Book Club

Book Club's New Pick: Neil Gaiman's 'Anansi Boys'


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Unlike some other book clubs that shall remain nameless, the BPP Book Club is not a one-trick pony. We like to mix it up. So far we've brought you the story of a boy coming of age inside authoritarian Libya (Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men) and the very different story of a girl coming of age on a ranch in Colorado (Aryn Kyle's The God of Animals). So no more coming of age. For a bit, anyway.

This time out, we'll be reading Anansi Boys, by cult hero Neil Gaiman, author of comics, novels and song lyrics, among other things. It's the very tall tale of a hapless bookkeeper named Fat Charlie Nancy, whose dreary life in London is turned upside down when his father dies . . . and Fat Charlie discovers that his dad was actually the trickster god Anansi.

If you've never read Gaiman before (I hadn't), here's your chance to find out why people are so crazy about him.

Our online discussion of the book will happen on Wednesday, June 4, and we'll be talking to Neil Gaiman shortly after. So get the book (available in paperback, audiobook, or Kindle editions) and get reading.

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Oh, this book is good stuff. "American Gods" and "Neverwhere" are still my faves, but this one is good as an intro to Gaiman. I couldn't get through Matar's work and admittedly didn't have time to try Kyle's book. So excited the BPP chose a book that I want to (or have already) read!

Sent by eliz.s. (@elizs) | 12:20 PM | 5-9-2008

I personally would have suggested reading American Gods before this book, since this is (sort of) a sequel to that. Oddly, I really didn't enjoy Anansi Boys much at all, growing to dislike all but a few of the characters and the meandering plot in general.

That said, I'm interested to see what others think about the book and in particular, Gaiman's writing - which I have enjoyed greatly.

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 12:58 PM | 5-9-2008

I'd urge people to check out the Audiobook of Ananasi Boys. It's delightfully read by Lenny Henry (who was on CHEF! from the BBC) who brings the characters alived in a near perfect audio way.

Sent by Chris Collins | 1:34 PM | 5-9-2008

You guys have perfect timing! I have been reading Neil Gaiman's books/comics off and on for the past few months (just finished M is for Magic last night!). My husband and I just started collecting the Sandman series and he said one of those issues was one of the best things he had ever read. I guess this will go to the top of my list of things to grab next at the library this month. Awesome!

Sent by Natasha | 2:27 PM | 5-9-2008

Oh, I've wanted to read Gaiman's work for a while now!

Sent by Susie | 2:27 PM | 5-9-2008

At the risk of being a teacher's pet, I had to make a library stop this afternoon, so I picked this up. Maybe this weekend will provide the chance to get a jumpstart.

For the record, I had no conversation about the book at all while at the library check-out stand. 'Course, the armload of kids' books and the wiggly, punch-stained 3-year-old may have been a distraction.

Sent by Seth in Kansas | 2:49 PM | 5-9-2008

I would definitely agree with Chris Collins. The audiobook is definitely well worth listening to - and I am not a huge fan of audiobooks. As a fan of Neil Gaiman, this was an audiobook I picked out for my husband and I to listen to while taking a car trip.

The narrator of Anansi Boys has a rich voice which captures the feel and the accents of the various characters in a way that my internal narrator never could. But I think I will go ahead and get the paperback version, too, and follow along with you this go round.

Sent by Scout | 4:37 PM | 5-9-2008

It might be worth pointing out that the title Anansi Boys is a pun that many American readers won't get. In British English, a man or boy who is slightly effeminate or weak (but not necessarily gay) is called a "nancy boy". The protagonist of Anansi Boys is Charlie Nancy, called "Fat Charlie", and he's definitely a bit of a nancy boy. His brother Spider is not.

Sent by Josiah Rowe | 12:49 AM | 5-10-2008

Anansi is the African spider god, who is a trickster and these are his boys, no pun intended.

This is an excellent book and I must agree with Chris Collins as well. The audio book is simply superb.

Sent by Roxie | 9:40 AM | 5-10-2008

I read American Gods a while back and really liked it. I'll have to go pick up this book.

