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American Gods (2001)

by Neil Gaiman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: American Gods (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
29,00678667 (4.08)12 / 1425
Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she's been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him introduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible. He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever he the same.… (more)
  1. 260
    Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman (Anonymous user, moonstormer)
    Anonymous user: It's a great collection all around but the kicker is this collection includes a novella about Shadow a couple years after the events of American Gods
    moonstormer: Fragile Things contains a short story with the same character as is in American Gods. Both are highly recommended.
  2. 252
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (WilliamPascoe)
    WilliamPascoe: Phenominally brilliant fantasy .
  3. 232
    Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (infiniteletters)
  4. 100
    Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (sbuehrle)
  5. 111
    Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (citygirl)
    citygirl: When the supernatural collides with modern life. One in Moscow, one in the US.
  6. 177
    Small Gods by Terry Pratchett (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the necessity of belief.
  7. 102
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (klarusu)
    klarusu: The same sense of unreality layered over a real-world setting, the same undercurrent of humour but this time it's the Devil that lands in Moscow
  8. 71
    Last Call by Tim Powers (grizzly.anderson, MyriadBooks)
    grizzly.anderson: Both are about old world gods making their place in the new world.
    MyriadBooks: For aspiring to win in a bargain with gods.
  9. 94
    The Stand {1978} by Stephen King (clif_hiker)
  10. 72
    Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (bertyboy)
    bertyboy: Alternative London for alternative fantasy. Have a go!
  11. 61
    King Rat by China Miéville (Runkst)
  12. 117
    The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams (WoodsieGirl)
  13. 62
    Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones (guyalice)
    guyalice: Neil Gaiman was surprised to discover that the concept of Eight Days of Luke was very similar to what he had initially planned for the plot of American Gods. He dropped the day-theme to avoid too many similarities and gave props to Wynne Jones.
  14. 40
    The Wood Wife by Terri Windling (Larkken)
  15. 30
    Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint (MyriadBooks)
  16. 52
    Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (andomck)
    andomck: Religion, realism, fantasy, humor, low brow, etc. Makes sense to me.
  17. 30
    The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (sturlington)
    sturlington: The Bone Clocks reminded me strongly of Neil Gaiman and David Mitchell has said that Gaiman was an influence.
  18. 30
    Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  19. 41
    Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (Chricke)
  20. 52
    The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson (rockhopper_penguin)
    rockhopper_penguin: I read these two books one after another. It wasn't a deliberate decision, but the two did seem to work well together. The books visit a few of the same places, and it's interesting to note how differently they are portrayed in each.

(see all 46 recommendations)

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Showing 1-5 of 760 (next | show all)
There are a few books and authors that I've never read not because I have preconceived notions that they'll be terrible, but because I have preconceived ideas that they'll be fantastic. [b:The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|8706|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)|Douglas Adams|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165721485s/8706.jpg|3078186] is the paradigm of this, it's a book I know with such certainty that I'll adore that I've simply never quite gotten around to reading it. To be honest, at this stage I'm probably putting off reading it in case it turns out not to be very good and my dreams are more crushed than a Jennifer Paige lyric.

Neil Gaiman was one of these authors that I'd never quite summoned the will to read. My notion that he would be great was based mainly on the fact he once wrote something with Terry Pratchett, and more recently on the fact that several of my bookier friends seemed to nigh-on worship the fellow. Two weeks ago I managed to break my Gaiman-fast, and am pleased to report that he didn't disappoint me.

American Gods does have its flaws: its pace sometimes becomes sub-glacial and half of the "interlude" chapters could probably have been cut without any loss to the novel, especially the ones where Gaiman seems to be trying his hand at a more poetic style of writing. But when Gaiman writes as himself he writes wonderfully, and I'll take a slow, steady pace over rushed endings any day.

The story itself is tight and clever, and the twists in the plot are utterly obvious with hindsight and utterly inconspicuous without – as any good twist should be. Many of the characters are outrageously colourful, standing in vivid counterpoint to the book's protagonist, the ridiculously (nick-)named Shadow Moon. Big, quiet, polite, and grave, Shadow is really the epitome of the show-don't-tell school of writing, a pair of unopinionated eyes floating around seven feet off the ground for the rest of the characters to talk to and for us to watch through. By the end of the book I still had no real idea what Shadow even looked like (other than big). Some people may not be so fond of having such a shell as a main character, but I found it really rather comfortable. Often when reading books with a single central character I'm all too aware that my opinions of the other characters are essentially being forced upon me by the main character's opinions; it was nice to follow a character who I honestly felt I could disagree with when judging the others in the book.

So now that I've risen from my metaphorical bed and eaten my breakGaimanfast (I promise never to use that word again), I ask myself: will I be trying any more Neil? For sure, self, for sure. ( )
  imlee | Jul 7, 2020 |
There are a few books and authors that I've never read not because I have preconceived notions that they'll be terrible, but because I have preconceived ideas that they'll be fantastic. [b:The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|8706|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)|Douglas Adams|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165721485s/8706.jpg|3078186] is the paradigm of this, it's a book I know with such certainty that I'll adore that I've simply never quite gotten around to reading it. To be honest, at this stage I'm probably putting off reading it in case it turns out not to be very good and my dreams are more crushed than a Jennifer Paige lyric.

