The 15 Best Books for Gamers
Put down that controller and read about games.
Sometimes we need to get away from our gaming screens. Maybe it's been a frustrating night of online multiplayer. Maybe you're trying to savor the last hours of an epic game, and don't want to rush through the finale. Then again, maybe you just need a break for your hands and eyes. All of those sound like good-enough reasons to pick up a book. From expansive works that flesh out the game worlds you've visited, to in-depth analyses of the characters and mechanics of your favorite role-playing escapades, these are the books that gamers shouldn't go without.
Credit: Del Rey
The Witcher Series, by Andrzej Sapkowski
The Witcher novels are fantasy at their finest, coupling rich political intrigue with tremendous character development. With the first installment released in 1992, Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher novels were a huge hit in Poland, but didn't make much of an impact in the English-speaking world until 2007. That just so happened to coincide with the release of CD Projekt Red’s first Witcher video game. Starting with The Last Wish, Sapkowski's eight-book series introduces the sardonic and powerful Geralt of Rivia alongside beloved characters like Dandelion, Yennefer, Triss and Ciri. You might recognize some in-game quests from various plotlines running through all the novels, but you'll definitely spot Geralt's famously dry wit in almost every chapter.
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, by Tom Bissell
Extra Lives can be a bit arcane, but it's a fascinating analysis of the social impact of games in the era of Grand Theft Auto IV and Braid. In asserting the relevance of video games as a medium on par with films and television, author Tom Bissell delves deep into his own personal addictions, be they games or drugs, to find the answer. There's a lot of ambiguity in Bissell's critical thoughts, but they're still hard to stop reading. This memoir-ish book will have you coming up with plenty of questions of your own, which is never a bad thing, even if you don't get many answers from Bissell.
Credit: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Metro 2033, by Dmitry Glukhovsky
Post-apocalyptic fiction is certainly well-tread ground, but when done well, it can be one of the most enthralling genres on the bookshelf. Dmitry Glukhovsky introduced his own Eastern Bloc take on a world after nuclear devastation in Metro 2033, which 4A Games later adapted into the cult favorite Metro games. Set in Moscow, the book provides a frightening glimpse into the life of the Soviet people when forced underground, showcasing a part of the world so often ignored in Western European fiction. Metro 2033 is at times frightening and heartbreaking, but it's a deep look at what happens when everything else in the world has gone wrong.
Credit: CreateSpace Publishing
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, by Jason Schreier
Unlike film, television and music, we hardly ever get a glimpse behind the curtain of games that make it to the shelves, let alone those that fail to ever see the light of day. With Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, game journalist Jason Schreier takes readers behind the veil of secrecy to learn how titles like The Witcher 3, Uncharted 4 and even Star Wars 1313 were made (or not). Anyone with even a passing interest in game development will be immediately hooked by the inner workings of some of the biggest studios in world. Gamers who have spent hours in these worlds will be amazed that any of it was possible, given the chaotic situations at the heart of each development process.
Credit: HarperCollins Publishers
Rainbow Six, by Tom Clancy
Tom Clancy's name has been found atop a number of video games over the years, but not all of those games were worthy of the novels that inspired them from the political-thriller master himself. (Technically, Rainbow Six was a book before it was a game, but only just barely.) Following the elite anti-terror unit known as "Rainbow," the book portrays the black-ops team on its first set of missions, culminating in a hunt to stop eco-terrorists. While the villains may be a little '90s, the book is just as taut and meticulous as any of Clancy's more famous works, like The Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games. It's a throwback read, to be sure, but features a master author doing great work.
Credit: Penguin Publishing Group
All Your Base Are Belong to Us, by Harold Goldberg
Perhaps no book better chronicles the rise of video games from niche hobby to multibillion- dollar industry than All Your Base Are Belong to Us. Recalling tales of gaming's biggest names throughout the years, including Atari's Nolan Bushnell and Rockstar's Dan and Sam Houser, Harold Goldberg' race through the ages is a great read for gamers of all types. It's not quite a historical breakdown, but more a narrative woven through the developments of the industry over the years. Seeing the highs and lows of the business through the eyes of the people who were there almost every step of the way provides some great insight into how games got to where they are today.
Mass Effect Trilogy, by Drew Karpyshyn
There are a number of Mass Effect novels and comics available to read, but the first three books (Revelation, Ascension and Retribution) written by lead game writer Drew Karpyshyn are the best of the bunch. The three books take place around the time of the original game trilogy, offering looks at the universe of Mass Effect before and between the adventures of Commander Shepard. Although the books are great at adding more depth to the universe of Mass Effect, they are also solid sci-fi novels in their own right. Add in the fact that the characters involved are all tertiary to the games, and you have a set of novels anyone can read without feeling too lost.
