Neil Gaiman's library

Alice sez, "I've always wondered what Neil Gaiman's library looked like, but it is more extensive and incredible than I ever imagined."

Shelfari adds, "Naturally we'd assumed that someone whose work is filled with references ranging from literary to mythological would have a fairly extensive library but even so, we were a bit unprepared for the scope of what he sent us. In the basement of his house of secrets we find a room that's wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with books (along with a scattering of awards, gargoyles and felines)."

Neil Gaiman's Bookshelves (Thanks, Alice!)


  1. Which book do you pull to make a section open up to reveal Neil’s Secret Writing Room? It’d have to be a volume that would never be grabbed by anyone who’d visit the room… wait, is that a copy of “Twilight?”…

  2. Fantastic! That’s waaay more than I have, and my “library” room has built-in floor to ceiling shelves on two of the walls.

    I see he’s run into the same problem I have: the shelves are full. If you shelve your books with any kind of system at all, full shelves become a real problem when you’ve bought a new book!

    I love the hi-res photos on the site which allow you to read the individual book spines! That will take some time to study!

  3. I actually did the post on Shelfari, and it was extremely cool of Neil to let us show this. I’ve posted one more photo that didn’t make it into the Shelfari post over at my own blog – Thanks, BoingBoing, for picking up this story!

  4. Thanks for making this available, RonBrinkmann! And thanks for the additional photo.

    Speaking of which, do you have any idea what set is to the right of the World Book encyclopedia set in the photo on your own blog? It looks like one of those 19th-century complete works of someone… but who?

  5. The only person I know with a bigger collection than this was a Cambridge history professor. But his collection was lacking the style of this one – bookshelves stacked on top of other bookshelves, Rooms with bookshelves stuffed into them so you could just squeeze in between them… Plus, as fascinating as politics and history are, I suspect there are a lot more books on Mr Gaiman’s shelves that I’d like to read!

  6. You can tell a lot by a person by how many bookshelves they have. And what’s in them.

    Anyway, this is probably what my place would look like if I didn’t get rid of my paperbacks (thrift shops).

  7. Thor23 @ 11

    This whole room, many times over, can be replaced by a tiny notebook

    Also, in the future, every meal will be replaced by a convenient energy and nutrient shake!

    Meals are more than a way of refuelling your body, and books are more than a way of conveying a few hundred kilobytes of text data. That’s why they’re important to many of us who otherwise read a lot online.

  8. Unrelated to this post, I read the short interview with your wife on wowinsider yesterday. In not so many years, I expect I’ll stumble across your daugther’s blog as well.

  9. The true sign of the book addict is apparent on the first photo- two-deep rows of books. I have to confess this has happened to me too.

  10. Also books don’t need battery chargers.

    I like that he basically uses the couch to hold books as well.

    Next, I’d like to see Peter Buck or Afrika Bambaataa’s record collection!

  11. Aw man that’s awesome!
    Next we need to see Alan Moore’s library. With all the work he does on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it must be jam-packed…

  12. A highlight for me was seeing Joanna Russ in the same editions as me. Then I looked behind it on one of the double stacked shelves, and lo, there was the Harper Collins’ HP Lovecraft omnibus collection, again in the same editions as I have, only lacking #3 The haunter of the dark. In your face, Gaiman, I have the full set.

  13. @Jarvik7: I’d prefer both. Books for just the weight of them in your hands, the words on the page. PDFs for the pure research speed!

  14. Just proves that you can NEVER (or at least not for long) have enough bookshelves. Despite many linear feet of shelving, there are piles of books on the easy chair.

  15. Books can be beautiful physical objects, regardless (well, almost regardless) of content.
    I’d miss them, if they were etablet – only things.
    The medium is not quite the entire message, IMO.

    As to this collection, I hope Mr. Gaiman has thought to perhaps explore making a gift of the whole thing (or perhaps the rarer and most interesting parts of it) to a library or school in his Will.

    If so, it is always better to check with the Institution to be so gifted in advance: some do not want or need such legacies.

  16. If I were a world renown author I too would have a beautiful library filled with all my favorite books. For now I will have to settle for ten times as many on a chip smaller then my thumbnail and at slightly lower cost. ;)

  17. Wow, that’s extensive… If I tried to compete, I could barely reach one third of the long wall shelves. And shamefully I must admit I only have “American Gods” from Neil Gaiman, although he has been on my must-read-list for several months now.

    The funny thing is I had all my books classified by author, until my mom showed up one day and proudly presented me her accomplishement: all my scifi books are now classified by color, and editor collection. I’m afraid the task of shuffling 400+ books around is too big right now…

  18. The Kindle can kiss my butt. Real books for the win. I hope if they ever do go out of fashion its long after I’m dead.

  19. Insofar as I think of the Kindle here at all, it’s “Thank farking Christ I don’t have, and will never have, that piece of crap tech, when faced with such a lovely, durable, portable, and secure alternative.”

    RE: his maybe-not-having-read-all-of-the-books: Anatole France was once asked a similar question, and responded winningly, “Not one tenth of them. I don’t suppose you use your Sevres china every day?”

    This also reminds me of Alberto Manguel’s haunting The Library at Night, a paean to the non-PDF data transmission device and those lovable loons who buy, store, and read them in libraries like this.

  20. It’s beautiful, beyond even being a bunch of books. I just love the feel of it. Well, rather, how I imagine it feels to be there.

  21. Somebody once quoted me a quote to the effect of, “Have I read them all? Heavens no! I can’t think of a single thing more depressing than a library that only stocks books you’ve already read!”

