Randy Ray Good Omens copy
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Credit: Randy Ray

Not even the Apocalypse could tear these Good Omens fans from their tattered copies of the novel

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May 29, 2019

Before it was an Amazon Original, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens was (and is) a much-loved and much-read book that has had at least 146 editions since it was first published 29 years ago.

The novel weaves a humorous tale of how Crowley and Aziraphale (a demon and an angel, respectively) try to stop the apocalypse. The story is endearing, and the characters are one-of-a-kind and, well, wonderfully ridiculous. This combination has earned the book a strong fanbase, where lovers of the story are evangelists (pun intended, sorry) who tend to buy several copies over the years as they read their old editions to death or give them to friends.

Fans’ fervent love of the book has led to copies becoming dog eared and worn as they are re-read dozens of times. Even Douglas MacKinnon has his own favorite beat up copy, which he purchased just before directing all six episodes of the series. Read below for the stories of some of these copies, including the people who own them.

Maria Constant Good Omens copy

Maria Constant (Fontwell, UK)

How She Discovered Good Omens:

I came across Good Omens in about 1992. I think I read it in two sittings, I don't remember sleeping much, not being able to put it down. The imagery in every word painted the most amazing and delicious pictures in my mind as I read it. It is so descriptive but gives your mind plenty of scope to imagine. I don't think I had ever laughed out loud to a book before this one — ever!

Her Favorite Copy of the Book:

I also read it whilst waiting for hospital appointments, and all through chemotherapy sessions and radiotherapy sessions when I was diagnosed with cancer. (Thankfully, the laughter pulled me through and I am through the other side now.) I call on it when I need it the most to lighten my heart and make me laugh.

Angela Davis Couling Good Omens copy

Angela Davis Couling (New Orleans, LA and Chicago, IL)

How She Discovered Good Omens:

I first discovered Good Omens when I was working aboard a tall ship in Chicago. I was hanging out at one of my friend's house and he asked if I'd read anything by Neil Gaiman. He immediately ran to his bookshelf, grabbed a book from it and shoved it into my hands.

That night when I got back to the ship I decided to climb out into the widow's catch, the large net that hangs underneath the bowsprit. I snuggled in with a blanket and started reading. The moment Crawly (later Crowley, of course) and Aziraphale interacted, my heart was immediately won over.

Her Favorite Copy of the Book:

This was the book that was first given to me and it has been my one and only copy ever since (except for a Kindle version so I always have it on the go).

I've had a few people gift me with other copies, but this one has so much meaning for me! I usually end up regifting those that are given to me…anytime I end up in a used bookstore, chances are that they'll have this book tucked away on the shelves somewhere. I will purchase it and then “release it into the wild.” I'll either leave it at a bus stop or a coffee shop or in one of those “little libraries” that have started popping up in various neighborhoods.

Josh Wright Good Omens copy

Josh Wright (US Pacific Northwest)

How He Discovered Good Omens:

I honestly do not completely remember when and where I stumbled across Good Omens. I vaguely remember seeing it in a bookstore and thinking the title was interesting and the Clive Barker quote, "The Apocalypse has never been funnier," was amusing.

His Favorite Copies of the Book:

I own two physical copies and one digital copy of the book. After university, I moved to Australia and I thought I had packed the book for that, but I could not find it while I was there. Assuming it was simply lost forever, I bought the second copy which wound up being a UK version. When I returned to North America, I found my original copy.

I am still partial to the white [US version] since that was the original copy. That being said, I do enjoy the other version as it is the UK version. It’s fun to find the subtle differences between the US and UK texts. One difference I can mostly recall off the top of my head is the footnote concerning demons dancing. US: "moves like a white band on Soul Train. "UK: "moves like the British group in the Eurovision Song Contest." On the US version, it mentions that the Apocalypse will happen “just before dinner” while the UK version states it will be "just after tea.”

Katharine Corr Good Omens copy

Katharine Corr (UK)

How She Discovered Good Omens:

I came across Good Omens in 1993 — I didn't know anything much about Neil Gaiman at that point, but I was already a huge fan of Terry Pratchett. Of course, I fell in love with the book: That blend of wicked humor, brilliant characterization, history, and the apocalypse is hard to resist!

Her Favorite Copy of the Book:

My favorite copy is the original version I bought in 1993, though it's got a page missing now. It's still my preferred version because it has the little bit at the end (missing from my 2007 hardback) which tells you what happened to Warlock and Greasy Johnson. I guess the number of ice-creams available in the US versus the UK is not really an issue now, but I remember the limited choices of my childhood (it really was just chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry pretty much) so Adam's feeling in this bit about going somewhere with more flavors is totally relatable.

