Five Books to Get Your Young Gamer Reading

Five Books to Get Your Young Gamer Reading & GIVEAWAY!

My son and I LOVED the Max Finder by Liam O’Donnell graphic novel mystery series when he was in first and second grade. These short mysteries were HARD to figure out; sometimes the two of us would be right, sometimes we missed the mark entirely. But, Liam’s books worked beautifully to keep my son reading and wanting more.

Now, he has a new series that is honestly sheer genius! A chapter book series based on MINECRAFT! My son is a serious gamer — he actually went to Minecraft camp not once but twice! — and my husband and I work hard but futilely to keep his screen time down to two hours a day. Our policing job is going to get easier!

Please welcome my guest post author today, Liam O’Donnell!


Got a reluctant reading gamer in your life?

They’re the ones who would rather smash zombies than turn pages. And really, who can blame them? Video games offer a world of adventure with a side order of colorful graphics and loud explosions. And books? Well, books have words on a page. On the surface, it’s not a fair match up. Getting a young gamer to read a book often feels like an epic quest doomed to fail.

I can relate. I’m a gamer who was once a reluctant reader. But sometime around middle school, I discovered the power of words on a page. Now, I’m a teacher who struggles each day to get my game-loving students reading. I am also children’s author. Video games are at the heart of my books, like Ganked my young adult gamer geek mystery or Descent into Overworld, my Minecraft-inspired adventure for middle graders. By using video games as settings for my stories and gamers as my heroes, many reluctant readers are able to find a welcome home in my stories.

Thankfully, I’m not the only author bridging the divide between books and video games. Check out these five books that are sure to get the young gamer in your life to put down the game controller and pick up a book.

Epic by Conor Kostick

For the inhabitants of New Earth, success in life depends on success in the video game known as Epic. Every person on New Earth must play the game, fighting monsters and completing quests to earn gold that translates into real world wealth and power. For teenage Erik, Epic is a game rigged to favor those who are already rich and powerful. Refusing to play by the rules of the game, Erik creates a character doomed to fail and in the process unlocks the dark secret  that caused his father’s exile to the edges of civilization and could lead to his family’s salvation.

Epic is the first in the Avatar Chronicles trilogy and is a great read for teen readers not put off by thick books. Weighing in at 384 pages, it might seem daunting for reluctant readers, but the video game battle sequences, inspired by real world games like World of Warcraft, will keep readers engaged. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

Every gamer is familiar with those two dreaded words: “Game Over”. When 14 year old Giannine gets trapped inside the virtual reality game Heir Apparent, “Game Over” could mean life over, if she doesn’t solve the game’s puzzles in time. Taking on the role of a medieval peasant suddenly in line to inherit the kingdom’s throne, Giannine must dodge rivals, outwit a riddling dwarf and defeat a man-eating dragon before returning to reality with her life, and her mind, in one piece.

Game-loving readers will relate to Giannine’s struggles as she starts her video game over and over again after each mistake. With each restart, Giannine learns from her mistakes and gets one step closer to overcoming her enemies, inheriting the throne and escaping the game.

Vande Velde writes with a sharp humor that gamers will enjoy. By making her hero a girl, she challenges the myth that games are just for guys. That said, even with a girl protagonist, middle grade boys will be pulled into this story of monster-filled technology gone wrong. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

In this globe-trotting, virtual world hopping adventure, Cory Doctorow takes teen readers deep into the dark side of video games to rally all gamers in a fight for equality and human rights.

Told from multiple perspectives, For the Win follows a group of teens each with their own reasons to play their favorite online video game. Among them is Leonard, a typical American teen gamer and fifteen year old Mala from rural India who toils for hours in the game as a low-paid gold farmer, harvesting virtual items to sell to rich gamers for real money. When they’re contacted by mysterious player known as Big Sister Nor, these two gamers are soon caught up in a fight to protect their fellow gamers from exploitation both in-game and in the real world.

While For the Win deals with some big issues, like worker’s rights and globalization, its fast action and gamer-speak style of writing will appeal to readers who like a little espionage and hacking with their dragon-hunting adventures. [young adult, ages 13 and up]

Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes

From the early 1980s, before there were Xboxes or Playstations, Canadian science fiction author Monica Hughes was writing video game inspired adventures for middle grade readers. Invitation to the Game (also published as The Game) is one of her finest. In this short book, Hughes takes readers to a dystopian future where a group of teenagers, deemed unemployable by society, are given the chance to play a virtual reality game that tests their endurance and survival skills. As they spend more time in the mysterious game, the teens find the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur, leading to an unexpected climax that holds all the hallmarks of a classic science fiction plot twist.

At under 200 pages, Invitation to the Game is an ideal length for even the most page-phobic reluctant reader. The suspense created behind the game’s true purpose mixed with some very tense survival scenes will keep gamers guessing until the very end. It is definitely a sci-fi classic that holds up even in today’s high tech reality. [young adult, ages 12 and up]

Gameworld by CJ Farley

Sixth-grader Dylan Rudee is good at only one thing: video games. He’s not so good at standing up to the bullies who harass him at school, getting homework done or succeeding at anything that doesn’t involve a game controller. When Dylan gets a chance to compete in the Game Changers video game tournament, he hopes it will solve his problems and help his aunt who just lost her job. But when his gaming skills release some very real creatures from Jamaican folklore, Dylan and his friends are thrown into an adventure that threatens to destroy all worlds, both real and imagined.