  22. I’ll agree books are awesome but once you lose a collection , or two you start to see the appeal of digital books. Black mold ate my library :(

  23. It is a sad world where this is taken to be so out of the ordinary. Take anyone who has been reading for roughly 30 years (that is, anyone in his 40s). Say he read an average of 2 books a week (hardly excessive) – this means he has gone through 3000 books. Even if he only kept 2/3rd of them that’s 2000 books, an average of an inch each, 8 shelves high is roughly 20 feet wide.

    My father’s house has two walls full of books, top to bottom, roughly this amount. I have about the same (which makes moving from one rented place to another a PITA). I have a few friends who also have a few walls worth. Hell, the lady who cleaned my home and baby sat my kids has a wall full of book at least half of what you see in the picture. All it takes is keeping (most of) the books you read (packrat mentality, I guess).

    Take someone _serious_ about reading, and you get to whole different level of private libraries. In Ben Gurion’s house I saw his personal library. According to he owned 20,000 books, and from seeing that room, I believe it. I bet if you looked at Churchil’s library you’d see something like that as well. Of course, this is only one room in Neil Gaiman’s house so perhaps he’s hiding the rest elsewhere :-)

  24. As a librarian, I’m nothing short of envious. Notice the bottom shelves tilt up, making it easier to read the spines of books down there. That’s bibliophilia at its finest.

    Kindle, and e-book readers in general, are wonderful things (the DRM and “book recalls” not so much) that can allow access to a massive library for a pittance. Plug the thousands of classics from Project Gutenberg on to such a device, plus all the CC books out there and even the priciest ebook reader is a bargain.

    They won’t replace joyous libraries like this one, they’re not meant to.

  25. As for the whole Kindle/searchable .pdfs/whatever else vs. real books debate: how about both? I own about 1000 vinyl records (plus a few hundred shellac 78s) and I download music as well. Both formats work for me, I have the aesthetics and superior audio and nostalgia and great graphics of vinyl which is complemented by the portability and convenience of mp3s. Nobody loses.

  26. @nosehat – It’s hard to read, even in some of the other photos I’ve got, but I’m pretty sure it’s a collection of Richard Burton’s 1001 Arabian Nights, possibly combined with some other writings of his.

  27. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I would expect no less from him.

    But it’s a half-level below ground in Minnesota. Please, tell me he’s got an industrial sump pump down there somewhere.

  28. This just goes to show that people who write books shouldn’t be allowed to own them. There seems to be little care taken to reduce spine lean and to preserve books that are slowly eating themselves. Those rare british firsts need to be in plastic and a few brodart covers sprinkled around the american hardcovers wouldn’t hurt. There is also a remarkable collection of books shown from the writer Neil Gaiman (a quite decent science fiction and fantasy author with some titles approaching excellence), some of which even appear to be prereleases or special editions, none of which are properly preserved. In a few cases they look as though they may have been read! I did see a few collector’s editions (and subterrannean press) that are still shrinkwrapped (perhaps the owner of this book library is waiting for the paperback edition to read these as is only proper) but most are just thrown on the shelves haphazardly! This guy is really, really setting a bad example for the rest of the book buying public, after all, if authors can’t be bothered to keep their books in good condition then who can be?

  29. Just fabulous. And according to Twitter that is his “downstairs library” – which suggests that’s not his only one…

  30. If it wasn’t the “downstairs library” there’d have to be some pretty massive columns holding up the floor underneath.

  31. I love the word “Kindle”. It has such wonderful connotations of Fahrenheit 451.

    You have to admire a system where a library the size of Mr. Gaiman’s could be “revoked” with simply the click of a mouse.

  32. I have a wall like that of 78s and LPs. Boingboing has posted in the past about making potato chip bowls out of old LPs, or purses out of 45s… what sort of crafty project could we do to repurpose all of these books?

  33. #37

    I average about three books per week, yet I’m still awed at his bookshelves. It mostly has to do with the fact that I can’t afford to actually buy every book that I read.

    So waiting for the day that I can afford a collection of 20K!

  34. WANT.

    Seriously, if I’m ever rich and famous, I’m building a room that gorgeous. (As it stands, I might have that many books, but they won’t be kept nearly as nice!)

    My copy of The Weight of Glory has a forward with a mention of the size of C.S. Lewis’ library. Apparently, when he retired, there was some worry that they wouldn’t be able to fit the two thousand or so books he’d kept at Magdalen College in his house, which was already “full to bursting.”

  35. Canary Girl & randalll, in Neil Gaiman’s latest blog entry, he mentions: “I wish the upstairs library with all the good reference stuff was in it too.”

    So yeah, these pictures are only part of his incredible book collection!

  36. Those who are concerned with preserving first editions and proper shelving might approve more of Jay Walker’s library, linked above – lots of expensive editions bought by a multimillionaire as an investment.

    Gaiman’s shelves look like they have paperbacks bought second hand long before he was a successful author – books bought for content, not collectibility. That’s the library I’d prefer to have.

  37. Total drool factor, of course. My favorite parts are the paperback (mostly SF)shelves. I recognize, because I have or have had many of the editions and titles,lots of stuff. I have to disagree with the comment at #44. Nothing shows love for a book more then that it has obviously been read and probably more than once. Btw, you can find professional/academic librarians who will express this same opinion. I do collect books but only books that I actually want. Which means want to read.

  38. Ooh, I see Making Book from our esteemed moderator Teresa Nielsen Hayden in this hi-res shot of Gaiman’s bookshelf. Small world.

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