help him get revenge on whoever killed his beloved. Publishers Weekly hails Horns as a “compulsively readable supernatural thriller… that’s both morbidly amusing and emotionally resonant.” The Pittsburgh Tribune declares that the bestselling horror book places Hill “in the same realm as Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Lethem, and Stephen King.” Gaiman, for his part, commends Hill as “an immensely powerful writer” while recommending Horns for One Grand Books. The book was made into a 2013 film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple — check it out if you’re a fan of scary books and scary movies.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

By Susanna Clarke

Gaiman enthusiastically recommends Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, hailing it as “the finest work of English fantasy written in the past 70 years.” He’s praised the novel in interviews, on social media, and even in a full-length Guardian article from 2015. Gaiman has said that he “enjoyed every page” of the magical 782-page novel, “and when the book was done, I could have happily read 782 more.” Clarke’s Hugo Award–winning fantasy narrative is likened to a Jane Austen novel intermixed with magic. It opens at the start of the 19th century and follows two magicians as they attempt to bring magic back to England and defeat France in the Napoleonic Wars.

Lord of Light

By Roger Zelazny

Gaiman has recommended this astonishing sci-fi novel across multiple outlets, praising Roger Zelazny as an author who makes myths “real and valuable” in a way no other writer could. Lord of Light blends Eastern religion and mythology with futuristic technology into a stellar swirl of religion, tech, humanity, power, and ethics. Set in the distant future on a planet colonized by humans, the narrative centers on a group of colonists who have used advanced technology to transform themselves into all-powerful gods of the Hindu pantheon. The story follows one such human/god named Sam, who decides to oppose the existing order and take them down. Gaiman calls Lord of Light “funny, wise, and infused with a sense of wonder and knowledge.”

The City We Became

By N.K. Jemisin

Hugo Award–winning author N.K. Jemisin is one of literature’s brightest stars. Critics and readers alike love Jemisin for her ability to mix cultural criticism and examinations of the human condition with thrilling sci-fi and fantasy spectacles. Gaiman is among her fans, and he praised The City We Became as a “glorious fantasy” that “manages to contain both Borges and Lovecraft in its fabric” while possessing a “unique voice and viewpoint” that’s Jemisin’s alone. The bestselling novel touches on identity, privilege, and race as it explores present-day New York City through an otherworldly lens. Five different New Yorkers unexpectedly transform into avatars of the city itself, one avatar for each of the city’s five boroughs. The story follows the individuals as they unite to protect New York from ancient, city-devouring Lovecraftian monsters.

Lud-in-the-Mist

By Hope Mirrlees

A nearly 100-year-old classic, Hope Mirrlees’s Lud-in-the-Mist is another book Gaiman frequently recommends. The author calls it “a little golden miracle of a book” that doubles as his “favourite fairy tale/detective novel/history/fantasy.” The timeless tale brims with baroque language as it whisks readers away to a fantastical land inhabited by characters like Diggory Carp and Hyacinth Baldbreeches. Similar to other novels on this list, Lud-in-the-Mist explores magic lost and found as it follows a set of villagers who exist on the threshold of the faerie realm and rational world.

The Norse Myths

By Kevin Crossley-Holland

If there’s anyone we trust to recommend the best collection of Norse myths, it’s Neil Gaiman. After all, Gaiman published his own rendition of the eternal tales, Norse Mythology, in 2017. Of Kevin Crossley-Holland’s version, however, Gaiman has this to say: “My Norse Mythology is good. Penguin Book of the Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland is terrific.” High praise, indeed! This gorgeous edition of Crossley-Holland’s work is perfect for the true mythology lover, as it draws on an array of historical sources to re-create 32 classic Norse myths that feature familiar characters like Odin, Thor, and Loki. While Gaiman’s book is perhaps more accessible, Crossley-Holland’s skills as a poet and historical novelist add a grandiosity befitting such larger-than-life tales.

