Where to Start with Neil Gaiman

By Susen Shi, Young Adult Librarian
November 7, 2019

Headshot: "Author Neil Gaiman" by Kyle Cassidy is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Neil Gaiman, literary world builder and one of Earth’s treasures, graced us with his presence on November 10, 1960. Born in Hampshire, England, Gaiman’s love for reading started at a young age when he wrote his first poem at the age of three.  His parents would often pat him down before social events to make sure he wasn’t squirreling away any books. It makes sense, then, that his love affair with libraries would have begun at such an early age.

“I wouldn't be who I am without libraries. I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there. I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: they taught me about interlibrary loans." —Neil Gaiman discussing his literary beginnings

At age seven, Gaiman was gifted The Chronicles of Narnia box set where he first learned of the prestigious Carnegie Medal—a British literary award given to an outstanding new book for young readers. When he bought A Wrinkle in Time several years later, he learned about the Newbery Medal, the Carnegie’s US equivalent. Some 40-odd-years later, Gaiman would be awarded both medals for The Graveyard Book, a title he had been working on since his mid-20s. 

Besides the works of C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, Gaiman also grew up reading titles by J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael MoorcockUrsula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, G.K. Chesterton, and Lewis Carroll. The works of these writers and many more had a profound influence on Gaiman and his writing style.

Gaiman started off as a journalist, writing over 700 book and film reviews for various different publications. In 1984, while waiting for a train, Gaiman noticed Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing Number 25 on a newsstand rack. What he read was a revolutionary approach to comics, reinvigorating his deep love for comics and the art form. 1989 was the start of the cult series: The Sandman, winner of multiple Eisner and Harvey Awards.

In 2013, in celebration of the 175th anniversary of Charles Dickens's classic holiday story, Neil Gaiman performed a reading of A Christmas Carol here at NYPL.

Neil Gaiman dressed as Charles Dickens during a reading of A Christmas Carol

Gaiman is beyond prolific. He’s written novels, short stories and novellas, film scripts, comics and graphic novels, nonfiction, and pretty much anything else you can think of—including an out-of-print biography of Duran Duran and a poem about a gay Quaker astronomer who confirmed Einstein’s theory of relativity. His transcendent stories have won many accolades, cementing him as one of the top writers of this generation. His ability to write for all ages has only continued his legacy for current and future fans. This is the world of Gaiman and we are only living in it.

For those interested in Gaiman’s bibliography, we’ve put together a reader’s starter guide to all things fantastical. 

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

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