Neil Gaiman was one of these authors that I'd never quite summoned the will to read. My notion that he would be great was based mainly on the fact he once wrote something with Terry Pratchett, and more recently on the fact that several of my bookier friends seemed to nigh-on worship the fellow. Two weeks ago I managed to break my Gaiman-fast, and am pleased to report that he didn't disappoint me.

American Gods does have its flaws: its pace sometimes becomes sub-glacial and half of the "interlude" chapters could probably have been cut without any loss to the novel, especially the ones where Gaiman seems to be trying his hand at a more poetic style of writing. But when Gaiman writes as himself he writes wonderfully, and I'll take a slow, steady pace over rushed endings any day.

The story itself is tight and clever, and the twists in the plot are utterly obvious with hindsight and utterly inconspicuous without – as any good twist should be. Many of the characters are outrageously colourful, standing in vivid counterpoint to the book's protagonist, the ridiculously (nick-)named Shadow Moon. Big, quiet, polite, and grave, Shadow is really the epitome of the show-don't-tell school of writing, a pair of unopinionated eyes floating around seven feet off the ground for the rest of the characters to talk to and for us to watch through. By the end of the book I still had no real idea what Shadow even looked like (other than big). Some people may not be so fond of having such a shell as a main character, but I found it really rather comfortable. Often when reading books with a single central character I'm all too aware that my opinions of the other characters are essentially being forced upon me by the main character's opinions; it was nice to follow a character who I honestly felt I could disagree with when judging the others in the book.

So now that I've risen from my metaphorical bed and eaten my breakGaimanfast (I promise never to use that word again), I ask myself: will I be trying any more Neil? For sure, self, for sure. ( )
  leezeebee | Jul 6, 2020 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it certainly was not what I expected. I had read Neverwhere and some of the author's fairytales for teens and children, but had not read this book. I listened instead of reading traditionally, and very much enjoyed the book. ( )
  carmsoc | Jul 3, 2020 |
So I read "American Gods" back in 2004. I went on a trip with this woman from my former job to Playa del Carmen. She told me that I should read "American Gods" because she thought she needed to help me broaden my horizons. Don't get me started on this woman, she was very rude about me hanging out with other people who were white and was constantly trying to teach me about how to be black. Her words. The only thing I fondly remember about that trip is this book because she made me want to slap her with it a dozen times a day. Did I mention she was cheap? She was.

Bygones, I went off on a tangent there.

Back to "American Gods" I remember being so drawn to it from the very first couple of pages. I had never heard of Neil Gaiman (yeah I know) and had no idea who he was and what he wrote about. So I started this book and just fell in love with Shadow, Laura, Anansi, Easter, and freaking Czernobog.

This book ended up causing me to go home and read a ton of Norse mythology. I was never really into it since I was in love with all things Greek/Roman growing up and in college while getting my history degree. But I was so fascinated about myths and how so many things got entwined depending on regions and religions that I felt like I was back in school again. I spent a lot of free time reading up on characters introduced in this book.

Though it is a long book, you have to know that you have the character of Shadow as your main character for the whole book. His journey is a strange one after he comes into contact with a man calling himself Mr. Wednesday. Shadow who has just gotten out of jail and is eager to get back to his wife Laura, is thrown when he is released from jail earlier than anticipated and is told his wife is dead.

When Shadow is seated on a plane next to a man (Mr. Wednesday) who keeps offering him work, Shadow says no. Before he knows it, Mr. Wednesday keeps popping up, and due to certain events, Shadow finds himself jobless and aimless. Working for Wednesday sounds interesting.

In between following Shadow. Readers also get what I would call vignettes. We follow some characters around who we find out more about here and there. I have to say that you don't think the whole book will work, but it does. At least it does for me.

If you read any Norse mythology you start to realize who certain characters are and you get a pretty big clue regarding Shadow towards the end of the book.

I was so happy to read about his further adventures in "Monarch of the Glen". And am slowly waiting to get my hands on "Trigger Warning" so I can read another short story starring him, "Black Dog."

The writing I thought was thought provoking. I never really thought much until this book how much we changed/shaped myths and religion from where their origin point to make them more American. I know that Moonlight Reader brought up a good point that she thought it was a bit odd we didn't see a version of Jesus Christ in this book and I think that would have been really cool to see. Maybe Gaiman was worried about offending people. I would think that the American version definitely differs through the ages and more when you get into contemporary times so that would have been a cool thing to see.

What I thought was great is you get to see the old and new gods in this one. And you get to see the new gods that we have turned to, social media, technology, etc. Do we all not worship them in our own ways these days. I remember when the internet was done at my house the house guest that was staying with me almost lost her mind. You would have thought I thrown her out in the street and stolen her belongings.

