Puzzle Books for the Whole Family

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Images: Chronicle Books

Logic puzzles, brain teasers, mazes, and the like are one of the activities I’ve been passionate about my whole life. I’m sure many of you out there in GeekParentLand are in the same boat. You finish one puzzle book, or exhaust one resource, and you’re on the lookout for more, for yourself or for your kids. Here are a few new books that can provide you and your family some new challenges.

Puzzle Ninja

Logic puzzles have always been a favorite of mine. My obsession with them as a kid helped me with critical thinking, test scores, general logic, and sequential tasks (thanks, Games Magazine!). So these puzzles aren’t just a fun pastime; they can also prepare your mind (or your kids’ minds) for important 21st-Century skills.

Puzzle Ninja is suitable for anyone aged about 10 and up. It includes 10 types of logic puzzles with up to 10 examples of each. Difficulty is marked on a scale of 1 to 4 ninja heads. Each section begins by teaching readers how to solve that kind of logic puzzle in a way that removes any feelings of intimidation that people might experience. The book also suggests some basic strategies.

I was already familiar with a number of the puzzle types included in this book, so I thought I could just jump in and start solving. Nope. While that was the case for a few of the types, it was not true for the rest. And some of the puzzles look very similar to one another, so I do highly recommend reading through the instructions for each.

Each section starts with some simple puzzles of that type, allowing you to practice the strategies that will need to be second nature when you get to the more difficult puzzles. It’s sort of like learning arithmetic before diving into algebra. All of the puzzles are designed so you can devise a solution using logic; no guessing is required. This fact separates quality logic puzzles from non-quality ones, in my opinion.

Take your time with this book and savor what it has to offer. Don’t skip the front matter, either. It offers a very enjoyable read, and I learned quite a bit about the puzzle-making culture in Japan. The puzzle designers there publish under pen names by tradition. The book is also written with humor (occasionally unintentional) and with obvious passion.

Of the ten types included in this book, my favorite is O’Ekaki, which is a number-based puzzle that has you coloring in squares to make a picture. My second favorite is Hashiwokakero, sometimes shortened to “Hashi.” With it, you connect islands with bridges based on the digit on the island.

Since there are only a few puzzles of each type included in the book, you will end up wanting more puzzles to solve when you work your way through these. This book is a fantastic introduction to almost a dozen different puzzle types, though, like a sampler platter, and it explains them all clearly and completely. That way, you can pick your favorites and find more of those elsewhere. It’s an ideal book for beginners. Experienced puzzle solvers will also enjoy the book, but will definitely want to find additional puzzle books to continue their puzzle solving adventures.

You’re meant to write in this book, and doing the puzzles by hand with a pencil—as opposed to finding an app and tapping—is a rewarding experience. This physical action is a great break from the virtual world of screens.

The Official Sherlock Puzzle Book

If you like some fandom in your puzzles, check this one out. It’s probably best for teens on up, especially if you’re a fan of the BBC series Sherlock.

The Official Sherlock Puzzle Book has over 200 challenges across 14 sections, with solutions at the back of each section, and ending with The Final Problem. I wish the answers were at the very end of the book instead of at the end of each section, since it’s far too easy to accidentally see answers, but it’s a minor quibble.

The challenges are based on or inspired by the BBC Sherlock series. This isn’t so much a book to be written in, but one to be studied and contemplated. It’s filled with riddles, verbal puzzles, and some visual puzzles. A few of them would be great for a long car ride with a non-driver reading them out, but most will require reading, examining, and re-reading the puzzles. Puzzles include picture puzzles, cryptic crossword clues, anagrams, code breaking, mathematical puzzles, logic problems, riddles, and a few quiz questions based on the show.

As they say in the introduction, lateral thinking is key to solving the puzzles. They aren’t easy, for the most part. They’ll require a lot of thinking in ways that you may not be used to. But the challenges do come in a variety of difficulties (but aren’t labeled as such), so there should be something for everyone. And, the more puzzles you solve, the easier they’ll become.

I recommend re-watching Sherlock to refresh your memory on some details that will help you solve these puzzles, and then work through the book in sequence because of where the answers are placed. Be sure to use a bookmark to avoid spoiling any of the fun. There is enough here to provide challenging mental puzzles for you or your family for a long time.

Maze Quest

For the younger crowd who like fantasy stories and mazes, Maze Quest is a perfect blending of the two. If your kids are too young to do much reading on their own but love following paths, you can combine family reading time with some independent maze solving on your kids’ part. The book takes readers on an adventure to explore other realms with about 30 mazes to solve along the way. Solving the mazes is integral to the story line as you and your whole family embark on an important quest.

Work to gather up missing pieces of a sword that is pivotal to the story. Avoid or confront the bad guys. Uncover hidden treasure. Look at interesting landscapes. And enjoy the copious humor that will be enjoyable for both kids and adults. Mazes by themselves are very fun, but with the added features of heavy theming and an overarching story line, this book will be one that kids will come back to repeatedly. Don’t be surprised if they memorize the maze routes, which can speed along your adventure!

Puzzle books are a great gift for all the geeks and geeklings in your life. Or maybe get one for yourself, something fun to sink your teeth into when you next have a quiet moment (or for when you’re waiting for your kids to finish up at soccer practice…).

Note: Copies of these books were provided for review purposes.

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