With summer fast approaching, I’ve begun preparing for my annual summer camps that run the gamut from programming to 3D printing to building a computer. The summer camps I teach do change from year to year, but there has been one constant offering for the past three summers: Minecraft Camp.
This summer, I’ll be offering up two more Minecraft camps (with a slight twist) for up to 20 kids, and I must admit that I have just as much fun as they do. I usually have a handful of novices, a mix of veterans, and one or two experts. It’s a great week, 8 AM to noon, and the kids are usually screaming to stay late. This summer, my two camps are called “Minecraft: To the End.” For those of you unfamiliar with Minecraft, there’s actually a (sort of) ending to the game where the players fight a dragon. To get there, however, they have a lot of work that involves mining, crafting, enchanting, and mixing potions. All of this and more… just for a chance to survive their encounter with the Ender Dragon.
One thing my campers always count on is a stack of Minecraft magazines and books to reference while they play. These resources contain tips and advice on surviving as well as advanced techniques for combat and more. Over the years, I’ve amassed a large stack of books and magazines, but there’s always room for more. Below you’ll find almost a dozen new Minecraft resources that I’ve personally read and examined and added to the Minecraft Library. What I love best about the Minecraft books and magazines are how fast my boys (ages 10 and 7) read them. They fight me on reading quite often, but not with Minecraft books.
If you’ve got a Minecraft player in your house, I can guarantee that one or more of these will be of interest. (I’ll also include a link below to some previous Geekdad Minecraft book reviews.)
Minecraft: The Survivors’ Book of Secrets (Official Mojang book)
Hardback, 106 pages
This little book is an absolute MUST-HAVE for novice Minecraft players. That said, my boys still found a few good nuggets of info in its pages. Most of the book is focused on combat or mining/crafting that relates to combat. There’s advice on building fortifications to repel all the mobs (bad guys) in Minecraft, as well as ideas for base layouts and styles of bases.
Later in the book, individual mobs are discussed and tactics are provided for successfully defeating them. They’re ranked according to difficulty, and it even includes some of the newer mobs that have been added with updates to the game. Finally, the last few pages contain advice for doing a Speed Run to… THE END. The end of the game. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it can be done. The book closes out with some lined pages for writing down notes and your own discoveries, and the small footprint of the book makes it an easy resource to carry with you wherever you may play.
My youngest loved the images in the book that have a sketch-style to them but are filled with helpful advice. He also liked the prompts in the Notes section with questions such as “What are your sneakiest raid tactics?” and “What were your best solo victories?”
Zombies Attack! The Rise of the Warlords, Book One by Mark Cheverton
Paperback, 243 pages
My boys have both read a lot of Minecraft fiction, especially the fun stories written by Mark Cheverton. (I’ve read a few of them myself.) This newest book, however, really takes things to a new level. Whereas the other books all take place in the world of Minecraft, this newest book (first in a trilogy) allows the reader to download a custom map created by Mark Cheverton and play in the land where the story takes place, the Far Lands!
The Far Lands exists at the very edge of the world. Watcher wants to be a soldier and help defend his village, but a zombie warlord named Tu-Kar has other plans. The village is destroyed and villagers are taken prisoner… leaving Watcher and some of his friends to try and figure out how to save them.
My oldest finished the book in about three days… trust me, that’s fast for him and a solid thumbs-up for the book! He loved it, and I’ve promised to grab him Book 2 (Bones of Doom) this weekend.
Do be aware that the custom map requires the Java version of Minecraft (for Mac and Windows). It can be played in multiplayer mode (with other players, requiring an internet connection) or in single player mode. Single player mode, however, will lack some of the special Boss features that run on Cheverton’s custom server.
Minecraft: Guide to The Nether & The End (Official Mojang book)
Hardback, 80 pages
This is the third book in Mojang’s new Guide To series, and this one focuses on two of the most dangerous areas in Minecraft: The Nether and The End. My youngest has avoided The Nether for some time—it can be difficult (and scary) for younger players. I gave him the book and read much of it with him… and he’s now navigating The Nether grabbing up all those special blocks and items that cannot be found in the Overworld (the normal, day/night land). He’s also become quite good at fighting those special mobs (monsters) that are only found in The Nether.
My oldest, however, decided to build a base in The Nether after completing this book. There’s advice in there on finding and locating a Nether Fortress and making it your own. It took him a while to clean it out and light it up with torches (the natural darkness keeps spawning creatures), but he’s quite proud of the fact that he now “owns” a Nether Fortress. The book also gave him the idea to repair and add more mine railing to create a transport system in the large fortress.
Many parents who have Minecraft-obsessed kids are probably unaware that Minecraft actually has an “ending.” The game never really ends (and there are ways to reset the big bosses without restarting the game), but every Minecraft player should really try and shoot to “finish” the game and confront the Ender Dragon. This book also contains a great summary of how to get to The End… and how to defeat the Ender Dragon. Once that’s done, however, the game’s not over. There are areas of The End still needing to be explored, and the book also addresses the Outer Islands that players are sure to enjoy visiting.
Minecraft: Guide to Redstone (Official Mojang book)
Hardback, 96 pages
The fourth book in Mojang’s Guide To series covers that magical red powder that allows Minecraft players to create unique items in the game that move on their own, open and close, shoot, and much more. Redstone is one of the mined blocks that many players encounter but few actually put to use. This has typically been due to the more complex nature of crafting items that require a bit of logical thinking. (Think of redstone as electricity that powers items and you’ll sort of have the idea.)
