Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell about books and libraries (quotes)

Passages from Art Matters – an essay in pictures by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell / Source: Guardian

A few years ago, Neil Gaiman partnered with his longtime illustrator Chris Riddell to spread the message about why our future depends on books, libraries, and daydreaming.

Gaiman selected the passages from his writings on creativity, including Credo, Make Good Art, and On Libraries. Riddell drew fantastic illustrations.

As a result, a wonderful book was published. Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World is “a stirring testament to the freedom of ideas that inspires us to make art in the face of adversity”.

It’s surprising that the thoughts from the book haven’t resonated on the web as much as they deserve. But we deserve to know them.

Below, I reshare selected illustrations from the Guardian essay in pictures, accompanying the launch of Art Matters.


It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.

So I’m biased as a writer.

But I am much, much more biased as a reader.

Everything changes when we read.


Fiction builds empathy.

Fiction is something you build up from twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world, and people it and look out through other eyes.

You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.


They were good librarians. They liked books, and they liked the books being read.

They had no snobbery about anything I read.

They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and they would talk to me about the books I was reading.

They would find me other books.

They would help.

They treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.


Libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication.

They are about education, about entertainment, about making safe spaces and about access to information.


​​Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath resistant, solar operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.


A library is a place of safety, a haven from the world.

It’s a place with librarians in it.


We need to teach our children to read and to enjoy reading.

We need libraries. We need books. We need literate citizens.


We have an obligation to read for pleasure. If others see us reading, we show that reading is a good thing.

We have an obligation to support libraries, to protest the closure of libraries.

If you do not value libraries, you are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.


Fiction is the lie that tells the truth.

We all have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine.

It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is huge and the individual is less than nothing.

But the truth is individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.


I suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do.

I’m making a plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.

Source: Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – The Guardian

I may earn a commission if you buy something through this post.

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