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Books about games ‘for the win’

By Jake Sexton

Our library system will soon start its Summer Reading Challenge, which encourages La Mesans to read more books, and provides special programs and events based on that year’s chosen theme. This yearly tradition benefits younger readers by keeping their minds engaged during summer months, and also serves to entertain and inspire all age groups. This year’s theme “For the Win” focuses on games and sports, so we’ll talk about books on those topics.

player oneIn 2012, Ernest Cline took his love of video games, drenched it in ’80s pop-culture nostalgia, and used it as the background for a rollicking adventure tale with his book “Ready Player One.” Described by many as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” meets “The Matrix,” it’s about a near future where virtual reality has become more popular than the natural variety. In this world, the planet’s richest man has hidden clues to claiming his vast fortune sprinkled throughout this simulated, video game-inspired universe — a quest which our protagonists are hell-bent on solving.

A number of popular video games for children have made their way into the book world. The popular building/adventure game “Minecraft” has spawned many books, ranging from titles like “Minecraft Blockopedia” and “Minecraft Hacks,” which give advice and tips on playing the game, to “An Unofficial Gamer’s Adventure” series, with thrilling tales of characters in the Minecraft universe.

Younger readers will enjoy the novels and picture books of “Plants vs. Zombies,” based on a goofy mobile phone app where cartoonish armies of undead battle a carnivorous garden. And although its dominance has dimmed, “Angry Birds” also has its share of children’s books, including the bizarre mash-up of “Angry Birds Star Wars,” where the game’s birds and pigs are combined with popular “Star Wars” characters.

angry birdsPublishing powerhouse James Patterson’s upcoming novel is centered around the Olympic games in “The Games,” his latest book in the “Private” series. His recurring character Jack Morgan has been hired to provide security for the sporting extravaganza in Rio de Janeiro, only to discover a deadly plot to sabotage the games and destroy the city. The book won’t be released until late June, but I presume that (*spoilers*) in the end Mr. Morgan is okay and manages to prevent tragedy.

“Unbroken” is the biography of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who’s career went off course after he joined the army to fight in World War II. But that is just the start of a story of his wartime exploits, capture and captivity in a vicious Japanese POW camp, and the rough path to survival once returning home.

“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey took the world by storm with her surprising victories in the male-dominated world of MMA fighting. Her new autobiography, “My Fight/Your Fight, is a story as gripping as any championship battle. She faced all manner of health problems, family tragedy, and mental illness before she began the ruthless training for the Olympics and beyond.

waltonAnd finally we have a memoir from local athlete Bill Walton. Walton was born in La Mesa, played basketball for Helix High, and went on to great success in college and professional basketball. In his new book “Back from the Dead,” he discusses his life in sports, the numerous injuries that forced him from it, his subsequent career in sports broadcasting, as well as his unexpected love of the Grateful Dead.

The library will begin its Summer Reading Challenge on June 1, where you can win prizes and raise money for charity by reading books. You can also attend our dozens of library programs to keep you entertained and inspired during the hot summer months. Information at sdcl.org/src.

—Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151; visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave.; or go online at sdcl.org.

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