Sent by Michael | 11:47 PM | 5-12-2008

This is a great book as are all of Gaiman's. But I really recommend reading American Gods first. Anansi boys is much lighter however.

Sent by MB | 3:55 PM | 5-14-2008

Thank you for choosing Neil Gaiman. I was unfamiliar with him and I sure needed this humor after the last two books!
He is hilarious. He writes the way I think.
I'm reading this book, but travel alot so enjoy recorded books. I will put his books on my list.

Sent by Joan | 9:57 AM | 5-17-2008

I am in luck this time. My upstairs neighbor already has this month's book, so I don't need to buy it. It was his favorite book of 2007. He also said, reading American Gods first would have made more sense but he commends the choice. (Is this THE Neil Gaiman of Stardust fame?)

Sent by Rebecca in Berlin | 6:20 PM | 5-17-2008

Anansi Boys is a love story with a twist; an at times sentimental tale that threatens to become mawkish, but happily does not. The love story is divided into two parts: the strain for familial affection and recognition matched with the budding hopes of finding a mate right for you. Wrapped up in all this is some excellent mythology, which is no surprise coming from the creator of Sandman, but what is the most surprising is how devestatingly funny the book is. It belongs on the same level with other great british humor writers such as Douglas Adams. If you haven't read Anansi Boys yet, go out and do so today. It's a guaranteed good time.

Sent by Jeffrey Hayes | 12:39 PM | 5-19-2008

Finished the book last night! And yes, Jeffrey, I agree that there are parallel to Douglas Adams way of thinking, and using the "big perspective" in terms of flexibility of time and space.

Sent by Rebecca | 6:43 AM | 5-26-2008

I just finished it! I loved this book. It's the kind of story that always gets me--a bit of a sad-sack main character who grows to fulfill his destiny. It reminded me a bit of Annie Proulx's "The Shipping News" in that way, although it in no other way resembles that book. Very satisfying read--especially since it was read to me by Lenny Henry.

Sent by Tricia, NPR | 12:12 PM | 5-26-2008

I didn't know when I picked up this book that it was going to be about story telling and coming-of-age (I disagree with Sarah that this is a complete departure from the previous book club selections on that point). The main character is an everyman, or in modern parlance and "everydweeb." He isn't anything special -- on the surface, but he become something very special by the end of the story.

I had forgotten the old book of African stories that my mom used in her children's literature class at the college. On the cover was a huge spider -- Anansi, the trickster god. I have to hand it to Mr. Gaiman. He really knows his folk tales AND he really understands how important they are to the world and what they represent. The humor in these especially is important for bringing joy and peace and a bit of adventure (only so we don't get bored.)

The biggest surprise for me though, was to find myself in the main character, Fat Charlie. He had much more potential than he ever knew. This book touched my heart and soul. I was reminded (because I know I've heard this before, but perhaps in a language I didn't understand half so well as Gaiman's) that I am whole. If I let go and be the most me I can be, then I will know who I am. I do not have to compare myself to others, even gods, and find myself wanting, because what is a god anyway? Anyone who can sing songs and tell stories that people want to hear and that move others is a god. Just don't take yourself too seriously. I like Neil Gaiman's pantheon, and I see him sitting there never tiring of passing on stories, and I can see myself sitting next to him, passing on my own -- and every-once-in-while finding, when I return to my favorite chair, that it has disappeared, or that the audience has turned into tigers with glinting orange eyes.

Thank you, Mr. Gaimain and thank you, BPP!

Sent by Ellen Wilkin | 6:42 PM | 6-4-2008

@Ellen Wilkin--OK, I'll admit the coming of age thing...but then, isn't every novel really a coming of age book in some sense?

I certainly know what you mean about finding myself in Charlie. And what you mean about being touched. This is what I loved about the book...Gaiman's love for his characters, his ability to see the beauty and strength behind the awkwardness and to make that real.

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 8:00 PM | 6-4-2008

Sarah, I like that the idea that every novel is a coming of age story. Because every novel is written by a person who, by definition, is human and, therefore, is always mid-process, it has to be about process of some sort. We are always coming of some age no matter how old we are.

Sent by Ellen Wilkin | 9:40 PM | 6-4-2008

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