Are you looking for more American Gods-like books?
When American Gods was out in 2005, it was the first book by Neil Gaiman that I read, and it reinforced my love for the author and spurred me on to read more of his work. There are many mythological parallels and the novel’s sharp look at America that I didn’t see in my youth when reading the book as a teenager; now as an adult, it’s a book that I’ve come back to time and again.
The story revolves around Shadow, a young man who falls involved with the mysterious Mr Wednesday, a man who claims to be a former deity and the ruler of America.
Shadow agrees to work as Wednesday’s bodyguard and the two travel across the United States, stopping at various acquaintances who Shadow discovers are all incarnations of the Old Gods, and Mr Wednesday is recruiting them to join him in a struggle against the New Gods. Shadow later (all of which are expressions of modern life).
To help replace the Gaiman-shaped vacuum on my library while waiting for his next novel, I’ve compiled a list of imaginative books like American Gods.
Books like American Gods
Kraken, by China Miéville
American Gods is a great example of a book that uses myths and other magical aspects to discuss contemporary issues. The authors took familiar tales and creatures and incorporated them into their stories to make them more relatable to modern readers. Chinese novelist China Miéville has written a story set in modern-day London, filled with assassins, heretics, and strange magic including the notorious Kraken.
One day, Billy Harlow, an expert on cephalopods, was conducting an educational tour of the London Natural History Museum when he saw the Giant Squid vanish from view. Billy tries his best to get to the bottom of what happened, but he doesn’t have the same passion for the investigation as the squid-worshipping religious organization, a vicious criminal mastermind, and an assortment of wizards and spirits.
One or the other is eager to get their hands on the power of this embryonic deity in order to prevent the End of All Things from occurring through improper use. Kraken is a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and scream.
Susanna Clarke’s novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Next up, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a book about the beginnings of magic and witchcraft. The story takes place in historical England, where everyone except Mr. Norrell, a wealthy recluse who has learned magic from long-lost texts depicting England’s magical history, has long forgotten about the old magicians who roamed the land with their fairy servants.
Mr. Norrell is enlisted by the government to assist in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, where he uses rain spirits to thwart Napoleon’s ships’ advancements. When Jonathan Strange, a charismatic and confident magician, emerges, everything changes.
Mr. Norrell’s excitement at the prospect of another practicing magician quickly dissipates when he discovers that he and Jonathan Strange have very different beliefs about magic and how it should be utilized.
It’s amazing how much Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell manages to keep you wanting even after it clocks in at over 800 pages.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire is a magnificent retelling of the Wizard of Oz story.
Elphaba, a green-skinned girl, gives her side of the narrative in Maguire’s Oz, because no one is genuinely wicked from birth; he brings us all the way back to the day she was born.
Being raised among clever, talking animals, Elphaba often finds herself the target of taunts and ridicule because of her unique appearance and background. As a result, she develops the qualities of a cunning, tenacious, and ultimately misunderstood witch.
Wicked is an excellent novel (and an even better musical if we ever get the chance to see it again) for anyone searching for a book akin to American Gods because of Maquire’s vivid imagination and abundance of metaphor.
Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
If you like Neil Gaiman’s longtime friend and collaborator Sir Terry Pratchett’s examination of politics, religion, and modern life in American Gods, you’ll love Small Gods by Neil Gaiman.
The tale revolves around the origins of the deity Om and his prophet Brutha in this, Pratchett’s twelfth Discworld novel. When you’re a manifestation of a deity, you’re in a very competitive environment. Pratchett examines their relationship while satirizing religious institutions, their members, activities, and positions in political life.
Despite the fact that Gaiman and Pratchett’s books were published over a decade apart from each other, you can find certain parallels between the two works that make Small Gods a fantastic read for anyone looking for more books like American Gods.
Circe, by Madeline Miller
Circe, Madeline Miller’s 2018 novel, continues the author’s tradition of delving into mythology and creating stories based on well-known characters and tales.