I really thought the ending of the story was going in a different way and was very happy I was wrong. The writing in this one was really good and I can say that reading "Anansi Boys" a weekend ago you definitely get a different sort of feel in this first book then you do in that one. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
It's been a long while since I've read (or attempted to read - cause I don't remember if I ever actually finished this). I really didn't like some aspects of this, but I LOVED others. It's really a series of short stories told within an overall framework. Once I figured that out (cause yes, I didn't realize it for a while), I was much more content with the story. ( )
  expatb | Jun 8, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 760 (next | show all)
i have my one perspective about this, this is beyond my imagination, that this book is quite awsome!
 
This is a fantastic novel, as obsessed with the minutiae of life on the road as it is with a catalogue of doomed and half-forgotten deities. In the course of the protagonist Shadow's adventures as the bodyguard and fixer of the one-eyed Mr Wednesday, he visits a famous museum of junk and the motel at the centre of the US, as well as eating more sorts of good and bad diner food than one wants especially to think about.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Independent, Roz Kaveney (Jul 18, 2001)
 
Part of the joy of American Gods is that its inventions all find a place in a well-organised structure. The book runs as precisely as clockwork, but reads as smoothly as silk or warm chocolate.
added by stephmo | editThe Independent, Roz Kaveney (Jul 18, 2001)
 
Gaiman's stories are always overstuffed experiences, and ''American Gods'' has more than enough to earn its redemption, including a hero who deserves further adventures.
 
"American Gods" is a juicily original melding of archaic myth with the slangy, gritty, melancholy voice of one of America's great cultural inventions -- the hard-boiled detective; call it Wagnerian noir. The melting pot has produced stranger cocktails, but few that are as tasty.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Laura Miller (Jun 22, 2001)
 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gaiman, Neilprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boutsikaris, DennisNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, SarahNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kivimäki, MikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mcginnis, RobertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKean, DaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLarty, RonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oreskes, DanielNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
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Epigraph
One question that has always intrigued me is what happens to demonic beings when immigrants move from their homelands. Irish-Americans remember the fairies, Norwegian-Americans the nisser, Greek-Americans the vryókolas, but only in relation to events remembered in the Old Country. When I once asked why such demons were not seen in America, my informants giggled confusedly and said, "They're scared to pass the ocean, it's too far," pointing out that Christ and the apostles never came to America.
—Richard Dorson, "A Theory For American Folklore", American Folklore and the Historian
The boundaries of our country sir? Why sir, on the north we are bounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by the rising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of the Equinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgement
—The American Joe Miller's Jest Book
They took her to the cemet'ry
In a big ol' cadillac
They took her to the cemet'ry
But they did not bring her back.
—old song
Dedication
For absent friends—Kathy Acker and Roger Zelazny, and all points between
First words
Shadow had done three years in prison.
Quotations
Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.
"A town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but without a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."
When people came to America they brought us with them. They brought me, and Loki, and Thor, Anansi and the Lion-God, Leprechauns and Kobalds and Banshees, Kubera and Frau Holle and Ashtaroth, and they brought you. We rode here in their minds, and we took root. We travelled with the settlers to the new lands across the ocean.
The land is vast. Soon enough, our people abandoned us, remembered us only as creatures of the old land, as things that had not come with them to the new. Our true believers passed on, or stopped believing, and we were left, lost and scared and dispossessed, only what little smidgens of worship or belief we could find. And to get by as best we could.
'So that's what we've done, gotten by, out on the edges of things, where no-one was watching us too closely.'
Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.
All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.
There's never been a true war that wasn't fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
There are at least two different editions of this book.   The original was published in 2001, and the tenth anniversary edition (Author's preferred text)  was published in 2011.   Please do not combine.
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Book description
The book follows the adventures of ex-convict Shadow, who is released from prison a few days earlier than planned on account of the death of his wife, Laura, in a car accident. Shadow finds work as the escort and bodyguard of the confidence man Mr. Wednesday, and travels across America visiting Wednesday's colleagues and acquaintances. Gradually, it is revealed that Wednesday is an incarnation of Odin the All-Father (the name Wednesday is derived from "Odin's (Woden's) day"), who in his current guise is recruiting American manifestations of the Old Gods of ancient mythology, whose powers have waned as their believers have decreased in number, to participate in an epic battle against the New American Gods, manifestations of modern life and technology (for example, the Internet, media, and modern means of transport). Laura comes back in the form of a sentient animated corpse due to a special coin Shadow had placed in her coffin, and is instrumental in eliminating several of the New Gods' agents.

AR 5.3, 28 Pts
Haiku summary
New gods, and old ones
All across America
- A storm is coming

(Jannes)
Gods, starving, lose faith;
Easy marks for Odin's scheme.
Shadow holds his breath.

(one-horse.library)
Shadow, with help from
wife, finds fickle gods and beats
them at their own game.
(legallypuzzled)

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