As a literary mechanism for exploring American identity, a turn-of-the-millennium road trip through the U.S. seems relatively straightforward—but in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, it’s Odin, the Norse god of war, who sets the itinerary. In the 2001 novel, Odin (or Mr. Wednesday, as he’s called within its pages) hires Shadow, a recently released convict, to drive him across the U.S. Throughout their travels, he rallies fellow deities from ancient mythologies—including manifestations of Anansi, Anubis and Loki—to his cause: a battle for America’s soul against the rising gods of technology, media and the stock market. Gaiman’s contributions to the science fiction and fantasy canon have been so many, so varied and so imaginative that it is hard to call one book his magnum opus. But—as evidenced by its dual Hugo and Nebula wins, and its adaptation for television almost two decades later—American Gods is a strong contender. —Cate Matthews

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