Book-demic; legacy
December 3, 2018 9:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on a book-box for Mrs: BBQ In the style of a legacy board game! I'd really like ideas for books within the guidelines, and for how I could make it maximally cool/exciting/fun!


My wife asked me to homebrew a book-subscription service of a book a month with a mix of modern books and classics so she could "get back into reading".

I decided to step it up a bit. I'm giving a game, "Bookdemic, legacy" (Name pending) to my wife for Christmas. There will be 10-12 books inside, I'm looking for inspiration/feedback. Something with boxes and little presents you only open at certain times.

So far, I've bought the following books:

Last of the Mahicans (actiony, classic, she loved the movie)

The Great Zoo of China (She loves zoos)

The Mark of Zorro (Actiony, classic)

Dark Matter (Modern, Highly acclaimed as a page-turner)

11/22/63 (Apparently Stephan King's best book)

Lock In (Modern, Sci-fi)

And then there were none (Classic)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (classic)

The Night Circus (High Acclaim, I she loves this kind of theme)

The Name of the Wind (She mentioned wanting to read some fantasy, maybe lord of the rings. People seem to like this one).

I'm planning to wrap each book, and only have a vague description on the outside of each. She needs to finish a book before opening another. I might put a key to another book inside one book, I might put a hidden book in a compartment. I think on the last page of each book I'll tape a coupon for a book-related gift that she can cash in. (I dunno, like a painting class after the picture of dorian gray).

You guys have any ideas of books that fit the requests?

Any interesting ways to make it exciting / like a game?

Is my list of books what you would choose? Is it too heavy in any particular area? Any suggestions of really good classic or modern books that I missed?
posted by bbqturtle to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've read half of these, and I think it's a neat gift! The one thing I'd change about it is the requirement to finish a book. Often what makes a book ideal is its chance intersection with your mood and what you need right at that moment in your life, so I think it's totally fine for people to drop one thing and move on to another--particularly when they're getting back into reading.

Maybe the rule should be that if she doesn't finish within a month she has to open one of these and also seek out and buy another. Worst-case, she ends the year with 20-24 unread books--sort of a pandemic / outbreak multiplying her collection? Just a thought.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:43 PM on December 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

Maybe some non-fiction? Two modern suggestions: "Factfulness" by Hans Rosling, and "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande. After reading them, my family and friends found a great need to talk about them - not at the same time, they're very different books. A coupon for coffee for two at a coffee house; bring a notebook to jot down ideas that come up that you might want to talk about again later.

I agree there shouldn't be a requirement to finish any given book. I honestly doubt if anyone has finished "Last of the Mohicans" in the last 100 years. The movie is wonderful, though - maybe the incentive for trying it could be a coupon for a DVD of it, and a promise to watch it with you, plus popcorn?

Not knowing your wife, I don't know if this would be a deal breaker, but of the 10 books, only 2 are written by women; one very old puzzle by Agatha Christie and the other a first novel by a young woman who describes all her work as "fairy tales." You might consider pairing these books with others: the Christie with an Ann Rule true crime book, and the fairy tale with practically anything by Ursula Le Guin. And maybe a book by a woman author that addresses modern feminist ideas, either fiction or non-fiction.

And I really hope you would consider the treat to go with at least one of these books the promise to read it aloud to each other. It's so much fun, and if it's a terrible book you both hate it's so satisfying to just stop. But if you do enjoy it, then she can go on and read other books by that author or in that genre.

This is very generous of you. I wish you both the best.
posted by kestralwing at 10:52 PM on December 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

One of the things built into the good legacy games is having multiple paths to keep going -- so players don't get frustrated or too far "behind" where the game's plot beats require them to get to. I think it'd make sense to build in alternative "open book 2" conditions... plan A is finish the book to get the next one, but have plan B available if she doesn't finish.

Also maybe she gets to choose something about the book she wants next - choice of thee genres, or whatever makes sense. There should be a sense that her choices are shaping the experience.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:14 PM on December 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also, Jane Austen would be high on my list of enjoyable-to-read classic authors. What kind of classics does she want/like?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:16 PM on December 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is it too heavy in any particular area?

It's... very action-packed? It's heavily male authored? It features primarily male protagonists?

11/22/63 (Apparently Stephan King's best book)

This seems like quite a gamble given that the book is 850 pages long. Unless the reader really digs time travel (and I really dig time travel) this seems like an intimidatingly large demand to make on someone who isn't currently reading for pleasure. YMMV. If you want a time travel book that's very different than the rest of your list, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger has situational action and adventure but is a clever and enthralling, no-twee contemporary love story. Just One Dammed Thing After Another is a rip-roaring read filled with fun history/

The Great Zoo of China (She loves zoos)

This book is a not very good straight rip off of Jurassic Park. It's an action novel that has nothing to do with anything nice about a zoo :( She might be charmed by the classic My Family and Other Animals? It is also hilarious in moments.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (classic)

I don't think this novel is aging particularly well. Might I suggest replacing it with Mary Reilly? That would give you an interesting modern take on the classic Jekyll and Hyde, written by a woman who is an excellent, Orange-prize winning author. (Ignore the film, it was awful.)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:03 AM on December 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

To encourage starting books but not necessarily having to finish books she doesn't end up liking, maybe have the gift/ key to the next book on page 50 or so? It could be a riddle that unlocks the location of the next book with clues that require her to have read that far.

