Having trouble coming up with some last-minute Christmas gifts and stocking fillers? Not only do we think these puzzle and quiz books would make great presents, but doing the brain teasers yourself could sharpen up your mind and improve your problem-solving. They’ll also give you and your family something to do between digesting your enormous Christmas lunch and cracking open another box of chocolates.
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. You’ll need to draw on your general knowledge to decipher some of these puzzles, so you may need to work together with your friends and family.
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.
Conundrumby Brian Clegg is out now (£8.99, Icon Books).
Try a selection of puzzles from Conundrum here:
So You Think You’ve Got Problems? by Alex Bellos
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. You don’t need years of puzzling experience for this book, just your ingenuity and imagination.
Only Connect: The Difficult Second Quiz Book by 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, in this second volume of puzzles. 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. If you can quiz your way through this book, which is a full series’ worth of puzzles, you’d be sure to go home with the trophy.
Richard Osman’s House of Games by Richard Osman and Alan Connor
If Only Connect is a little too gruelling for you, then try Richard Osman’s House of Games, 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.
You don’t even need to have watched the programme to enjoy the book, since each game comes with full instructions.
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.
AA British Road Map Puzzle Book by Helen Brocklehurst
Do you miss the days before sat-navs, when you could navigate the length of the country with just a paper road map? Or would you spend hours staring at a map, looking for the village with the funniest or strangest name? 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. And while you’re at it, find out about the history of Britain’s roads.
Take on the world’s oldest broadcast quiz in 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.