Credit: Random House Publishing Group
Console Wars, by Blake J. Harris
Sega does what Nintendon't. It's an advertising slogan that has stuck with anyone old enough to remember the 16-bit wars of the '90s between Sega and Nintendo. In Console Wars, Blake Harris shows readers just how incredible the action behind the scenes really was for both companies. After the irrefutable success of the NES over the Sega Master System, Sega had to go big for its next venture, and the team behind the Genesis went all out to compete and try to outsell the Super Nintendo. There are fewer things more captivating in games writing than the deep dives into how the business works, and Console Wars shows the bitter truth behind two of home gaming's juggernauts.
Credit: HarperCollins Publishers
Perfect Dark: Initial Vector, by Greg Rucka
Greg Rucka has written Batman, Wonder Woman and dozens of other comic characters, as well being a successful thriller novelist in his own right. He's also a longtime gamer. When tapped to write a tie-in novel for Perfect Dark Zero, Rucka turned out a story that far surpassed anything fans had seen in the game franchise's narratives. His Joanna Dark is as lethal as she is relatable, and proves to be a strong protagonist for this techno-action adventure. There are twists, turns and enough espionage to make Initial Vector stand strong, independent of the game on which it's based. It's rare when an average game gets an above-average book to go along with it, but that's what happened here.
Credit: Tom Doherty Associates
Grand Theft Childhood, by Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson
When doctors from the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media release a book based on their studies on the effects of gaming on violence in children, you should probably read it. Covering the results of research that began in 2004, Grand Theft Childhood explores the connections (or lack thereof) between video games and aggression in kids. The comprehensive breakdown may sound like a dull read, but it's much more than just an academic discussion. A must-read for parents, and for younger people looking for resources to support their hobby of choice, Grand Theft Childhood deserves a home in every gamer's library.
Credit: Simon & Schuster
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, by David Michaels
Though Tom Clancy only created Splinter Cell's dynamic lead (Sam Fisher) and the organization he works for (Third Echelon), the novels based on Ubisoft's blockbuster franchise are still worth checking out. Written by David Michaels (a pseudonym developed for all of the Ubisoft Clancy novels), the book follows Sam Fisher as he battles against a rogue group known as The Shadows, and must stop a plot to kill other Third Echelon members. Though it lacks the grounded realism of Clancy's writing, Splinter Cell is a strong action/espionage book that does well by the game series. Many books have followed, but the first is truly the best of the bunch.
Credit: Penguin Publishing Group
ICO: Castle in the Mist, by Miyuki Miyabe
Long after ICO released on the PlayStation 2, the Japanese novelization of the game finally found its way to anglophone audiences. Miyuki Miyabe's ethereal text brings new meaning and life to the world Fumito Ueda created. While the PlayStation game took a minimalist approach to narrative, the novel brings clarity and depth to the world and characters. If you've already played the game, ICO the book will likely reinforce your interpretation of Yorda and Ico's relationship. However, if you somehow never tried the puzzling adventure game, there's a wonderful story at the heart of this book that you’ll want to play for yourself soon after reading.
Significant Zero, by Walt Williams
If Walt Williams' name looks familiar, that's because he's one of the writers behind games like Spec Ops: The Line, BioShock and Mafia II. With Significant Zero, Williams lets readers join him on a tour through the development of games from a writer's perspective. Like several other books on this list, Williams' work is notable for its unfiltered access to places that those on the outside of the gaming industry never get to visit. It's a startling glimpse at the pressures of AAA game development, complete with unfettered egos (even if the names they belong to have been changed along the way), and unflinchingly honest opinions on the place of morality and violence in games.
Credit: Atria Books
Boss Fight JRPG Bundle, by Various
Boutique publisher Boss Fight Books has been publishing incredible personal and critical looks at some of the biggest and most memorable video games ever released. Though there is a wide range of books available, arguably the best bundle in the bunch in the one focusing on four beloved Japanese RPGs: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy V, Kingdom Hearts II and Earthbound. Each book delves deep into the personal connections each author (and maybe you, too) made with the source material, and offers a more analytical look at elements within the games, which you may have missed when playing. Come for the thorough breakdown of Earthbound's cult appeal, but stay for the analysis of hope and friendship at the core of Kingdom Hearts II.
Credit: Boss Fight Books
Empires of EVE, by Andrew Groen
EVE Online is one of the biggest games in the world, and it's also one of the hardest to get into if you haven’t been playing for years. Even with that in mind, the history of the game and the players within it is one of the most fascinating looks at online gaming ever written. Using firsthand accounts from the players on the edges of in-game space, Andrew Groen painstakingly recounts the entire political and cultural history of EVE Online's early days. It's nearly impossible to put down the lavishly illustrated text once you've started, as it provides a fascinating look at how this community based around one game has history that rivals any physical civilization.
Credit: Andrew Groen