I’ve been searching the shelves of my local bookstore to find great books for kids who like video games. And I’m sharing them here, because I know I am not the only parent whose once-avid reader would much rather pick up an Xbox controller than a book these days!
Still, I haven’t given up hope in getting some balance back in our evening activities.
Many of these books are set in dystopian worlds and take readers through a series of puzzles and challenges before their ultimate victory — or, maybe defeat. (No spoilers here!) These are fast-paced action adventures that any kid who loves video games will enjoy…if they’ll give them a chance.
In other words, no guides to help your kids hack Minecraft or handbooks of Fortnite tips.
These are all well-reviewed novels that provide kids an immersive, exciting adventure the same way a video game does.
One more upside is that most of these books are series, which means once your kid gets hooked they’ll hopefully keep on reading.
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Related: How to encourage your kids’ interests and passions: 5 expert tips
Books for kids who love video games
Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Amazon | Indiebound) is the ultimate video game fan’s adventure — after all, it was good enough for Steven Spielberg to turn into a huge film a few years back. It is loaded with gaming action and pop culture references that your teens will enjoy, and if they devour it the way we expect them to they’ll want to pick up the 2020 sequel, Ready Player Two (Amazon | Indiebound) next.
Project Hail Mary
Fans of Halo or Destiny will get caught up in the dramatic, thrilling story in Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Amazon | Indiebound). It’s a speculative sci-fi novel about an astronaut who’s the lone survivor of a space mission, and he can’t remember why he’s there. Think: Jason Bourne, but in space. He is facing the impossible task of saving Earth…alone. If Andy Weir’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the author of The Martian. (Also about a man facing the impossible task of being in space, alone.)
If your kid needs extra motivation to start this one, let them know it’s in development to be a film starring Ryan Gosling. While there are differing opinions on this, I still like the idea of my kids reading a book before the movie comes out.
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series (Amazon | Indiebound) has been a bestselling sci-fi novel since the 80s, and for good reason. Ender is a brilliant kid who’s gifted talents in the Battle Room make him a respected leader at the government school that breeds child geniuses to be soldiers. Sold yet? If your kid enjoys games like Counter-Strike or Valorant, they will probably enjoy this series too.
Related: 7 of the best video games to play as a family
The Nyxia Triad
The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen (Amazon | Indiebound) focuses on a young recruit who’s earned a spot to travel to a hidden planet to mine “nyxia,” a substance so valuable it will make his family rich for generations. But he must choose to win the fortune — or fight to protect what makes him human. It’s a thriller that kids who enjoy playing space-based games like The Outer Worlds or Portal should enjoy.
The books I’ve recommended so far are all based in fantasy worlds that function like video games do — or require a lot of tech for survival. But the two-book series that starts with Warcross by Marie Lu (Amazon | Indiebound) is different because it’s about a video game that has taken our world by storm. A teenage girl works as a hacker for the game, tracking down those using it illegally. But she goes down a rabbit hole into a sinister, exhilarating world where she has to figure out who she can really trust. Nice to find a book for kids that like video games that also happens to have a strong female lead.
Genius: The Game
I have to admit, I can’t wait to pick up Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout (Amazon | Indiebound) myself. In other words, it’s not just a book for kids who like video games — but adults who like fun, modern thrillers too. James Patterson blurbs the book calling it provocative, fresh, and “smart, smart, smart.” Genius: The Game is about a game (surprise) in which you can trust no one, and everyone is watching and listening. You really need to go to Amazon and read the full, intriguing description there, because it sounds absolutely captivating. I have a feeling this is one book my kids would read in a single night.