Name of the Wind is great but the series is not complete and may never be. If she's the type of person who may find that frustrating, or if getting her into a complete series might help encourage her to keep up the reading habit, I'd choose something else. Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb is addicting, and adds another woman author to your list.
posted by metasarah at 7:18 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a huge jscalzi fan, but Lock In didn't click with me, tbh. Redshirts was one of my all-time favorites however, especially if she has ever been interested in Star Trek or other space-exploration stuff.

If you'd be interested in modern sci-fi by women, might I suggest hugely popular The Fifth Season or Starglass (also by MeFi's Own).

For a zoo-related book, I'm told (haven't read it myself) that the book that inspired the movie We Bought A Zoo is pretty good, or you could go a bit crazy with Zoo City by the amazing Lauren Beukes. It's pretty intense sci-fi, and might be a bit challenging for someone who is not a big sci-fi reader already, though.

Gerald's Game is good Stephen King and a bit more accessible than 11/22/63, but despite its bulk, it is a page-turner, so don't be entirely scared off by it.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:30 AM on December 4, 2018

Some ideas:

Could you create a simple puzzle inside the covers of the first few books? There could be some off glyphs on the initial card (a simple substitution cypher), and every book has a few of those glyphs with their corresponding letters?

Alternately, get some invisible ink and write stuff in the books. After a few months give her the the means to uncover the message that was under her nose the whole time.

There should be at least one creatively hidden book. Maybe enlist the help of one of her co-workers? They can keep the book in their desk until your wife tells them a code phrase.

Maybe use a theme/narrative to tie them together? Time travel might work, letting you try books from/about various eras. You could even give her a choice between time periods.
posted by Garm at 8:21 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

These are amazing ideas and I love all of the feedback - I'll be revising the book list for sure. thank you all so much for making this more special. I think I'll be incorporating each of your responses.

If anyone else has any ideas for books to trade out or more to add, let me have them!
posted by bbqturtle at 8:26 AM on December 4, 2018

Name of the Wind is's fantasy but in a dudebro sort of way? It's also part of an unfinished series. I might suggest Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion (warning: torture and rape scene) or Paladin's Legacy instead, depending on how she feels about that. Also, did she say she wants to read Lord of the Rings, or just something like it? If she wants to read it I'd just put that on the list.

This list overall is full of long books, very dude-heavy and action/adventure heavy. I don't think these are all books that can be finished in a month. It's also completely missing several genres.

For sci-fi and fantasy: Have you thought about Ursula Le Guin, Lord Dunsany, Octavia Butler, Patricia Wrede, Terry Pratchett, Andre Norton, Peter S Beagle, Patricia McKillip, Roger Zelazny (I suggest Lord Demon as a starting point), Samuel Delany, Joanna Russ? These are all excellent classic authors with varying writing styles and themes. I also like Steve Brust and Timothy Zahn a lot, although I'm not sure I'd call their works classics. Jim Hines' Goblin Quest series is a fun, lighthearted sendup of fantasy tropes and I enjoyed it.

I'm not seeing any romance at all. Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer are highly acclaimed classic romance authors.

And Then There Were None is one of Christie's harsher and more controversial mysteries. Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout and Ngaio Marsh are classic mystery authors if she doesn't like the Christie. Ladies #1 Detective Agency is a highly regarded modern mystery series.

I'm not sure Dorian Gray is aging well, ironically enough. I might substitute The Importance of Being Ernest instead? Or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. For a more modern book, perhaps Richard Adam's Watership Down.

Sorry, I don't mean to be too harsh! I hope some of this is helpful for you.
posted by Ahniya at 9:55 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Love this idea! My suggestion has to do with the pages of the books. I think it would be very special if you went through and highlighted certain words on pages throughout the book to create a secret message that can be understood if the book is completed. It could be a personal message of love or a clue to something about the next book. This would certainly incentivize me to finish each book.
posted by oxisos at 2:04 PM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've spent a ridiculous amount of time re-considering answers to this question and ended up with a list of recommendations that may be of use to you. I enjoyed every single one of these books and have re-read most of them (sometimes annually!) but for each genre, the first listed is my favourite. Many of these I finally picked up after seeing them recommended over and over again on Metafilter.

I come from a publishing family of literary snobs so I like books that are well-written, but I am at heart a plot-driven, pop-corn reader and I do not like to be upset. I also struggle with straight romance (I am still getting over The Thorn Birds 30 years later...), so books driven primarily by love story are never big on my lists.