CJ Farley’s Gameworld draws on West Indian mythology and features a multicultural cast that  brings some much needed diversity to modern children’s books while telling an action-packed story sure to engage middle grade readers. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

Honorable Mention Gamer Chapter Book for Teens

In Real Life by Lawrence Tabak

Fifteen-year-old math prodigy Seth Gordon knows exactly what he wants to do with his life—play video games. Every spare minute is devoted to honing his skills at Starfare, the world’s most popular computer game. His goal: South Korea, where the top pros are rich and famous. But the best players train all day, while Seth has school and a job and divorced parents who agree on only one thing: “Get off that damn computer.” Plus there’s a new distraction named Hannah, an aspiring photographer who actually seems to understand his obsession.

While Seth mopes about his tournament results and mixed signals from Hannah, Team Anaconda, one of the leading Korean pro squads, sees something special. Before he knows it, it’s goodbye Kansas, goodbye Hannah, and hello to the strange new world of Korea. But the reality is more complicated than the fantasy, as he faces cultural shock, disgruntled teammates, and giant pots of sour-smelling kimchi.

What happens next surprises Seth. Slowly, he comes to make new friends, and discovers what might be a breakthrough, mathematical solution to the challenges of Starcraft. Delving deeper into the formulas takes him in an unexpected direction, one that might just give him a new focus—and reunite him with Hannah. [young adult, ages 14 and up]

Game On and Read On

These five books only scratch the surface on books that bridge the worlds between pages and pixels. While there are many more amazing video game inspired stories, hopefully these suggestions will spark a love of reading in the gamer in your life.

Want more tech-inspired ways to get reluctant readers reading? Visit and subscribe for monthly project updates and digital resources for the reluctant readers in your life.

Want Your Own Gamer Fiction?

Enter the giveaway for your chance to win one of three signed copies of Descent into Overworld, the first book in my new action-adventure series set in the world of Minecraft. Please use the Rafflecopter below. There will be 3 winners!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
    Liam O'Donnell here. I'm the creator of Max Finder Mystery Liam is the award-winning author of over 35 books for reluctant readers. He is also a gamer and a teacher in Canada, where he uses video games like Minecraft to engage students with reading and writing. His latest book, Descent into Overworld, is a middle-grade adventure set in Minecraft and is perfect for reluctant reader gamers. His young adult gamer geek mystery, Ganked, is an ideal choice for tech-savvy teens who like magic, monsters and a little computer hacking with their whodunits. Every month, Liam shares a new tech resource for parents and teachers to get their reluctant readers hooked on books. Visit and subscribe for your first resource and get your reluctant readers reading! To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book. Five Books to Get Your Young Gamer Reading I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. I use this money to pay the postage and handling for my giveaways. Follow PragmaticMom’s board Best Books for Kids on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. It’s nice to see that there are books that highlight gaming for kids and gets them reading too. Not sure I quite understand it all. I’m in over my head with gaming — the Heir Apparent looked like Narnia to me. I guess if I had young boys I’d understand.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Rain Reign – Middle GradeMy Profile

    • Hi Patricia,
      I am finding that my son much prefers gaming to reading and that is a tough battle to win, even though my son does enjoy reading. To overcome this obstacle, I find myself reading aloud to him every night (even though he reads fine himself) and reading a wide variety of genres to tempt him away from screens. Thus far, only enforced reading times have gotten him off screens and reading, but every now and then in a blue moon, a book will get him reading on his own … and I think these gaming books might be one genre that will work for this. So far, only particular graphic novels, books by Rick Riordan and the Timmy Failure series have excited him so much that he is dying to read them but this Minecraft book seems to pique his interest because he loves Minecraft.

      So many things these days to compete for a kid’s attention and books have to really ratchet up the interest level or lose to screens sadly!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015! #ReadYourWorldMy Profile

  2. My kids don’t do any gaming, but I am always happy to see new ways to encourage kids to read! I agree that Heir Apparent looks like Narnia.
    maryanne recently posted…Perler Bead FurnitureMy Profile

  3. HeartofaPhilanthropist Blogger Kim

    My son goes on reading strikes. 🙂 I have a very hard time getting him to enjoy reading. The only books he really likes (doesn’t fight me over) are The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. But he is very into video games, especially Minecraft, and I think I could get him interested in reading gaming books. We NEED to win this. 🙂 #Pullingmyhairout
    HeartofaPhilanthropist Blogger Kim recently posted…Super Sale: 50% Off Personalized Postage Stamps, Calendars, and Cards Today and Tomorrow Only With Coupon CodeMy Profile

    • Hi Heart of a Philantropist,
      I have an extra copy because I bought one copy of the Minecraft book for my son and then Liam O’Donnell was kind enough to send me a signed copy. I can send you the copy that I purchased. Please email me and remind me that I am to send you the Minecraft book and I’ll send you my copy. We can read the signed book! I don’t need two copies and you definitely need to have a copy for your son! 🙂
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015! #ReadYourWorldMy Profile

  4. Ann

    My son is a little young for this book but he would love to read a book set in the Minecraft world! He struggles with reading but really wants to enjoy it. I just try and expose his to lots of books that have a good story and are easy to read.
    Ann recently posted…The First Thesaurus and Fun Writing ActivityMy Profile

  5. This is such a cool post! I googled books on Minecraft for my grandson and this is what came up! And I am just delighted. I love how you incorporated the book trailers for the books. I am sure his mother will want to read this blog post so I emailed it to her.

    Thanks so much for sharing this info. It is really valuable. Every reluctant reader will garnish cudos from these books. 🙂
    Clarbojahn recently posted…Clarbojahn Presents! Author/Photographer Sandra Stein Part OneMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Clarbojahn,
      I added the book trailers as a way to entice the boys into the book. I figured they like screens and YouTube so it’s the perfect way to pull them into a book! And such great trailers too! We are reading the Minecraft book now and my son is really enjoying it. I will try to get him to check out this entire list … first with the trailers and then have him select one book to read next. Baby steps!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015! #ReadYourWorldMy Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge