• Last updatedLast updated: Dec 13, 2020

5 Thrilling Neil Gaiman Books That Are Worth Reading

In my previous reviews, I’ve already mentioned I’m an avid Harry Potter series fan. However, I can’t say that my addiction to something magical, marvelous, and mythical is limited to J.K. Rowling. There’s a number of other no less talented and beloved authors, and Neil Gaiman is one of them. In this article, I’ll share my absolute favs, each with a little non-spoiler synopsis, as well as my thoughts and critique. Prepare for a little journey into the world of the best Neil Gaiman books.

Editor's Choice

A fast-paced story with good morals, an eerie plot, and lovely characters that you’ll love from the very start

Read My Review
9.9
Best Nostalgic Book

Dive into the memories of a middle-aged man who still remembers what it is like to be a child in the world of adults

Read My Review
9.7
Best Setting

A creepy, yet so fun-to-read story about an orphaned boy who was adopted by a couple of ghosts

Read My Review
9.0
Best Neil’s Urban Fantasy

In this book, you’ll find yourself in the Under London filled with terrible sewer-dwellers, monsters, and ordinary people searching for truth and justice

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8.6
The Biggest Hype

A novel that inspired a TV series of the same name and got multiple awards; read it to judge if it deserves it all

Read My Review
6.3

Top 5 Neil Gaiman Books Review 2020

1.

CoralineEditor's Choice

Features
  • Plot rating: 10
  • Captivating: 9.8
  • Easy to read: 9.9
  • Recommended age: 8+
  • Publication date: 2004

My first acquaintance with Coraline was in a theatre. I was in middle school, and we had some sort of a tradition with my friends/classmates: every week or so, we gathered together to watch something new in our local cinema. Often, it would happen after a long school day (morning, to be precise), and spending the other half of the day in a magical atmosphere of a movie hall, a bucket of popcorn, and your close friends by your side – what on earth could be better?

We watched Coraline on one of such days. It wasn’t a spontaneous decision, though: we knew it was coming out since back in those days, we’d already been Tim Burton’s fans, and this movie reminded us of his creations. I won’t describe my impressions of the film in detail, I’ll only say that it seemed enchanting, thrilling, and, well, horrifying. Even for kids raised on The Saw movies.

No wonder that when I found out the movie was based on a book, I bought it right away. I remember it took less than 3 evenings to finish it – yes, it’s a children’s book written in a rather easy language, but mainly it was the plot that kept my eyes glued to every page till the very end.

Coraline moves to a new house together with her parents. The house is huge, it’s an old mansion turned into several apartments. Coraline’s parents are too busy with creating a gardening catalog, so their daughter has too much spare time to explore the new surroundings.

Soon she realizes that the house has fourteen doors, and one of them is obviously different as there’s a brick wall behind it. Despite all the precautions, the girl decides to get inside, led by her curiosity. The door leads Coraline to an alternative world where it’s seemingly the same house, same people, and pets, but everyone has buttons instead of their eyes.

At first, this new world seems so much brighter and happier – neighbors are all friendly and hospitable, while Coraline’s alternative parents dedicate all their time to her. However, soon, Coraline finds out that everything is different from what it seems, and it requires much bravery and wit to escape this horrifying world, save previous kids’ lost souls, and get back to normal life.

The story will not only make you thrilled waiting for the climax with impatience; it’s also a fantastic read for kids and their parents alike that teaches the value of family, devoted friends, empathy, and mutual understanding.

Pros
  • Marvelous story for kids and their parents alike
  • Fantastic plot
  • Teaches the value of family relations and more
Cons
  • Might not impress you that much if you first read it as an adult
2.

The Ocean at the End of the LaneBest Nostalgic Book

Features
  • Plot rating: 9.8
  • Captivating: 9.6
  • Easy to read: 9.8
  • Recommended age: 18+
  • Publication date: 2013

For those starting to forget (forgot long time ago) what it’s like to be a kid, my next pick is created for you. Initially meant as a short story, this book turned into a novel, a rather short, however (just 181 pages). Nevertheless, its length didn’t result in a lack of thoughts, events, and a terrible, yet nostalgic plot.

The book starts with a rather dark but not somewhat mythical event – a funeral. A middle-aged man (whose name we don’t know), returns to the Sussex countryside to attend it, and – gets lost in his memories. A few decades have passed, the house he used to live in is gone; however, something is calling for him. He walks a long-forgotten path that leads to a pond at the end of the road.

When he was a 7-year-old kid, something terrible happened. A man committed a suicide, which led to a series of incomprehensible events. Truly dark, mysterious, even horrible. Luckily, he wasn’t left alone face to face with his fears. He met Lettie Hempstock, an 11-year-old girl who lived on the farm near that pond together with her mom and grandmother.

Lettie was the character I absolutely fell in love with. A wise young lady, brave, and outrageous, with incomparable imagination and an ability to think far beyond her years. She promised to keep the boy away from his fears, teaching him to see the beauty in everything that surrounds him and take happiness from everywhere, even if it seems there’s none left.

A charming nostalgic atmosphere of the main character’s childhood will keep you interested in each and every moment of his recollection. Many will probably remember themselves when walking through this boy’s thoughts; every child creates his world around him, full of their own dreams, hopes, and beliefs – so essential while the adult world still seems scary and uninviting. But does this world fully disappear as we grow older? After all, are there adults, or just children with their own inner world, dreams, and hopes, captured in a grown-up body?

Pros
  • Incredibly thrilling
  • Warm, nostalgic childhood recollections
  • Ideal for feeling oneself a little one again
  • Very quick and easy to read
Cons
  • Wish the story was written from Lettie’s perspective
3.