Fantasy: Kushiel's Dart (F, Me) | A Hidden Fire (F, Me)

Mystery: A Cold Day for Murder (F) | Gaudy Night (F, C)

Time Travel: The Time Traveler's Wife (F) | Time and Again (C) | Just One Dammed Thing After Another (F)

Classics: The Beekeeper's Apprentice (F, CR) | Mary Reilly (F, CR)

Sci Fi: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (F) | Impulse

Steampunk: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire | The Parasol Protectorate (F, Me)

Magic: The Paper Magician (F) | The Night Circus (F)

Literary Fiction: The Cider House Rules | The Red Tent (F)

Bookstores: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore | The Storied Life of A.J. Firkey (F)

Action / Adventure: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo | Pacific Vortex

F = Female Author
C = Classic
CR = Classic Re-told
Me = Metafilter Recommendation
posted by DarlingBri at 6:03 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

DarlingBri - thanks for the list. Since I've been buying these books as I go, let me share with you my current list. My current plan is to hide them around the house, with a clue for location in a previous book, and a key to unlock on page 50 of the previous book, with the categories "animals, classics, fantasy, fiction". I'm invested for $200 right now but I could return them, or buy more!

Do you think there are books on this list, that removing them would be better than just having them "found" later?

And, of your list, are any of them so particularly good that I should grab them even though I'm $100 over budget?
posted by bbqturtle at 8:33 AM on December 5, 2018

Your Google spreadsheet isn't public :)

Also, you don't need to buy new books, you mad thing! You can get all of the books in the world for pennies above shipping 2nd hand.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:15 AM on December 5, 2018

Oops sorry! Here!

My wife said she wanted hardcover. I've been buying a lot of used hardcover books when possible!
posted by bbqturtle at 12:34 PM on December 5, 2018

Just some other possibilities that come to mind, tho the ones you have are fun -

Ancillary Justice is a recent sci-fi novel (first of a trilogy) by Ann Leckie which is great. (Good audio book versions too)

The Last Samurai by Helen deWitt (no relation to the movie) is a literary novel from the 90s about an eccentric mom-and-child who ..try to understand each other and family through multilingual translation and old Japanese movies, hard to summarize but very good.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang is a book of sci-fi short stories, includes the one that the movie Arrival was based on.

The Martian by Andy Weir is a quick read, a positive, everyone-pitches-in-together problem-solving kind of book. Astronaut gets stuck on Mars, he and NASA work together to help him survive and be rescued. It's free of deep psychoanalysis or relationship stuff etc, it's basically a fanfic of a NASA after-action report - if you think she'd like that, the Martian is perfect.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:58 PM on December 5, 2018

Do you think there are books on this list, that removing them would be better than just having them "found" later?

I'd replace Mary Reilly with The Beekeeper's Apprentice. I'd get rid of Last of the Mohicans. I'd rather die than read that Stephen King book again, and I love time travel.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:45 PM on December 5, 2018

Oh no, I was hoping that would be a good starting point for Stephan King. People seem to like it. I wanted to include a book by him. Do you have any alternative suggestions?
posted by bbqturtle at 3:27 PM on December 5, 2018

As far as Stephen King, I've heard The Stand is really good. It's pretty long though (and the only book on this list that I haven't read, but is on my bookshelf in my to-read cubby!).

Like many others, I recommend the Time Traveler's Wife. Glad to see it made the cut!

Also, I recently finished All the Light We Cannot See, and the way this author writes is so beautiful. I tend to speed through words and not savor them, but more than once, I found myself going back to reread a passage and really allow myself to imagine the world he was describing. The void I felt in my life after reading this book (and not having any more pages to read!) was palpable.

As far as classics, I'd recommend something like To Kill a Mockingbird or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I'm not sure if they're old enough to be considered Classics with a capital C but they are well-regarded for a reason.

I whole-heartedly agree with another poster here about having more women authors and protagonists. To this end, I'd recommend The Power -- a novel written by a woman about what world with a sudden reversal of gender roles might look like.

And for even more fun, The Golden Compass. This YA novel is not written by a woman, but does have a female protagonist. It's part of a three-book series and is actually a lovely story about holding onto your humanity in the face of adversity and if books 2 and 3 get read, a coming of age story. It's a super wonderful read.
posted by pdxhiker at 9:23 PM on December 5, 2018

this is absolutely incredible, can you please give me a copy as well
posted by rebent at 6:50 AM on December 11, 2018

RE: Stephan King

I say stick with 11/22/63. My husband doesn't much like King or time travel, but enjoyed reading this very much; I like both and loved the book. For all that's holy, don't give The Stand to someone who's venturing back into reading. It's huge, it's full of ugly violence, it's very heavy. I've read it twice, but if I read it again I'll be skipping hunks of it.

King's latest book, Elevation, is a masterpiece. It's tiny, really a novella at best, but it is astonishing. As a 75 year old who is physically failing but still feel like "me" I say it's the most beautiful metaphor I've ever encountered about aging. I've already given away 3 copies.
posted by kestralwing at 1:31 PM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Good Stephen King starters:

Different Seasons (four novellas, all pretty compelling)
The Shining (classic, violent)
Gerald's Game (female protagonist, accessible)
Mr. Mercedes (hard-boiled detective, very accessible)
11/22/63 (sure it's long, but it's a real page-turner)
posted by Rock Steady at 5:21 AM on December 17, 2018

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