This book is outstanding for helping both the novice and the experienced player with understanding just how the redstone powder works. Starting with The Basics, players are shown how the redstone can create very simple tools such as switches and torches and buttons and pressure plates… all useful items by themselves but also necessary to create more advanced designs.
Readers will then be shown how the basic tools can be used to create “circuits,” more advanced creations that include people movers, traps, elevators, and even crazier things. I haven’t really used redstone myself, but this book showed me just how easy it is to use this stuff instead of stuffing it inside a chest and forgetting about it. While my boys were somewhat familiar with its uses, they’ve taken a few examples from the book and incorporated them into their own fortresses. They’re always excited to call me over and show me some crazy weapon or hidden door they’ve crafted with redstone. What I find funny is that the book has also introduced them to some very simple electronics concepts (logic) that they might find useful one day.
Hardback, 72 pages
I’m a big fan of the official Minecraft books published by Mojang. They’re high-quality books, and the interior artwork and writing is top notch. Starting in 2017, Mojang started releasing the Minecraft Annual; the Annual contains a mix of articles and How-Tos and interviews and other… surprises. My boys have enjoyed looking through the two Annuals (2017 and 2018), and I must admit that I’ve enjoyed the books myself.
What do my boys like the most about the two Annuals? It has to be the Challenges. In both books, Mojang has created a number of challenges for players to tackle. Examples include taking over a Nether Fortress (my oldest did this one), a Water Park challenge (build a water park!), bringing an abandoned mineshaft back to life (my youngest is trying this one right now), and a Woodland Mansion Survival challenge (one of the newer structures added in an update). The challenges come with some advice on completing the tasks, and my boys both agree the challenges are good ones.
Make: Minecraft for Makers by John Baichtal
Paperback, 156 pages
I’m a Maker, and I do hope that some of my skills and interests will rub off on my boys. They do enjoy a visit to my workshop with me, and I can always find them some small project to do when they’re bored. So far, none of our hands-on projects in the workshop have been focused on Minecraft, but John Baichtal’s book is going to change that.
The book comes with nine Minecraft-focused projects that include creating a real-world version of a Minecraft frame (in the game, you can create frames and insert important items in them like a diamond sword) that can be hung on your Minecraft fan’s wall, making a coal, redstone, or emerald block out of LEGO, creating a LEGO chess set, making a wooden redstone block that glows from within as well as a redstone lamp, and a lit-up Minecraft chess board. Further projects use the Arduino microcontroller to create a lifesized Minecraft Jack-o-Lantern for the porch, a real-world Minecraft clock that simulates the 10 minute Day and 10 minute Night phases (great for when you’re underground mining and don’t know whether it’s day or night above), and finally a lifesized CREEPER that will follow you around with the included controller!
These projects are just outstanding, and my youngest has already asked if I can help him make the diamond sword frame for his wall. If you’re looking to get your kids away from Minecraft for a while, the book’s project may be useful for holding their attention while giving them some hands-on time away from a keyboard.
Minecraft Master Builder Toolkit (to be released March 2018)
Paperback, 72 pages
My boys like to play on a Minecraft server called Hypixel. Hypixel has lots of different types of multiplayer games, and one of my youngest’s favorites is called Build Battle. Basically, players are given an item/object to build and a 5-minute time limit. Examples include build a pig, build a car, etc… when the time limit is up, players vote on their favorite.
When my youngest isn’t online (in the car, for example), he’ll frequently ask me for ideas to build. But right now he’s enjoying building the 15 structures found in the upcoming Minecraft Master Builder Toolkit. This book isn’t out until March 2018, but I got an early review copy and gave it to my 7-year-old. He’s been busy building the Skyscraper from the detailed instructions inside, and he’s already picked the Rollercoaster for his next project. The remaining 13 include a Mushroom Mansion, Underwater Base, Treetop Lodge, Forest Camp, Aircraft Carrier (!), Water Ride, Plane, Sky Fortress, Igloo, Castle, Polar Outpost, Ice Hotel, and Farm.
The book covers each of these structures using 3-4 pages of full-color instructions that are divided up by steps. Projects are also given difficulty ratings from EASY to INTERMEDIATE to MASTER along with a list of the materials needed. In addition to the instructions, tips and advice are scattered throughout the pages, offering up inspiration and encouragement.
Minecraft Mobestiary (Official Mojang book)
Hardback, 103 pages
I’m as big a fan of Minecraft as my kids (maybe), and I do enjoy playing the game. I always play Survival in Hard Core—I like the risks involved in having to create a shelter, find food, fashion weapons and armor, and all the other things that you must do to survive. For this reason, I’m ALWAYS very careful when it comes to the mobs (monsters). If I die in Hard Core, I have to start ALL OVER AGAIN.
That’s why I love Mobestiary. This official book reminds of old school encyclopedia volumes. Every creature from pigs and cows up to the Vindicator and and Wither Skeleton is covered. All in all, 42 (!!) creatures are covered, with each given a page of information along with a matching sketch diagram that, in my opinion, are suitable for framing. Each creature’s image is drawn almost like a dissection image, with callouts (text and arrows) pointing to interesting features and/or abilities. Cut away views of many of the creatures shows their insides, too.
It’s all here… passive mobs (cows, pigs, etc.), bosses (Ender Dragon and Wither), neutral mobs (polar bear, for example), hostile mobs (the longest list that includes creepers, ghasts, skeletons, witches, and more), and even tameable mobs (horses, llamas, ocelots, and wolves).
While the book is 100% useful to players, it’s also just 100% beautiful to read and look at… probably my favorite book of all.
Other Minecraft book posts: