1. The Graveyard Book: Never mind that this book is suited for children. Its scope and expertly crafted tale does exactly what so many pieces of literature strive to do; it makes us examine our mortality, and from that startling examination, we come out with an understanding of our finite nature as human beings, but a resolve to capitalize on every moment of our lives. We cannot escape the grey lady, but we can leave no path untaken, as Bod promises his mother. So many of us have had a Silas in our lives, someone who seems utterly untouched by time or emotion, and serves as a moral pillar for us. If you have never read Neil Gaiman, this is a wondrous place to start. Not too dark, but such that you will never forget the story of Bod. Even better, if you have the time, listen to Neil Gaiman himself read the story. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Neil Gaiman reads all of his own work, with the finesse and will to captivate as many of the best actors in the world. Hearing Neil Gaiman read, which many of us will never have the privilege to do (his readings sell out immediately), we are lucky enough to pay $20 and hear him read the adventures of Bod, and several others. Was there ever such an entertainer, such an author to breathe life into his characters and their stories? Not in recent memories. Listen, and you will see.
3. Morpheus: Have you met Morpheus? The Sandman Chronicles began in October 1988, a re-imagining of a comic of the same name that was charged to Neil Gaiman, and let me tell you, once you meet the Endless, you don’t forget them. Morpheus teaches us how insignificant we are, while also teaching us how beautiful and how nonlinear life is. Confused already? The Sandman Chronicles are graphic novels by Neil Gaiman, along with several artists, that tell the story of the Endless; Dream, Desire, Death, Delirium, and Destiny. The stories are mostly centered around Dream, or Morpheus, as he navigates the planes of realities, the dream world, and time/space. It is an unforgettable journey into the subconscious of our histories, both imaginary and real, and you never emerge the self you were upon entering the world of the Endless. Morpheus is a different kind of god; a cruel, yet compassionate, mysterious and sometimes emotionally cold. To know Morpheus is to know so many incarnations of what we exalt as “godlike,” yet with volatile human qualities.
4. Stardust: If the darkness isn’t for you, let the immense, immersing imagination of Gaiman take you to the country beyond the wall. Made into a popular film starring Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro, and Michelle Pfifer, Stardust makes other fairy tales turn pale on their pages. The artisanship, the delicate spinning and intricacies that Gaiman is capable of spinning are in full view in Stardust.
5. He answers fan mail, and answers it honestly. I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed Gaiman responding to fan questions on the internet (Tumblr) in which he takes the time to repost a question, only to say that he has answered said question hundreds of times and charges the person to sift through (or utilize the internet) to find his answer. He is not without flaws, but he is gracious, humble, and he cares that people care about him.
6. He is a fanboy himself- of his wife. And rightfully so. He is quick to gush and admire his wife, Amanda Palmer, and as a female and a writer, I commend him for doing so. He seems to throw to the wind normal press procedures, despite his immense fame, and says what he feels, both about his affection for Amanda, and to his fans. He is real, while at the same time being Morpheus in that he is otherworldly.
7. American Gods: If you think yourself a gifted reader, I challenge you to read American Gods. Here is where Gaiman showcases his chops at creating the most complex, yet simplest, of worlds. For as long as it is, it will make your eyelids droop as you read into the night, not wishing to quit. Another feast of a vast mixture of mythologies and legends.
8. Neil Gaiman is unlike anyone else in that his ability to tell stories from stories we think we already know is incredible. It takes my entire mind to comprehend the depth that Gaiman brings to a graphic novel, more will to understand and learn than I usually have to stretch for a full novel. We use the term “blows your mind” so lightly, but Neil Gaiman’s work continually blows my mind, the way that my mind is blown when thinking about how vast and endless the universe is. The human mind simply wasn’t created to understand such enormous ideas. Somehow on this Earth, we have been blessed to live amongst a story-teller whose own ideas rival the enormity, darkness, and endlessness of the universe.
I just read this morning that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is working with Neil Gaiman to adapt The Sandman into a film. If you’ve ever done yourself a favor, do this; read The Sandman Chronicles before the film. Meet Morpheus on the page before you meet him on the silver screen. If you’ve ever seen a photo of Gaiman and seen a drawing of Morpheus, the similarities are undeniable. Neil Gaiman is the Lord of Dreams.