American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

Summary
  1. As Shadow is about to leave prison, he is told that his wife was killed in a car crash. He ends up partnering with a shady character named Wednesday and from there is taken on a wild and scary road trip where he is caught in the middle of a war between the gods of the old world (think of Odin) and the new (think the media and internet).
Key Takeaways
  1. Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.
  2. ‘The kind of behavior that works in a specialized environment, such as prison, can fail to work and in fact become harmful when used outside such an environment’?”
  3. “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.”
  4. “Liberty,” boomed Wednesday, as they walked to the car, “is a bitch who must be bedded on a mattress of corpses.”
  5. “That,” said Wednesday, driving off, “is the eternal folly of man. To be chasing after the sweet flesh, without realizing that it is simply a pretty cover for the bones. Worm food. At night, you’re rubbing yourself against worm food. No offense meant.”
  6. “This is the only country in the world,” said Wednesday, into the stillness, “that worries about what it is.” “What?” “The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.”
  7. “Now, as all of you will have had reason aplenty to discover for yourselves, there are new gods growing in America, clinging to growing knots of belief: gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon. Proud gods, fat and foolish creatures, puffed up with their own newness and importance.
  8. 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.
  9. Death had vanished from the streets of America, thought Shadow; now it happened in hospital rooms and in ambulances.
  10. 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 that 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.”
  11. No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island
  12. “This isn’t about what is,” said Mr. Nancy. “It’s about what people think is. It’s all imaginary anyway. That’s why it’s important. People only fight over imaginary things.”
  13. “It is only a gesture,” he said, turning back to Shadow. “But gestures mean everything.
  14. He hoped he would live though this, but he was willing to die, if that was what it took to be alive.
  15. We do not always remember the things that do no credit to us. We justify them, cover them in bright lies or with the thick dust of forgetfulness. All of the things that Shadow had done in his life of which he was not proud, all the things he wished he had done otherwise or left undone, came at him then in a swirling storm of guilt and regret and shame, and he had nowhere to hide from them. He was as naked and as open as a corpse on a table…
  16. People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.
What I got out of it
  1. Compelling read and interesting take on gods and death.

Buy American Gods