The Graveyard BookBest Setting

Features
  • Plot rating: 9.6
  • Captivating: 9.2
  • Easy to read: 8.2
  • Recommended age: 8+
  • Publication date: 2008

I don’t usually listen to audiobooks. However, The Graveyard Book was one of such. I had to spend two days on a train, and when it got dark, this audiobook was my rescue (I don’t usually sleep on a train, so at night, it gets too boring). Probably the atmosphere played its role as well; however, I was delighted by the Gaiman’s narrative and the story itself, of course.

The story is written from the main character’s perspective. The boy’s name is Nobody Ownes (cool name, right? – the boy reminds of no one but himself). Everyone calls him Bod, anyway. The whole story starts with a homicide – the entire Bod’s family is brutally killed by a man whose name was Jack (an allusion to you know who).

At this point, the most interesting (and unexpectedly hilarious at times!) part starts. The orphaned kid is adopted by a couple of ghosts. Graveyard becomes his home. A vampire is his guardian and mentor. There, he grows up, gets his education, and gets acquainted with all the “evil” of the Other world. However, at the end, he realizes that it’s the human world that is filled with pain, cruelty, and terror.

The book has an incomparable, dark-fantasy plot which is interesting to plunge into just because of its uniqueness. Each chapter is a snippet of the boy’s most remarkable adventures, which give you the idea of what a brave, curious, loyal, and caring kid (a young adult at the end) Bod is.

Pros
  • Keeps you captivated throughout the story
  • Sweet, magical, and creepy childhood memories
  • Filled with the right morals
Cons
  • Not very fast-paced
4.

NeverwhereBest Neil’s Urban Fantasy

Features
  • Plot rating: 8.3
  • Captivating: 8.2
  • Easy to read: 9.2
  • Recommended age: 14+
  • Publication date: 1996

A book that I love because of its main character. No, he’s not someone you should want to be alike; he’s an ordinary man, with a ton of flaws and fears which he’s not trying to hide, and that’s exactly what makes him so appealing.

Richard Mayhew was quite content with his life: a good job (he didn’t hate it, so thank you very much), a nice apartment, and a fiancée who he preferred to consider lovely and caring. One day an injured girl falls down at his feet on pavement. The mystic vibes start right here: only Richard can quite see the girl, while his fiancée can’t.

He tries to help the girl who leaves him after a couple of days for the Under-London – a city filled with sewer-dwellers: eerie creatures, monsters, and saints. Soon, to his horror, Richard realizes that people stopped noticing him, just like that injured girl (Door was her name). Door allows him to join her crew and visit the Under-London, which he hopes will help him get back to his normal life.

I love that Gaiman shows his fantasy world in a different, not classical manner. He could easily settle his book with elves and gnomes and formally that would be enough to call it a fantasy. However, in this book especially, he goes further: his eerie creatures appear not just to create that supernatural creepy atmosphere, but to show the existing, modern reality through the lens of magic and mystery.

Pros
  • Finally, an “everyman” hero
  • Filled with good humor
  • Twisted plot
Cons
  • The main character doesn’t evolve too much
  • Rather predictable climax
5.

American GodsThe Biggest Hype

Features
  • Plot rating: 5.2
  • Captivating: 8.6 (the premise)
  • Easy to read: 5.1
  • Recommended age: 18+
  • Publication date: 2001

I know some of you were expecting to see this book on the list. The American Gods is probably Gaiman’s most popular novel in the last three years, thanks to the TV series based on it. Wondering why didn’t I rate it the highest?

The main character, Shadow, is released from prison, where he spent three years. A few days prior, his wife is killed in a car accident. Broken and lost, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday, who offers him the job of his bodyguard. Later it turns out that Mr. Wednesday is an incarnation of Odin (God), who’s preparing for a war between the Old Gods and the New Gods of Media and Money by collecting as many worshippers as he can.

The setting sounded thrilling and captivating. I was expecting more thoughts of the modern-technologies-and-human-jealousy-ruin-the-world type, but, unfortunately, the book didn’t live up to my expectations.

The most disappointing thing for me was the inconsistency of the narrative. I was lost in words and events every now and again, so I just couldn’t follow the plot the way I’m used to. I do realize, however, that it’s some sort of a writing manner that adds to the overall darkness and mystery. It’s just not my sort of thing.

Also, the book contains a thought which I personally didn’t quite get. Or, more likely, got, but don’t share whatsoever. Every Odin has a representative in each country (continent?). What can be more destructive than the thought that each nation/race has its own God, meaning, logically, that there’re some differences in their morals and values. I prefer to think that we’re all sisters and brothers, with the same human good and evil, no matter what race or nationality you are. Correct me if I got the idea wrong.

Despite my low rating, I do recommend you give this book a chance since the story as well as the TV series has an army of fans all over the world for a reason. Just, probably, not my type of Neil’s fantasy.

Pros
  • Interesting premise
  • New, adult kind of Gaiman
Cons
  • Inconsistent plot
  • Difficult to follow
  • Has some questionable thoughts in it

Conclusion

I believe the article will be updated soon as my love for Neil’s fantasy doesn’t seem to fade. Right now, I’m on his another well-known novel, Stardust, which, I believe, will soon be added to the list. So, in case you’re looking for something to start with, I’d recommend The Graveyard Book for its beautiful and creepy setting, and the thrilling narrative, which shows Gaiman’s unique style at its most. Coraline is an incredible read for both kids and adults; though there’re many hidden, complex ideas, adults will be able to fully understand. For a quick read, don’t overlook The Ocean at the End of the Lane that, despite being a short novel, is packed with nostalgic, sweet, and mysterious events that will remind you of your childhood in many ways.

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