The most recommended books on virtual reality

Who picked these books? Meet our 63 experts.

63 authors created a book list connected to virtual reality, and here are their favorite virtual reality books.
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Book cover of Friday Black

Steven Sherrill Author Of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

From my list on short stories to send your mind into the sublime.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most of my public success has been as a novelist. My MFA, from the Iowa Writers Workshop, is in poetry. When I grow up, I want to be a short story writer. The dirty truth is, though, I’ve been making trouble with stories since I was a kid. During my first attempt in 10th grade, I wrote a story that got me suspended for two weeks. No explanation. No guidance. Just a conference between my parents, teachers, and principal (I wasn’t present), and they came out and banished me. I dropped out of school shortly after. I reckon that experience, both shameful and delicious, shaped my life and love of narrative.

Steven's book list on short stories to send your mind into the sublime

Steven Sherrill Why did Steven love this book?

Such a rule breaker. A complete disregard for the laws of nature. That can’t happen! I shouldn’t feel so for those characters! And yet, and yet! The characters that people these pages are real and convincing. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah takes us in and out of realities. His world is dark sibling to our everyday world, but even his most flawed characters resonate with dignity, and through skillful well-crafted revelation, the reader comes to understand why these characters struggle—often against societal forces larger/older/engrained—and even when his characters make bad decisions (lord knows a misbehaving character is what good fiction is about) a glimmer of the potential for human goodness is exposed. This a contemporary voice, fierce and fresh, and worth paying attention to.

By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Friday Black 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
'An unbelievable debut' New York Times

Racism, but "managed" through virtual reality

Black Friday, except you die in a bargain-crazed throng

Happiness, but pharmacological

Love, despite everything

A Publisher's Weekly Most Anticipated Book for Fall 2018

Friday Black tackles urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explores the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In the first, unforgettable story of this collection, The Finkelstein Five, Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unstinting reckoning of the brutal prejudice of the US justice system. In Zimmer Land we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of…


Book cover of The Divine Invasion

Jeff Hopp Author Of Legend of the Mind

From my list on science fiction written by Philip K. Dick.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professional artist and musician, and I owe a huge debt to Philip K. Dick. I started to read his works at a very young age (I believe I’ve read most everything he’s written at least twice), and my love of his work has continued throughout my life and he has been the greatest inspiration to my music, writing, and art. I felt so influenced and indebted that a created a comic book to honor him and to tell my stories and ideas that have populated my imagination as a result of his books.

Jeff's book list on science fiction written by Philip K. Dick

Jeff Hopp Why did Jeff love this book?

I loved this book because it blends many religions and faiths and churns out an amazing explanation of the universe and how our realities are created.

I think this was not only an incredibly entertaining book full of fascinating characters and realities, but its spiritual questions and answers just captivated my soul and imagination and expanded my view of life and the universe. I also felt really connected to so many characters in this book and that really made it special.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Featuring virtual reality, parallel worlds, and interstellar travel, The Divine Invasion is the second novel in the VALIS trilogy by Philip K. Dick, the Hugo Award–winning author of The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—the basis for the film Blade Runner.

God is not dead, he has merely been exiled to an extraterrestrial planet. It is on this planet that Yah—as this possible God is known—meets Herb Asher and convinces him to help Yah return to Earth, which is itself under the control of the demonic Belial. To do this, Asher must shepherd a…


Book cover of The Secret Life of Puppets

Brandon R. Grafius Author Of Lurking Under the Surface: Horror, Religion, and the Questions that Haunt Us

From my list on horror and religion.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a fan of horror since I got sucked into Scooby-Doo as a three-year-old. When I started my academic career, I kind of kept that passion tucked inside as something to be embarrassed about – after all, I wanted to do serious work, and horror movies aren’t serious, right? Graduate school made me rethink that assumption, and pushed me towards seriously considering the engagement of horror and religion. I wrote my dissertation on a chapter of the Book of Numbers as a slasher narrative, and I haven’t looked back since.

Brandon's book list on horror and religion

Brandon R. Grafius Why did Brandon love this book?

Nelson’s book is a revelation in how it explores the work that both religion and popular culture can do – her readings of Lovecraft’s work are particularly evocative. I’m not on board with the sharp line she draws between high and low culture, but it’s one of those books that’s fascinating even when you disagree with it.

By Victoria Nelson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Secret Life of Puppets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this work, Victoria Nelson illuminates the deep but hidden attraction the supernatural still holds for a secular mainstream culture that forced the transcendental underground and firmly displaced wonder and awe with the forces of reason, materialism, and science. In a backward look at an era now drawing to a close, "The Secret Life of Puppets" describes a curious reversal in the roles of art and religion: where art and literature once took their content from religion, we came increasingly to seek religion, covertly, through art and entertainment. In a tour of Western culture that is at once exhilarating and…


Book cover of True Names

Ramsey Isler Author Of Ghosts of ARCADIA

From my list on virtual reality games.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a geek and tech professional, I've worked on software and gadgets in multiple countries and just as many industries. I'm fascinated by work that leads us to a better future built on technology while being fully aware of the dangers involved if we're not vigilant. I've built websites, fitness devices, and even spent some time working on Wikipedia's data structure. But my first tech love was that strange and beautiful blend of art and science we call video games. I’ve played more games than I can count and created a few of my own, but as a novelist and reader I found myself drawn to books about games just as much as the games themselves.

