Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman is an award-winning English author best known for his fantasy novels and short fiction stories.
Most of his works have mythological undertones, magic, macabre themes, and dark fantasy.
His stories are highly inventive for varying audience ranging from children to adult. Most of his children’s stories are painted with dark themes, death, and the supernatural with characters way more frightening and realistic than the classic children’s stories.
His adult book and graphic novels have strong references to mythology and DC Universe.
Neil Gaiman has written many novels and short fictions. If you’re overwhelmed, with no idea where to start or which one to read next, check out the list below for my top recommendations.
Best Neil Gaiman Novels
Coraline has nothing to do.
She and her parents have just moved into their new flat, but her parents are very busy. Unoccupied, Coraline decides to explore around their new (but old) home, and upon doing so, discovers a passage to the other world. There, she sees a flat like their new home—and parents like her own! Except that they slightly differ in height and complexion, not to mention their black button eyes.
Having been given the attention, good food, and plenty of toys, Coraline seems to have found a better world—or so she thought.
An absolutely (and creepily) beautiful story with the addition of marvelous illustrations, this book brings the readers a perspective of a child—young, wanting, intelligent, and curious.
This isn’t a typical children’s book that parents would probably choose for tonight’s bedtime story. It is eerie and dark, and it delves deeply into a child’s fear in a similar way that it attests to their courage to face it.
I highly recommend this for the brave young (and young at heart) souls out there!
Adaptation: Coraline (2009 stop-motion film); comic book adaptation illustrated by Philip Craig Russell and lettered by Todd Klein; Coraline (2009 musical); Coraline: The Game (2009 video game for PS2, Wii, and Nintendo DS)
This book was awarded the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella, 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella, and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers.
The world is ending. In 7 days, to be exact.
The key to stopping this apocalypse is in the hands of the Anti-Christ, being raised by the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley. For ten years, they educate the Anti-Christ in a way that, for the obvious reason that both have come to like their comfortable life on earth, the child will not be able to distinguish good and evil, hence sabotaging the impending apocalypse.
But there’s a problem: they got the wrong child. And they only have a few days to find the real Anti-Christ before the world ends.
This is the first ever novel Neil Gaiman has written. There’s so much more going on in this novel, and I swear, it’s a fun and hilarious ride, with a humorous take on religion and the mortal race.
I recommend this comedy novel as an excellent introduction to Neil Gaiman.
Adaptation/related works: Good Omens (2019 TV Series)
This novel was a runner-up for the 1991 Best Fantasy Novel.
Shadow Moon is released from prison, but he finds out that he no longer has a life to return to; his wife, Laura, was having an affair with his best friend, and the two both died in a car accident. Soon after, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, a con man who persistently offered him a job to be his bodyguard. Is that all there is to Mr. Wednesday and his job offer?
This fantasy horror novel is filled with strange characters and bizarre turn of events that are more entertaining than horrifying. The story has a lot of mythological references, a hybrid of history and the modern.
Be warned of some detailed descriptions that may or may not be too disturbing for you.
Adaptations/related works: American Gods (2017 TV Series); American Gods: Shadows (2017 comic book series); American Gods (2017 collectors edition)
This book was awarded the 2001 Bram Stoker Award for Novel, 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel, 2002 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and 2003 Geffen Award.
Nobody Owens is a normal boy. Besides the fact that he lives in a graveyard, raised by the ghosts inhabiting the place, and has supernatural beings as guardians, he is a normal boy.
Orphaned at an early age after the murder of his family, he is found and raised by Mrs. Owens and her husband, Mr. Owens. What awaits the life of this young boy in and outside the graveyard? And what has become of his family’s murderer who might still be in search for the last surviving member of the family he should have completely wiped out?
Probably the closest to get to Coraline, this book focuses more on Bod and his adventure as a young boy. The story has The Jungle Book vibe and Neil Gaiman himself said that it was the inspiration behind the story, but graveyard edition. Neil Gaiman doesn’t hesitate to incorporate death in his plot as usual.
If you love Coraline, this book is for you!
Adaptation/related works: Last 2018, it was mentioned that the movie adaptation of The Graveyard Book is still in the works.
This novel has received numerous awards including 2008 Cybils Award for fantasy and Science Fiction, 2009 Newbery Medal, 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novel, 2009 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book, 2010 Carnegie Medal, and 2010 SFX Award for Best Novel.
Tristran is in love, and he will stop at nothing to win the heart of the beautiful Victoria Forester, to the point that he foolishly promises to fetch her the falling star that landed in the unexplored land of Fairie. Willing to cross the border that divides the world they live in and the unknown beyond the wall, Tristran begins his almost impossible search for the star.
A magical book of fairies, Stardust tells a tale of true love and exploration of a world beyond imagination.
