The best books to relive playing video games from your childhood

Who am I?

Video games have always been an important part of my life. I love playing games. I love talking about them. I love (trying) to make them. I love writing about them! Over the years, I’ve realized these various game consoles have been the backdrop to some very important milestones in my life. It’s been fun to go back and piece together which games helped me at which age. It’s been just as fun to explore this gaming relationship from the perspective of other authors/gamers. If you, too, grew up gaming, you’ll appreciate the books on this list.


I wrote...

Growing Up Gamer: A Video Game Memoir

By Clark Nielsen,

Book cover of Growing Up Gamer: A Video Game Memoir

What is my book about?

Growing Up Gamer follows one gamer’s relationship with video game consoles over the span of 30+ years, from the NES to the Nintendo Switch and everything in between. Relive fighting with siblings, joining local video game tournaments, and making new friends thanks to a mutual interest in Mario Kart. Explore the frustrations of trying to get into the game industry and then ultimately going at it alone as an indie developer on the Xbox 360 and Steam. Journey to China to teach English, where a Game Boy or Nintendo DS is sometimes the only thing keeping a lonely expat sane. Real and digital adventure awaits in this funny, insightful, and honest memoir about growing up with video games.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer

By Brian J. N. Davis,

Book cover of A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer

Why this book?

Of course, I have to recommend Davis’s book; we have similar titles! But in all seriousness, Davis takes a much different approach to the “gamer memoir” by focusing more on the games themselves. He reminisces about his favorite childhood games and/or games that were culturally important and does a great job highlighting what made them work (or not work) without letting modern-day feelings get in the way. Occasionally, Davis will tie the game into some real-world lesson he learned. It’s that aspect that I appreciate the most. I also try to reflect on certain games as being more than just “something fun at the time.”

A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer

By Brian J. N. Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Link to the Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer, Brian Davis explores what it meant coming of age when video games went from something young people were expected to grow out of, to being a centrally crucial pillar of development to an entire generation. Starting in the halls of Maniac Mansion, and weaving a path through Skyrim’s majestic landscape, A Link to the Past follows the journey of one young Midwesterner’s search for identity, no matter the super villains, glitches, or threats of social alienation that stood in the way.


Going Nowhere: A Life in Six Videogames

By Sam Leith,

Book cover of Going Nowhere: A Life in Six Videogames

Why this book?

This one’s an intentionally short read, fast-forwarding through Leith’s life at breakneck speed, only stopping to check in every few years to see what game he was into then. The whole thing feels like a strange fever dream or stream of consciousness, particularly in the first few chapters when his childhood memories are probably as fuzzy as the TV he played Planetoid on. Still, it’s a fascinating look at how certain games stick with you over the years. I have my own collection of games that don’t necessarily reflect my favorites of all time but certainly define key moments in my life.

Going Nowhere: A Life in Six Videogames

By Sam Leith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Going Nowhere as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Videogames are among the defining artforms of our age. They are variously adored and reviled, but their influence is felt everywhere. Every game is its own little universe – and hundreds of millions of us now spend part of our time living in those universes.
But what does it mean to play them? What does it feel like to be a member of the generation that grew up with them? Where do they take us, and what needs do they serve? In this short memoir, Sam Leith tells the story of his life through his relationship with games.
It’s a…


Breakout: Pilgrim in the Microworld

By David Sudnow,

Book cover of Breakout: Pilgrim in the Microworld

Why this book?

Sudnow’s book isn’t so much a memoir as it is a very specific, detailed snapshot of what happened when he discovered and became obsessed with the game, Breakout. It’s almost like reading someone’s descent into madness. Sudnow dives deeper into the mechanics and psychology of Breakout than I think anybody thought possible, including the developers themselves. Amusingly enough, Sudnow even tracked down the original Breakout developers for help on how to master the game. I can’t say I’ve ever become quite this obsessed with any one game myself, but I can still relate to that innate desire to “beat” a game. It’s definitely interesting to see what happens when that is taken to the extreme.

Breakout: Pilgrim in the Microworld

By David Sudnow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breakout as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Just as the video game console market was about to crash into the New Mexico desert in 1983, musician and sociologist David Sudnow was unearthing the secrets of “eye, mind, and the essence of video skill” through an exploration of Atari's Breakout, one of the earliest hits of the arcade world.

Originally released under the title Pilgrim in the Microworld, Sudnow's groundbreaking longform criticism of a single game predates the rise of serious game studies by decades. While its earliest critics often scorned the idea of a serious book about an object of play, the book's modern readers remain fascinated…


Gamelife: A Memoir

By Michael W. Clune,

Book cover of Gamelife: A Memoir

Why this book?

Gamelife is a true memoir, reliving moments from Clune’s childhood in vivid detail. He turns his rocky journey through elementary and middle school into painfully relatable stories, where his younger self often rushes home to find solace in computer games. It’s amusing, also, how young Clune tries to find deeper meaning in these games and extend those meanings to his social and school life. Of course, his classmates usually don’t understand where he’s coming from. I’ve been there, my friend. If you’ve ever felt like an outcast growing up and/or used games as a coping mechanism, Gamelife will hit you hard. 

Gamelife: A Memoir

By Michael W. Clune,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gamelife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In telling the story of his youth through seven computer games, critically acclaimed author Michael W. Clune (White Out) captures the part of childhood we live alone.

You have been awakened.

Floppy disk inserted, computer turned on, a whirring, and then this sentence, followed by a blinking cursor. So begins Suspended, the first computer game to obsess seven-year-old Michael, to worm into his head and change his sense of reality. Thirty years later he will write: "Computer games have taught me the things you can't learn from people."

Gamelife is the memoir of a childhood transformed by technology. Afternoons spent…


You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

By Felicia Day,

Book cover of You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Why this book?

Yes, this is technically a “celebrity memoir,” but Day is in a unique position of not only growing up in gaming culture but rising to fame because of it. While only two of the chapters in her book are about specific games she played, one of those games does become the basis for the show that launched her career. It’s interesting to read how she navigated the early days of YouTube and created and marketed the show with basically no budget. As someone who has frequently tried (and failed) to create game-related content of my own, it was nice to see what a self-made success story can look like.

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

By Felicia Day,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The instant New York Times bestseller from “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a “relentlessly funny and surprisingly inspirational” (Forbes) memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to internet stardom, and embracing her weirdness to find her place in the world.

When Felicia Day was a girl, all she wanted was to connect with other kids (desperately). Growing up in the Deep South, where she was “home-schooled for hippie reasons,” she looked online to find her tribe. The Internet was in its infancy and she became an early adopter at every stage…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in video games, childhood, and social alienation?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about video games, childhood, and social alienation.

Video Games Explore 69 books about video games
Childhood Explore 140 books about childhood
Social Alienation Explore 11 books about social alienation

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Extra Lives, and The Ultimate History of Video Games if you like this list.