Ramsey's book list on virtual reality games

Ramsey Isler Why did Ramsey love this book?

This one doesn’t involve a game in the traditional sense but indulge me for a moment. Imagine an online world of subterfuge and countermoves where the stakes are the revelation of your true identity and the loss of your freedom. It's a world where digital avatars mask influential hackers determined to bring down real-world institutions, and the manipulative games they play against each other aren’t for points or pride, but power. This is the world of True Names, arguably the first book to lay the foundations of cyberspace fiction. This short 1981 novella is like an ancient artifact reflecting the beginnings of a major shift in civilization. Although some of the tech references are so dated many readers won't even recognize them, a lot of the concepts were far ahead of their time.

By Vernor Vinge, Bob Walters (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A study of True Names, Vernor Vinge's critically acclaimed novella that invented the concept of cyberspace, features that complete text of the novella, as well as articles by Richard Stallman, John Markoff, Hans Moravec, Patricia Maes, Timothy May, and other cyberspace pioneers. Original.


Book cover of Temple of Sorrow

Edwin McRae Author Of Skulls of Atlantis

From my list on characters who empower others as they level up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a LitRPG author and narrative designer for the video games industry. I’ve written and designed for many RPGs and have always found it satisfying when the player character’s actions tangibly improve the in-game situations of the NPCs. In my own LitRPGs and interactive fiction, I intentionally place the player characters within communities they will come to care about and see grow as their own personal power grows. To me, a character build is more about relationships than upgrades. Stats are just numbers until they affect the lives of others. Then they become story.

Edwin's book list on characters who empower others as they level up

Edwin McRae Why did Edwin love this book?

Devon Walker is a rare breed of main character in LitRPG. A well-written female! And while there’s a lot of focus on her classic fantasy character build, there’s as much story time spent on town building and community management. Devon forms strong bonds and friendships with the NPCs of this fantasy RPG world and she does her best to improve their ‘lives’. Stonehaven League is as much about building character as it is about character build.

By Carrie Summers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Devon Walker has one chance to turn her life around.
A half-wit ogre, a legion of overgrown jungle beasts, and a power-tripping AI are trying to stop her.

#1 Bestseller in Role Playing and Fantasy | #1 Bestseller in Video Game Adaptations | #1 Bestseller in Metaphysical and Visionary Fantasy | #1 Bestseller in Dragons & Mythical Creatures | #1 Bestseller in Cyberpunk | #1 Bestseller in Virtual Reality

Relic Online is the hottest new game out there, and it’s Devon Walker’s best hope for escaping her hard-knock life. Thanks to her rocking achievements in other games, she’s been hired…


Book cover of Ready Player One

Dave Buschi Author Of Reality Recoded

From my list on science fiction books with an everyman hero.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a house of books. Bookcases in almost every room. At an early age, I discovered some great ones that were usually recommended by my dad. The Odyssey. Tarzan of the Apes. Princess of Mars. It is a long, long list, and I won’t give you all my faves—but one thing about it: I was drawn to books with heroes, particularly when those heroes were clearly good. There are no shades of gray for me. I like my heroes to have honor and humility and to always strive to do the right thing.

Dave's book list on science fiction books with an everyman hero

Dave Buschi Why did Dave love this book?

I love stories where the hero is a normal guy that we can all identify with in some way or another and where there is an arc to the story that transforms that normal guy into something extraordinary. 

With just wits and creativity, our hero, Wade Watts, finds a way to survive against all odds. And no matter how bad things get, he never quits. He embodies the best of the human spirit—and by the end of the book, you’re cheering for him. Because he is you (or who you want to be), the "everyman" who stands up to injustice, unfairness, and those powers that are wrecking humanity (which in this case happens to be a trillion-dollar Mega Corporation).

By Ernest Cline,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Ready Player One as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG

It's the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We're out of oil. We've wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that…


Book cover of The Butcher's Masquerade

Lydia Sherrer Author Of Beginnings

From Lydia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author USA Today bestseller Creator of worlds Boy mom Small business owner Tea and chocolate addict

Lydia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Lydia Sherrer Why did Lydia love this book?

This LitRPG series by Matt Dinniman is not my usual fare. It is far more adult (not sex, but lots of gore and language) and has higher stakes than I usually read, so readers should be aware that it is an adult series and not appropriate for young adults.

But it is SOOOOO freaking good. I’m usually not gripped by LitRPG stories because the world they are fighting in is fake (virtual, only exists in make-believe, etc.). But this story turns it on its head because the entire Earth becomes a massive role-playing arena. It is sort of Hunger Games meets Ready Player One meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

 It is ridiculous and gripping and funny. There are cheers and tears. And in the end, they are all fighting to take back Earth. It is very well-plotted, well-paced, and just a good time.