Suzanne Good Omens copy

Suzanne (Atlanta, GA)

How She Discovered Good Omens:

Back in 1997, I had an online friend who said I needed to read two things: Sandman and Good Omens. He mailed both copies to me. I devoured Good Omens and never returned that copy back. I fell in love with the book due to the writing style. The footnotes, the conversational dialogue, and how the smallest details were noted. It allowed the world to be very vibrant in my imagination.

Her Favorite Copy of the Book:

The book seen here is the one sent to me from 1997. It’s been through break-ups, a marriage, pregnancies, deaths in the family, two giant moves, and one black Labrador. He’s the one who ripped the cover and spine off back in 2003. I’m not willing to part with this copy though. It’s precious to me. It opened doors in my mind that I didn’t know was there. That’s why I re-read it at least every year. I feel I have to revisit the characters because each time I do, they have something different to say.

Randy Ray Good Omens copy

Randy Ray (San Jose, CA)

How He Discovered Good Omens:

I read Good Omens almost immediately when it first came out. I loved it because of the humor more than anything else, but the storytelling was just so rich. It immediately became my favorite book (and still is), and I have easily read it upwards of 12 times. I started referring to it as "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Apocalypse" with my friends.

His Favorite Copy of the Book:

My favorite version of the book is the first published, in hardback. I bought my first copy that way. I loaned it out to easily 10-plus different friends to share the joy with them. But one person I loaned it to let it get mixed in with some other books when he and his family were preparing to move. My dear copy of Good Omens ended up getting sold at a yard sale!

A few years later I was in San Diego. I had some time to kill, so I looked up a local hobby shop and went to visit it. Next door was a used book store, and I kid you not, there on a central display was a well-worn, hardback copy. Not my original one, of course, but you bet I snapped it up!

Elizabeth Rogers Good Omens copy

Elizabeth Rogers (Bay Area, CA)

How She Discovered Good Omens:

I think I was in high school, so about 10 years ago or so now. I had discovered Terry Pratchett and was a huge fan of his writing, so I was browsing through the Terry Pratchett section [at the book store] looking for the books I hadn’t read yet, and I saw Good Omens. I was intrigued, even though it wasn’t a Discworld novel, and from the first page, I was hooked on the humor and the characters. Aziraphale and Crowley were my early favorites and still are.

Her Favorite Copy of the Book:

This was my first cover, and it’s still my favorite. I love how stark it is, with just the faces to guide you. I’m also a huge bath reader, especially when I’m really absorbed in a book. Unfortunately, I’m also a klutz. I was super absorbed in Good Omens, so I thought why not take it into the bath with me? It just felt like a waste of time to get clean and not be reading. Unfortunately, the steam from the water made my fingers a little slippery and I was suddenly not the only thing that was super absorbed.”

Faith Erline Good Omens copy

Faith Erline (Baltimore, MD)

How She Discovered Good Omens:

I read Good Omens in early high school. I've always been an avid reader and I'd covered Douglas Adams and had finally gotten into Discworld after a couple tries. I hadn't read any Neil Gaiman yet. I think it was a mom of kids I babysat for who recommended it to me. She said, "It's about the Apocalypse, but funny." I guess that was all the recommendation I needed. It quickly became a comfort read for me. I liked so much about it (and still do) — its sense of humor, of course, but also its voice and narration (so quotable), and most of all, the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale. I like its theology, too, and its take on humans.

In Good Omens (through Crowley and Aziraphale's eyes) we're not good or evil, but both, and we're also slightly ridiculous, but we're also creative and innovative and worth saving even from ourselves.

Her Favorite Copy of the Book:

This is the same copy I've owned since I first read it — probably bought with a Barnes & Noble gift card in the early 2000s and reread dozens of times since then. It's just the old trade paperback, not the cool new cover, but since it was so well-loved, it was the one I had signed — by both Pratchett (he was first, at a signing at the National Book Festival) and Gaiman (when he visited my college campus).

James Martin Good Omens copy

James Martin (Iowa)

How He Discovered Good Omens:

I was 19 and working at a bookstore in my college town when I first read Good Omens. I think it was on a friend's recommendation. We were allowed to borrow books from the bookstore, so I took it home and read it over a weekend, laughing the entire time. I think it's the dry humor and the sense of gentle irreverence that hooked me first. Then it was the absolute love with which it approaches the apocalypse and the idea that terrible as things can be in life, it's still very much worth keeping around.

As for a favorite character, Shadwell is, and has always been, my absolute favorite character. He's grouchy, casually rude and absolutely real to me. He reminds me of every grumpy uncle I ever had, who cared a lot about life, but couldn't stomach the idea of anyone knowing it.

His Favorite Copy of the Book:

I have a special place for this version, which I just finished reading with my 12-year-old son this past month. My current copy I have owned for at least a decade now, and it has been carted across half the country through various moves. I've lent it out to at least three friends and happily took it back when they finished it. It's a wonderful book, and it makes me happy to re-read it at least once a year. It's a quick read, but it's like visiting a particularly favored vacation spot — it feels like coming home.

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