I find Circe to be an odd youngster. The daughter of gods who does not hold power like her parents. Zeus exiles her to an abandoned island after she threatens the gods with her witchcraft power. She finds refuge among mankind and gradually comes to realize that she does have a power.
Aside from the typical monsters and doomed legendary people, Circe is forced to choose between returning to the gods or staying with those she has grown to care for, who have learned to recognize she is a part of their lives.
Circe, which has been nominated for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, is a must-read for fans of American Gods.
Is this book on your TBR list? See more books like Circe on our list!
Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
Anansi Boys was the first Neil Gaiman novel I ever read, and it was the one that sparked my passion for his work. The character of Mr. Nancy, an embodiment of the West African god Anansi notorious for his trickery and cruel jokes, appears throughout both stories, despite the fact that they are not sequels.
Fat Charlie’s father, Mr. Nancy, died on a karaoke stage in Florida on the day Fat Charlie was born. It turns out Spider is actually his twin brother, who shares his father’s powers and inclination to pull pranks.
It’s a tale of two people getting to know each other via a slew of misadventures, including Fat Charlie’s employer and fiancee, jail, embezzlement, spider armies, ghosts, and reincarnation (just to name a few).
It’s safe to suggest that anyone who enjoyed American Gods will enjoy Gaiman’s other works, but Anansi Boys seems like a reasonable next step for someone like me.
His Dark Materials Series, by Philip Pullman
I’ve returned to Philip Pullman’sHis Dark Materials several times over the years when I’ve needed a break from the real world.
Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass follow two youngsters, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they journey across a variety of parallel universes in search of answers to family mysteries, the meaning of the interesting dust, and the wonders of these other realms.
Daemons are animals who are exterior forms of their human owners’ souls. There is kidnapping, double-crossing, and murder. There is revolt. There is religion. There is rescue.
If you’ve ever read American Gods or The Lord of the Rings, you’ll appreciate His Dark Materials’ fantastical features, such as witches, wizards, and armoured bears, as well as its investigations into deeper notions about religion, philosophy, and physics.
Is this a series you’ve already read? See our selection of novels that are similar to His Dark Materials!’
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
American Gods would be incomplete without mention of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbiton, the evil monster Smaug, the priceless Gollum, and the majestic Middle Earth. As well as entertaining his own children, Tolkien has enchanted millions of youngsters throughout the world with Bilbo Baggins, his reluctant hero.
Small, half-sized human with fuzzy feet, Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who lives in a cozy hole in the ground. Gandalf persuades Bilbo Baggins to join him and thirteen dwarves on a journey to rescue their treasure from the dragon Smaug, which is now being held hostage.
Trolls, elves, Gollum and his invisibility ring, enormous spiders, wargs and eagles, and, of course, fire-breathing dragons are all part of their dubious mission. The Hobbit is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and I look forward to seeing it again and again.
Is this a book you’ve previously read? There are many more novels like The Hobbit that you can check out here!
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
Authors like Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood are kings and queens in their respective genres. Atwood’s ability to imagine a dystopian future in her work Oryx and Crake blows my mind.
In a future when animal mutations and the green-eyed manufactured Children of Crake – the only other living species able to survive in the harsh, barren terrain the earth has become, our protagonist Jimmy, or “Snowman,” as he is sometimes known to, may be the only human remaining.
While mourning the loss of his friend Crake, the creator of this universe, and Oryx, a beautiful enigmatic woman they both loved, Jimmy navigates this “new” world.
A dual narrative depicting past and current events explains how the namesake Oryx and Crake were wiped off, and Jimmy came to be the last man on Earth. This collection of books like American Gods would not be complete without Oryx and Crake, a novel that is both haunting and plausible.
They may be enjoyed by young adults thanks to their veils of imagination, but even as adults, when the major themes and vital messages become clearer, they are the perfect novels to be read and reread time and time again.