Book notes: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman book summary review and key ideas.

The Graveyard Book: Full-Cast Production by Neil Gaiman

Synopsis:

The Graveyard Book is the winner of the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal (the only novel to ever win both awards), the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Young Adult Book, and Audiobook of the Year.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack – who has already killed Bod’s family…

Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book by beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman is sure to enthrall listeners of all ages.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

This book has been in my list for a while because Tim Ferriss highly recommended it as one of his top two audiobooks on Audible. I figured I would save this book for later. However, since listening to Ready Player One and getting such a kick out of fiction book, I decided to choose this one as my next fiction book of the month.

Key notes:

  • So far it is about some man who murdered an entire family in their sleep except for the baby who managed to make it to the graveyard and is being played with by some ghosts there
  • Nobody / “Bod” made a new friend at around five years old, and together they would tell each other what they knew and would hang out and play
  • He was trying to sell a brooch he took from the crypt grave to a pawn shop owner but ended up getting trapped/kidnapped
  • Silas came and got him, and Bod said that Liza helped him out
  • He made Liza a headstone with the colored paperweight he stole from the man and she loved it
  • The Macabre occurs once in a great while and music starts to play
    • This is when the living can dance with the dead
  • Bod was about 11 when he convinced Silas to allow him to go to school
    • Even then, he was barely noticeable and people tended to forget about him
  • At school, he helped some kids out and taught the bullies a lesson by scaring them in a grave
    • He also found out that other ghosts have heard about him from other graveyards.

Reader’s notes: It’s so interesting how he’s so used to talking and interacting with all of these old people from the graveyards. As a result, he has developed manners and is very cultured. His teachers mention that he’s very smart and an ideal pupil. He is very respectable and very studious. He’s so worldly because he’s been exposed to people from different generations. It’s fascinating the type of person who is turning into.

It is also very cool how things that scare normal people such as the dark, graveyards, and the dead don’t frighten Bod at all. In fact, it doesn’t seem like many things frighten him as he is so acquainted with death and isn’t scared of it. He’s mentioned that most of his friends are dead so its not something strange to him. He has this sort of carefree personality, but also infinitely inquisitive and hungry for knowledge

It’s also really cool how he has a sense of morality and wants to stick up for the other kids. I’m starting to really love this character.

  • We learned that Mr. Frost was actually Jack and now his posse is chasing Scarlett and Bod into the graveyard to kill them
  • Bod successfully stopped the four jacks and the original Jack
  • Silas said it would be best for him to wipe out Scarlett’s memories
  • Bod started to lose his graveyard abilities and could not see people anymore
    • Silas told him that he was no longer his guardian and that he needed to go back home
    • He said that Bod needed to live his life outside of the graveyard
  • It’s cool how Bod has such a thirst to see the world and experience so many things
    • It really makes you think how he appreciates the world so much because of his potential as a living person
    • The people in the graveyard have had their lives and have opened up his eyes are possibilities, and now he realizes only he has the ability to experience that as well for himself
    • There’s so much value he got out of being surrounded by these people all in his life and being exposed to them
  • Neil Gaiman put off writing the book because he thought he wasn’t good enough yet
    • Eventually, he started in the middle and discovered he needed to know how it ended. Then we went back to the beginning
    • He realized he needed to walk through raising his kids as a father and see the lesson of letting them go in order to finish the book

Main ideas / Themes:

1. Having a thirst for knowledge, learning, and growing

I love how Bod had such a strong curiosity about the world. He would learn from and listen to all of the inhabitants of the graveyard. He would learn all about their past lives, history during their times, and even some useful skills like being able to disappear or enter people’s dreams to scare them. I think that’s what makes him such a formidable person in his fight against Jack and able to take care of himself.

2. The importance of family / taking a village to raise a child

One of Bod’s biggest advantages is that he had the entire graveyard family who was looking after him. Not only his adoptive parents Mr. and Mrs. Owens, but also Silas, Liza, and the others. Since he was a baby, they’ve been looking after him, teaching him, culturing him, and helping him grow up into a respectable man.

3. The potential of living beings

The big lesson that Bod learned was that there was a reason why he was not meant to live in the graveyard his entire life. While there was a lot of camaraderie, companionship, and family in the graveyard, he had something none of them had: the potential of a living human. While they were all stuck in time and unable to venture out into the world, he had the ability to GROW and AFFECT the world around him as a living creature. Even though it was a sad ending for him to leave his whole family/village and guardian, it was definitely the right thing to do. Bod shows us that life is meant to be lived walking forward, absorbing and experiencing as much as you can for as long as you can.

4. Bridging the gap between the living and the dead, past and present

I think there was some sort of prophecy that the Jacks would be taken down by someone who would be able to unite the worlds of the living and the dead. That was the fuel and motivation for them killing Bod’s original family and tracking him down all of these years. What made Bod so special growing up was that unlike the average person, he was not afraid of the dead, undead, ghosts, or death. All of his friends were dead, so he didn’t really have much fear throughout the story. This lead him to being more inquisitive, cultured, and interested in what his dead friends had to teach him. I think if people become more the students of the past, and learn from those older than us, we can be more like Bod. We’ll be able to take that appreciation and knowledge into the present and find better paths.

Closing thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book. This is an instant top 10 audiobooks of all time and at the top of my list of highest recommended fiction books.

I loved the most about the story, the plot twists, and characters, and Bod’s own development. At first, felt like a cute story about a kid growing up in a graveyard. But then I really enjoyed the type of person he was growing up to be, his morals, and how much those around him cared about him and invested into him. They saw his potential and he made the most of it.

I really wish the story went further, but it seemed like a great place to end. I think the author wanted to end this chapter so that the reader could write his or her own sequel.

For example, I definitely think there should be a future love interest between Liza and Bod. It was so cute when he got her a headstone and then you could tell after that that she really liked him. The way I imagine it, she might follow him around silently throughout his living adventures, have a few encounters, and eventually he comes back to the graveyard after his full life and they get together. And of course Bod’s grave would be in that graveyard where he would be reunited with his family and his guardian.

Overall, its a great book and such a fun experience. I definitely would revisit and read/listen to this again sometime in my life, maybe next year or on a long trip.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

Not sure if there’s a clear “put into practice” action item for this book. However, if I had to choose one, I think it might be:

  • Keep an open and curious mind when it comes to history and be inquisitive when coming across older people about their past and story.

I think if I do this, I could learn a lot more than I would expect. That and maybe I could incorporate this into my podcasting goals. I could make an effort to incorporate a diverse range of ages of my guests as all walks of life could add value to my listeners.

Nutshell:

Nobody “Bod” Owens, raised by the inhabitants of a graveyard, learns to survive against the forces that want to destroy him.

Rating:

4.5/5

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