Book cover of Last Gate of the Emperor

Catherine Egan Author Of Sneaks

From my list on middle-grade sci fi – with bonus aliens.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was bored or stressed out at school as a kid, I used to pretend that I was an alien posing as a person and that I’d come to earth to learn about humans. It was fun and helped me to relax. (Look, we all have our own ways of relaxing, I don’t know why “pretending to be an alien” isn’t on more self-care lists these days). Given my tendency to drift toward other worlds, it’s amazing that it took me so long to write a book featuring aliens! The trouble-making Sneaks provide the action in my most recent MG book, which also deals with very real middle-school struggles with friendships and family.  

Catherine's book list on middle-grade sci fi – with bonus aliens

Catherine Egan Why did Catherine love this book?

Funny and fast-paced, this story of a boy and his bionic cat will charm avid sci-fi fans and reluctant readers alike. Did I mention the bionic cat? Besa is the star, as far as I’m concerned. Protagonist Yared skips school (with his bionic cat!) to take part in an augmented reality tournament and finds himself at the center of a massive galactic war. Intricate world-building influenced by Ethiopian legend, a tight plot, and an engaging lead trio (including: bionic cat!) make this a delightful read. 

I loved Yared’s voice! Few readers will be able to resist his charm and humor. I certainly couldn’t.

The Aliens: The Werari – terrifying golden-eyed alien invaders with a bionic monster, the Bulgu.

By Kwame Mbalia, Prince Joel Makonnen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Gate of the Emperor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

From Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel David Makonnen comes
an action-packed Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiopian
empire. Sci-fi and fantasy combine in this epic journey to the
stars.

Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime
- a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules,
and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness
Besa are his only family... and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth,
those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground
augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb's Obelisk. But
when…


Book cover of One in the Gut

Edwin McRae Author Of Skulls of Atlantis

From my list on characters who empower others as they level up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a LitRPG author and narrative designer for the video games industry. I’ve written and designed for many RPGs and have always found it satisfying when the player character’s actions tangibly improve the in-game situations of the NPCs. In my own LitRPGs and interactive fiction, I intentionally place the player characters within communities they will come to care about and see grow as their own personal power grows. To me, a character build is more about relationships than upgrades. Stats are just numbers until they affect the lives of others. Then they become story.

Edwin's book list on characters who empower others as they level up

Edwin McRae Why did Edwin love this book?

While Ryan is your usual ‘disaffected gamer becomes hero’ type of main character, his trajectory isn’t the standard empowerment fantasy you see in LitRPG. In a VR game where the freemium players are zombies and the premium players get to be zombie-hunting ‘survivors’, Ryan masters his zombie build and then sets about tearing down the classist pay wall. If you’ve ever wondered what a zombie revolution would look like, then you’re in for a treat with Headshot Online.

By Matthew Siege,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One in the Gut as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Every week, I rise from the dead...Headshot has just gone live and the whole world's playing the new Artificial Reality blockbuster. Unfortunately, unless you can buy your way onto the Survivor's side, you can only participate as a Zombie. Each week, the forces gather to tear each other down to the bone… until, at week’s end, the Apocalypse is reset.Ryan's played the Beta for months, but now that his favorite game has launched, he finds it consuming his life—even as he struggles to decipher whether or not there's actually a way to succeed if you're not willing to Pay to…


Book cover of The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing

Dave Walsh Author Of Broken Ascension

From Dave's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Surrealist Guitarist Avid hiker Esoteric wrestling enthusiast Habitual tech tinkerer

Dave's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Dave Walsh Why did Dave love this book?

I’m really not sure how to talk about this book sometimes. There’s a kinetic energy to it that comes from the breathless literary allusions before descending into a labyrinth of the most surreal of the greats. I mean, the title itself is derived from a work by Italo Calvino, and Calvino is perhaps, at times, a character in this book, along with Jorge Luis Borges, Philip K. Dick, Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe, and others. 

If you’re going to not just evoke a list of great authors, but integrate them into your work, you’ve got to wield them with a deft hand, which is exactly what happens here. There’s a certain level of unease this book left me in throughout, but kept me reading and laughing, even while the protagonist’s reality frayed into the surreal and odd. Perhaps exactly because it frayed so much, I’m not sure.

By Raymond St. Elmo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Clarence St. Claire is a programmer who cherishes an orderly life. His motto: ‘work is important; people, not so much’. His determination to be The Most Serious Person on the Planet is threatened when he becomes haunted by a mysterious manuscript from his past: 300 pages of possibly random bird tracks. Risking his career and self-possession, St. Claire dares to pursue the manuscript against the opposition of hackers, the NSA, the ghosts of famous writers and doubts of his own sanity.

Lost in a maze of bird-prints and their possible meanings, St. Claire determines to summon the late writer Jorge…