Alec: The Years Have Pants

By Eddie Campbell

Eddie Campbell and Neil Gaiman collaborated on the celebrated graphic novel The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, so it comes as no surprise that Gaiman is a fan of Campbell’s work, including Alec: The Years Have Pants. The wry, genre-bending graphic novel chronicles Campbell’s life through his alter ego, Alec MacGarry, as Alec transitions from the wild nights of youth to the sober mornings of adulthood. Campbell shines at blending the bizarre with the quotidian in this “great and epic comic documentary novel like no other” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Gaiman, for his part, toasts Alec as “probably the best book-length comic about art and wine and midlife crises and families and friends and wine and love and art and saying goodbye and terror there is.”

Bleak House

By Charles Dickens

Bleak House by Charles Dickens is another of Gaiman’s beloved literary classics; in fact, Gaiman penned an entire blog post praising the “glorious” audiobook edition of Bleak House for helping him get through treadmill workouts and pulling him into Dickens’s rich and evocative narrative world. If that weren’t enough, Gaiman also cheekily reminds us that Bleak House “has Fog and Spontaneous Human Combustion and Death and Mysteries.” For those unacquainted with the epic tale, Bleak House explores big-picture issues of poverty, wealth, and class through one family’s interminable inheritance dispute. Originally published as a 20-part serial, the resulting novel is now considered one of Dickens’s best.

Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

By Katherine Rundell

Neil Gaiman is a Newbery and Carnegie Award–winning author of multiple children’s and YA works, including The Graveyard Book and Coraline. He takes children’s literature seriously, and so it follows that he recommends this book-length essay by award-winning children’s author Katherine Rundell. In Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Rundell stresses the importance of children’s literature for kids and adults. “Ignore those who would call it mindless escapism,” she argues, “it’s not escapism: It is findism. Children’s books are not a hiding place, they are a seeking place.” When Rundell’s book was published, Gaiman tweeted: “There is so much wisdom and so much that matters inside the covers of this very tiny book. I want to buy a copy for every adult I know who doesn’t read children’s books.”

The Book of the New Sun series

By Gene Wolfe

In his introduction to the 2022 two-volume Folio Society edition of The Book of the New Sun series, Neil Gaiman writes that “reading Gene Wolfe is dangerous work. It’s a knife-throwing act, and like all good knife-throwing acts, you may lose fingers, toes, earlobes, or eyes in the process.” In a 2019 essay for the TLS, Gaiman credited the book series with changing the way he understands literature, telling readers that if they crack open the series, they will “return a changed and wiser person.” Wolfe’s epic sci-fi fantasy series is set one million years in the future and follows Severian, a torturer who has been banished after falling in love with one of his victims. Gaiman is not alone in his acclaim for the book: Publishers Weekly calls it “a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis.”

Pattern Recognition

By William Gibson

William Gibson is widely credited with pioneering the cyberpunk genre via novels like Neuromancer and Count Zero. In more recent years, however, Gibson has published increasingly realistic literary fiction set in recognizably contemporary worlds. The acclaimed Pattern Recognition (2003) is the first of these novels. Sensing the tonal shift, Gaiman praised Pattern Recognition as “William Gibson’s best book since he rewrote all the rules in Neuromancer.” The story follows Cayce Pollard, a famous “coolhunter” who predicts the next hottest trend and is tasked with locating the creator of a puzzling video clip circulating online. This mystery sends her on a journey around the world and into a vortex of marketing, globalization, and terror.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams

Perhaps no other writer has impacted Gaiman’s life quite like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy scribe Douglas Adams; in fact, Adams was Gaiman’s first interview subject when Gaiman started out as a journalist. In 1986, Gaiman wrote Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion. After Adams’s death in 2001, Gaiman movingly reflected on the author’s life and work, and he later penned an intro to a new Hitchhiker’s Guide compendium. In considering Adams’s influence and the portal-opening power of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, Gaiman proposed that Adams was “a Futurologist, or an Explainer… Someone whose dreams and ideas, practical or impractical, are always the size of a planet, and who is going to keep going forward, and taking the rest of us with him.” Hitchhiker’s Guide follows the galactic misadventures of earthling Arthur Dent, the planet’s sole survivor after Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace highway bypass. Dent is rescued by Ford Prefect, a humanoid alien and travel guide writer who teaches him about the ways of the galaxy as the two embark on a series of space adventures.

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