I would say the writing style in this book is different than the previous Gaiman’s works that I’ve read. It’s undoubtedly beautifully written, but I find it more difficult to read.
The surprising thing about this is the highly praised movie adaptation of the film. I myself prefer the movie than the novel, although I rarely do.
If you’re new to Neil Gaiman, reading this book might not be a good start, but you may want to check out the movie instead if you find the plot particularly interesting.
This book is more recommended for those who have read a few of Gaiman’s work, and for those who are into fantasy romance.
Adaptation/related works: Stardust (2007 film)
This novel received the 1999 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the 2000 Alex Award.
The story begins with the return of a now-successful middle-aged artist to the place where he grew up. There, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road. As he sits near the pond, memories start to resurface —a young boy’s memory of a frightening past and a young girl and her family who provided him safety.
The bittersweet story is told in the eyes of a young boy as he witnesses the rough world of adults and gets entwined in a magical conflict.
Neil Gaiman beautifully combines fantasy and human experience, and shows how they perfectly manifest into the reality of human life.
Adaptation/related works: The National Theatre announced an upcoming stage adaptation of the novel at the Dorfman Theatre, London. It will run from December 3, 2019 until January 25, 2020.
This novel is the recipient of 2013 National Book Awards (Book of the Year), 2013 Kirkus Reviews, The Best Books of 2013, and 2014 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.
In the beginning, an angel is murdered, and Raguel is tasked to find the culprit.
In the present time, a young British man encounters Raguel, who is now a lost angel drifting on the LA street. This young man is told of the story of the first murder in heaven.
Although it’s a short story with 64 pages, this book touches upon several themes and asks questions about the will and obedience.
The comic book version has received the 2003 Spectrum Award.
A beautiful retelling of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. His prose and writing style gives life to the Norse deities whose stories are masterfully written in arcs, that of a novel, while staying true to the original.
Much like an anthology of Norse gods, the Norse Mythology piques the interest of mythology learners, students, or even those who are just generally avid fans and lovers of fiction and myth stories.
Adaptation/related works: 90-minute audio adaptation broadcasted by BBC Radio 4 (2018)
The audio version narrated by Neil Gaiman won the 2018 Audie Award for Narration by the Author.
Fat Charlie’s father had a shameful death; he died of a heart attack while singing in a karaoke bar. Forced to put his wedding preparation on hold, Fat Charlie travels to Florida to attend his father’s funeral. But he gets more than, including the truth beyond belief that his father, Mr. Nancy, was the spider god Anansi.
Furthermore, Fat Charlie has a brother who inherited the divine power. What happens when Charlie finally meets his brother, Spider?
Anansi Boys is a relaxing and enjoyable read that is less plot-heavy. The whole thing about Charlie’s life turned upside-down, one after the other is such a fun roller-coaster ride for me as a reader. The clever humor is probably the element that distinguishes this book from the rest.
Honestly, if you are not up for novels that aren’t as well-developed as the American Gods (and by the way, this is not a sequel to American Gods series), this novel might still be a good read, but not as satisfying as the highly acclaimed series.
Adaptation/related works: 6-part BBC Radio Drama; it was reported that BBC will eventually adapt a mini-TV series, but the project hasn’t been commenced yet.
This novel has been a recipient of the 2006 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, 2006 August Derleth Award, and 2006 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.
Best Neil Gaiman Graphic Novel/Novel Series
If you prefer reading series and trilogy, here is the perfect list for you:
To attain immortality, Roderick Burgess desires to capture Death and bargain for eternal life. In his attempt, however, he inadvertently captures Dream instead, Death’s brother. Fearing he’ll get punished, he holds Dream captive for many years, a task which he passes on to his son, Alex. After long years of imprisonment, Dream finally escapes, leaves Alex punished, and ventures on to retrieve his objects of power.
This specific installment mainly focuses on Dream’s journey to find his missing tools. It certainly is a prelude to a bigger plot, although it goes into the storytelling of Dream’s weakened state’s backstory.
A perfect manifestation of emerging genres, this book combines elements from mythological antecedents with the contemporary DC universe. Gaiman’s quest narration of an occult genre paces well with the dark yet dreamy illustrations.
I highly recommend this to occult genre fans and graphic novel enthusiasts!
Book/series info: Preludes and Nocturnes includes the 1st to 8th issues of the original series.
Richard Mayhew, who lives a perfectly normal and ordinary life, knows nothing of the strange wounded girl on the sidewalk—but he helps her anyway.
Little did he know that this act of kindness will make him lose everything and will bring him to Neverwhere, a strange and new world—a version of subterranean London— home to Door, the girl he had helped, and is inhabited by the people “who fell through the cracks in the world.” He sets on a journey to reclaim what he has lost, and maybe even to save the world which existence he knew nothing of before.
Written in the usual Neil Gaiman formula of dark and urban fantasy, Neverwhere is recommended for those who love the genre.
