We’re getting towards that time of year where people like to do activities that let them stay home and keep warm – particularly if those activities are things they can do with their families and loved ones. So, it’s the perfect time to think about buying a new quiz or puzzle book.
Whether you’re after a gift for a conundrum-loving friend or a new set of quiz questions to test your family while you all recover after Christmas dinner, you’re sure to find something in this list that will take your fancy.
The best science quiz and puzzle books out now
The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book
For many people, all they remember of their secondary school French lessons is “Comment ça va?” and “Où est la piscine?”. But if you were one of the students who quite liked learning new vocabulary and conjugating verbs, actually, then this is the puzzle book for you.
Alex Bellos, BBC radio presenter and author of Alex’s Adventures in Numberland, brings a collection of conundrums for crossword-lovers and codebreakers alike.
The Natural History Puzzle Book
Dr Gareth Moore, The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Puzzle Book will appeal to those who are interested in both brain-teasers and science, covering topics including dinosaurs, space, human evolution and the oceans. With a mix of trivia questions and puzzles, including nonograms, bridge puzzles and word searches, there are plenty of activities, suitable for all levels.
The Astronomy Puzzle Book
Dr Gareth Moore, Royal Observatory Greenwich
Put your astronomy knowledge to the test with over 100 puzzles in this new book from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. These riddles cover not just space but the history of astronomy, astronomical instruments, star maps and famous astronomers, too. What’s more, you can learn about the latest astrophysical theories and space missions as you solve the puzzles.
The Mensa Puzzle Book
Do you fancy yourself a really serious puzzler? If so, take on the challenge of the “world’s toughest puzzles” from Mensa, the international high-IQ society. With over 400 puzzles, including logic puzzles, riddles, lateral-thinking and pattern-solving, you’ll be tested in every area.
If you can take on this book, you’ll be able to hold your head up high as a champion puzzler.
Gray’s Anatomy Puzzle Book
Dr Gareth Moore, Dr Gabrielle M Finn
Aspiring medics and fans of biology can prove their knowledge of the human body with Gray’s Anatomy Puzzle Book, which features illustrations from the reference book it’s named for. Read each section to brush up on a particular part of the body, and test how much you learned with crosswords, anagrams, missing letter puzzles, secret codes and more.
RHS Gardener’s Quiz & Puzzle Book
Simon Akeroyd, Dr Gareth Moore
If you’re missing the time you spent in your garden in the summer months, this quiz and puzzle book may be the one for you. Test your knowledge of Latin names, anatomy and botany with puzzles from anagrams to plant identification.
So You Think You’ve Got Problems?
Take a tour around some of the most popular genres of puzzle in So You Think You’ve Got Problems? by BBC radio presenter Alex Bellos. You’ll have to puzzle your way off desert islands and out of prisons and mazes, use your mind’s eye to solve geometry puzzles, and tackle new twists on the famous Monty Hall probability problem.
The book comes with not only answers, but (for some of them) explanations of how to tackle similar problems to point you along your way.
How are your code-breaking skills? In Conundrum, Brian Clegg challenges you to decode a series of secret messages, and then string together the solutions to find the answer to the final round. Each chapter has a theme, from physics and chemistry to television and politics.
Don’t worry if you’ve never even decoded a simple substitution cipher before. The first section of the book will take you through the most common types of code and cipher and the basics of solving them, and there are plenty of hints for when you get stuck.
Try a selection of puzzles from Conundrum here:
Only Connect: The Official Quiz Book and Only Connect: The Difficult Second Quiz Book
Jack Waley-Cohen and David McGaughey
Train yourself to win an episode of Only Connect, the BBC’s fiendish quiz hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell. Both books of puzzles get you to find the connections, finish the sequences, defeat the Connecting Walls and decode the phrases with missing vowels.
The puzzles are classics taken from the TV programme, arranged in increasing difficulty. Start with a warm-up from the first heat, and gradually work your way up to questions worthy of the final round. Give one a try:
Puzzle: The titles of four nursery rhymes have had their vowels removed and their consonants respaced. How quickly can you decipher them?
The Round Britain Quiz Book
Like in the BBC radio quiz of the same name, you must tackle diabolical cryptic clues to find the connection between a series of people or objects.
Put your general knowledge and problem-solving skills to the test and see how many conundrums you can solve. Don’t worry if you can’t figure out the answer, though – each one comes with a full explanation.
The Penguin Book of Puzzles
Dr Gareth Moore
A feast of brainteasers from across the centuries, including a few types that have… fallen out of puzzle fashion, shall we say? Be prepared to work with farthings and florins, nautical miles and drachms, as you make your way through this collection of puzzles from the annuls of history.
For puzzle veterans and novices alike, The Penguin Book of Puzzles will test you with riddles and word games, maths challenges, logic conundrums and more. Try your hand at one below.
Puzzle: Place each number from 1 to 9 into the cells (a different single number in each cell) so that the indicated equations are correct. Evaluate from left-to-right and top-to-bottom.
The GCHQ puzzle books
Flex your codebreaking muscles with GCHQ’s two books of brainteasers, taken from the Headquarters’ own archives.
There are ciphers and substitution codes, as well as numeracy and literacy tests – plus hints for when you, inevitably, find yourself stuck.
Try your hand at over 200 challenges from the puzzle masters of Japan. Puzzle types are rated easy to excruciating, and there’s not a sudoku in sight.
Alex Bellos actually travelled to Tokyo to meet some of the best puzzle teachers and solvers alive today. Will completing this book add you to that list? Put your skills to the test with this extracted puzzle:
Puzzle: Divide a grid into L-shaped tiles, like the one above, made up of four cells each. Every white cell must be in an L-shaped tile, with no cells left over. Probably best to use a pencil!
AA British Road Map Puzzle Book
Do you miss the days before sat-navs, when you could navigate the length of the country with just a paper road map? The AA British Road Map Puzzle Book is the book for anyone with fond memories of route-finding the old-fashioned way.
There are word puzzles, cryptic clues, pub quiz-style British geography questions, word searches, and, of course, plenty of picture-searching puzzles that will test your map-reading skills.
The Sherlock Holmes puzzle series
For fans of the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle detective series comes a collection of puzzles inspired by Holmes’ most popular cases and adventures.
There are currently four books to test your PI skills, with over 100 puzzles in each: Code Breakers, Math & Logic Games, Visual Puzzles, and Lateral Brain Teasers.
- Buy Sherlock Holmes Puzzles: Code Breakers from Amazon UK, Foyles and Waterstones
- Buy Sherlock Holmes Puzzles: Math & Logic Games from Amazon UK and Waterstones
- Buy Sherlock Holmes Puzzles: Visual Puzzles from Amazon UK, Bookshop.org and WHSmith
- Buy Sherlock Holmes Puzzles: Lateral Brain Teasers from Amazon UK, Bookshop.org and WHSmith
Richard Osman’s House of Games
Richard Osman and Alan Connor
Based on the BBC TV quiz of the same name, with a mix of games from the series and new ones created especially for this book, there’s sure to be something you and your family will enjoy – and it’s suitable for all ages, too.
These games are perfect for the family that doesn’t want to sit around the fire pondering tricky clues together, but prefers something more lively. And once you’ve found a game you all really like, you can even quite easily come up with your own variations on it.
The best books of all time
We reckon this is a fine selection of quiz and puzzle books, but if nothing here takes your fancy, take a look at a few more of our book recommendations: