9 Books To Read Before The 'American Gods' Show

by Charlotte Ahlin

American Gods is one of those books that sticks with you. And not just because of that one scene where a man is swallowed alive by a prostitute's nether regions. It's just one of those books that ties history, myth, and national identity together in one beautiful, weird, witty, dark, heart-pounding story. And they're finally making it into a TV show.

Now, American Gods fans have been burned before. It seems like every year there's a completely new set of rumors about the American Gods movie or TV show, and when it's happening, and who's producing it. And it's not like we need a screen adaptation to enjoy our favorite book, but PLEASE STOP TEASING US.

But this new show from Starz looks like it's actually happening. They've even cast an actor for Shadow, and he looks eerily perfect for the part. So... there's a chance this show might actually be good? The creators have even promised that the famous prostitute scene (you know, the one where a disguised goddess devours a man with her vagina) will make it onto your television screen. And we. can't. wait.

It'll be a while before the TV show premieres, though, so in the meantime, why not get some reading done? I mean, you can only reread American Gods so many times. So you might as well check out some of these books that are perfect for American Gods fans everywhere:

Click Here To Buy

1. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Look, if you liked American Gods , chances are you're going to dig Neil Gaiman's other fantastical worlds. And while the rest of his books are well worth reading, Anansi Boys is the only one that's kind of, sort of a sequel to American Gods. It focuses on Fat Charlie Nancy, the son of Mr. Nancy (remember him?). But it's not easy to have a trickster spider-god for a father, especially when he falls down dead on a karaoke stage. Anansi Boys is a much lighter spin off of American Gods — all the fun and mischief, and not quite so much of the creepy child murders and zombie wives.

Click Here To Buy

2. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

This is technically the second book in the Holistic Detective Dirk Gently series. But you don't need to read the first book to drop right into Dirk's darkly absurd world. Because The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul starts off with the Norse god Thor trying to book a flight to Oslo (and then blowing up the airport in frustration), and it only gets better from there. Myth, mystery, and a very dirty refrigerator are all conspiring to stump super sleuth Dirk Gently, and he'll have to deal with some divine intervention in his attempts to crack the case.

Click Here To Buy

3. His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman

It's got fantasy. It's got religious mythology. It's got talking polar bears who wear armor and fight each other. What's not to love about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series? If you enjoyed the dark fantasy of American Gods, you'll love Lyra's strange and dangerous world of men, witches and daemons. And if you loved the musings on modern day mythology, then Philip Pullman has plenty for you, too. His books range across worlds, each more inventive than the last.

Click Here To Buy

4. Fables, Vol 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton

If you've already breezed through Neil Gaiman's impressive graphic novel collection, then it's time to try Fables. Because all the characters and creatures of fairy tale lore have been exiled from their homeland, and ended up in modern day New York City (because of course they have). But when Snow White's sister, Rose Red, is brutally murdered, it's up to the Big Bad Wolf (he's changed a lot) to track down her killer. Fables takes all your favorite fairy tales and spins them into a gritty, darkly humorous, detective comic.

Click Here To Buy

5. The King Must Die by Mary Renault

Mary Renault is not so much about bringing ancient mythology into the modern world. Rather, she delves back into history and turns myths into a plausible reality. The King Must Die is her take on the Theseus myth: Instead of being offered up the the Minotaur, Theseus is forced into a dangerous game of bull dancing, and left to fight his way back home, encountering thrilling adventure, passionate love, and some good old fashioned pagan orgies along the way.

Click Here To Buy

6. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Is The Color of Magic the best of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series? Eh... but it is the first, and it's an uproarious introduction to Pratchett's brand of satirical fantasy. Pratchett's books tend to be a little lighter than Neil Gaiman's (not so many men being eaten by lady parts), but he's just as witty and inventive. The Color of Magic patches together cliches from every corner of the fantasy genres, and finds unexpected ways to subvert and re-imagine them. It's a worthy start to one of the greatest, funniest fantasy series of all time.

Click Here To Buy

7. Summerland by Michael Chabon

Look, I'm not saying that Summerland is the kid-friendly version of American Gods ... but it's at least a little bit the kid-friendly version of American Gods. Young Ethan hates baseball, but young Jennifer loves it, and both of them have a much bigger problem when they find themselves thrust into the bizarre world of the American Faery. They must confront werefoxes, wendigos, sasquathes, and the husk of George Armstrong Custer before they have any hope of making it home in one piece. It's a beautiful mishmash of American mythologies both old and new.

Click Here To Buy

8. Loki by Mike Vasich

American Gods does an elegant job of integrating ancient gods into the modern world of America. But if you just want to get straight to the Viking gods hitting each other on the head, then Mike Vasich has you covered. Loki is pretty much what you think it is: a retelling of Norse Mythology with Loki taking center stage. So if you consider yourself a die-hard Slytherin, or if you always like to hear both sides of a story (or you just have a soft spot for complicated villains), then this is the book for you.

Click Here To Buy

9. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Gods, mortals, divine politics, war — The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms creates a whole new mythology of gods and kingdoms, and then sticks poor outcast Yeine Darr in the middle of a cold war between different deities. It's a more high fantasy take on the idea of battling gods, to be sure, but N.K. Jemisin flips a lot of the classic fantasy tropes on their heads. She doesn't care about the One True Hero battling the Force of Evil, she's much more interested in the complexities that arise when you mix humans and gods.

Click Here To Buy

Image: Jacob Lund/Fotolia