Adaptation/related works: 2013 Radio Adaptation by BBC
It is said that once every century, Death takes her usual stroll on earth as a human to better understand and experience the mundane life of being a mortal.
As a human, she is the normal teenage girl named Didi– except that she is also an attractive, friendly, and perky goth girl, surprising and unimaginable for Death.
In her human journey, she meets Sexton Furnival, a suicidal—not to mention, bored—teenage boy. What can this encounter possibly change in a single day?
The art that gave an image to these characters is simply gorgeous. The story, though not as complex and well-developed as The Sandman series, touches upon some of the most important life and societal issues. You will love Death’s character: how she’s perky, smart, and lovable in every way.
I would say that overall, this is an absolutely recommended read for anyone who has read The Sandman series. The plot may not be at par with The Sandman, but you will enjoy reading a story that places Death into the center stage.
For new readers, reading this won’t spoil the plot of the other series, so it shouldn’t be a problem, though I would recommend putting this aside and trying something else if you’re looking for a story that will blow your mind.
Book/novel info: There are two books in this spin-off series featuring Death.
There isn’t just one world existing, and Joey Harker, your average kid, is aware that the world he lives in is only one of the many existing alternate universes, each of their own kind and governed differently. One thing is certain though: all worlds are in danger.
To maintain the balance in the world, Joey Harker meets the alternate versions of himself from different parallel worlds to combat the evil forces that threaten the balance.
The premise is very unique and clever. If you’ve read The Sandman Series or American Gods, this might not surpass the bars those two series have set, although it’s definitely recommended for those who love YA and science fiction series.
Book/series info: InterWorld series is a trilogy.
Best Neil Gaiman's Children's Short Stories
Neil Gaiman has written a lot of award-winning children’s books.
Here is a list for your reference:
Lucy tries to warn her family that wolves are coming, as she hears wolves in the walls of their house, but they don’t believe her. One day, the wolves finally come out of the wall.
Adaptation/related works: The Wolves in the Walls (2006 musical pandemonium)
Award-winning children’s book and recipient of the 2003 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, 2003 British Science Fiction Association Award for Short Fiction, and 2004 IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Award
This is the story of a young boy who sells his father in exchange for two goldfish. When his mother finds out what he did, she tells him to retrieve their father.
The story goes on with the young boy and his sister’s journey to reclaim their father by swapping with different young people.
This book won the 1997 British Science Fiction Award for Short Fiction and 2003 Newsweek Best Children’s Book.
The young queen, hesitantly preparing for her wedding, is alerted by her dwarfs that a sleeping plague is spreading across the kingdom. She postpones, quite gladly and relieved, her wedding and sets on a journey to know more about the mysterious magical curse.
Upon doing so, they stumble upon a castle where a princess slumbers. Is the princess in need of rescuing?
The story depicts a familiar theme of freedom and making choices, underscoring various narratives about identity. The stunning mix of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, two classic fairytales, gives an unexpected twist.
This story is the winner of the 2014 Locus Award for Best Novelette and 2016 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016.
Father went out to buy the milk that he has forgotten to get. After a while more, Father returns, and, with a carton of milk in his hand, tells the story of what took him so long.
This short story won the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Locus Award for Best Short Story.
A wish for blessings in the form of poems, this is a small book volume of all things pleasant to be wished for a growing child, a poem of hope to a beautiful childhood and dreams fulfilled.
Awarded the 2009 Goodreads Choice Award for Picture Book.
Odd has run away from home.
Since the death of his father and his mother’s remarriage, he is often neglected. With a crutch for his crushed foot, Odd leaves home to the forest, where he encounters the Norse Gods trapped in animal form.
This begins Odd’s adventure to battle and outwit the Frost Giants.
A cute and relatively milder among Neil Gaiman’s other works, this book incorporates the famous Gaiman mythology formula.
Recipient of 2010 Audie Award for Narration by the Author or Authors and finalist for the Indies Choice Middle-Grade Book of the Year
Enn narrates about the party he attended with his friend, Vic.
Thirty years ago, these two boys go to party expecting to meet and mingle with girls. But the girls aren’t what they expected.
Adaptation/related works: How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017 film)
This story won the 2007 Locus Award for Best Short Story and was nominated for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.
Best Neil Gaiman's Collection of Short Stories
For readers who prefer the short story collections instead of individual copies, here is a list of book collections:
This collection includes short stories and poems. Notable story included is the Murder Mysteries.
Includes a commentary section about Neverwhere and the award-winning short story, How to Talk to Girls in Parties.
This book collection received the 2007 Locus Award for Best Collection.
A collection of 23 short stories previously published, this book includes horror stories, science fictions, fairytales, and other genres that make up the Gaiman writing formula.
Also included in this collection is his own Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Case of Death and Honey.