Why aren’t adult puzzle books a more popular thing? Or, rather, why isn’t there more talk about the best puzzle books for adults who love playing with language, words, and logic in ways that stretch them?
One of my most vivid and favorite memories of being in elementary school was working on logic puzzles. More specifically, I fell deeply in love with visual word puzzles—apparently called dingbats—wherein you try to decipher the phrase by the images that are present.
What does that image mean? Maybe you’re staring at it, scratching your head. Or maybe you have the same weird talent I do in knowing right away that the meaning is “Cut above the rest.”
Try one more:
Chances are if you’re struggling with this one, you’ll kick yourself when you realize it’s “blood is thicker than water.”
Over the course of my growing up, as much as I’ve loved puzzle books, I’ve fallen away from them. Once in a while I’ll grab one if I’m flying and can’t find anything good to read or if I’m dealing with a rough bout of depression and realize it’s the only way to stimulate my brain to do something. I tend to go for word searches and once in a great while, a fill-in-the-word. Crosswords are too challenging for me, and while I enjoy Soduku, sometimes that requires too much energy.
But there is a whole other word of puzzle books out there that are perfect for adults. Whether you’re seeking logic puzzle books, visual puzzle books, or word puzzle books, here’s a look at some of the best puzzle books for adults. These are creative, fun, and encourage you to stretch your mind in different directions. Too often we think of puzzle books as throwaway things, but the truth is that they can make your brain sharper, more focused, and, well, they’re just fun.
I’ve not included crossword puzzles, fill-in-the-word, word search, or Soduku puzzle books here, since they’re well-known and common. I sought out some other types of puzzles to build a list that helps you find something entirely new (or maybe something you once loved and forgot about in your adulthood!).
Best Puzzle Books for Adults
After noting I wasn’t going to include word searches, the first entry in this list is a word search. But this is a word search with a twist. Your challenge is to find the given words within a diagram, but all of those words are missing their vowels in the diagram. The word might be “Cabbage,” but you have to find “Cbbg” in the diagram.
The extra dimension of challenge here is that those vowels which are missing also serve other words. This means you might share the same invisible “a” or “e” with “Cabbage” with another word which could read forward, backward, sideways, or diagonally.
These come in a wide variety of formats, but what they all have in common is they require you to use the most logical thinking patterns you have to find a solution. Readers who love mysteries or crime and love to play along in solving what’s happened will devour logic puzzles.
This is a catch-all category of puzzle books, but perhaps one of the most comprehensive books is Puzzle Baron’s Logic Puzzles. The collection has 200 grid-based logic puzzles for you to try your hand at, ranging from easy to exceptionally challenging. You can also snap up 50 Logic Puzzles.
I have vivid flashbacks to childhood puzzles with the one pictured on the book’s cover. It requires using a set of clues to match up the item on the left with the items on top in the correct manner.
If you want your puzzles with a small math element, you’ll love Cross Sums. Set up in a crossword style grid, the goal is to enter only the numbers 1–9 in the squares so that they add up to the corresponding clues. The grids come in a variety of shapes and styles.
A protip from the creators is this: if there are more blanks in the puzzle, it’s likely a more challenging puzzle. They also note that, despite the fact there is some math involved, it’s far more about using logic in arranging numbers than it is about having to do a ton of math.
You did these as a kid, but they’ve been growing in popularity for adults over the last few years, too. When coloring books for grown ups exploded, other “fun” books appeared, including a wide range of connect the dots themes.
A bonus for many of the dot-to-dot images is that they double as coloring pages. There are so many types to choose from, too: Dot-to-Dot Animals, Dot-to-Dot Mindfulness Mandalas, Dot-to-Dot Butterflies and Blooms, and Star Wars Dot-to-Dot are just a few.
Whether or not you’ve played the actual Bananagrams game—and you should because it’s a blast—the book is easy to use and play for everyone. There are multiple types of word puzzles, all packed into one little package.
As the description reads: “Bananagrams! offers sixteen clever puzzle types, including Banana Trees, where the object is to build word grids based on a theme; Banana Splits, a collection of four quick anagram puzzles to be solved in rapid-fire style; Banana Leaves, with its four-, five-, six- and seven-letter words; Banana Filling—what happens when you add a “K”?; and more. The puzzles have four levels of difficulty, from one banana to four bananas. Plus, there are glossaries; special strategies for Bananagrams: The Game; a list of “Weords”―weird words that are cool to play; two- and three-letter words to take your game to the next level; fun banana facts; and, of course, an answer key.”
Did you know there is a huge assortment of puzzle books featuring the game hangman you remember from elementary school? There are, and they’re focused on adults who want to have some fun.
You can grab versions of hangman ranging from Outer Space Hangman to really posh looking versions like Pocket Posh Hangman. These are super popular, too: Pocket Posh notes that they’ve got over 1.5 million copies in print since 2008.
Put your word skills to the test.
Remember when you’d sit down with a pencil and follow a series of mazes in your activity book and hope you’d come out the other side? You can relive that magic—or misery—with maze puzzles made for adults. They are, like coloring books and dot-to-dot books for grown ups, made more challenging because of how intricate they are.
Maze Madness includes 60 mazes for you to try to master. The book boasts that it not only has traditionally challenging mazes, but it also includes 3D elements to make getting out of the maze even harder.
Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve had your mind bent with some fun optical illusions. These aren’t necessarily puzzles that you sit down with a pencil and find an answer to. Rather, they are puzzles you observe, that you question, and that make you wonder whether your eyes are seeing things (or whether your brain is making you see things that aren’t really there).
Anna Claybourne’s recent Incredible Optical Illusions not only offers up the illusions, but one of the goals of the book is to explain where and how they work. While intended for ages 7 and up and therefore not adult specific, there’s no reason why this doesn’t function perfectly well as an adult puzzle book.
Once you’re in the mindset of looking at images carefully and figuring out what is and is not going on, it’s only logical to then reach for picture puzzle books. It’s likely you first discovered these in a place like Highlights magazine, but now, you can rediscover them as an adult.
Brain Games Picture Puzzles 4 asks you to find what the differences are between two seemingly-identical shots. It’s a big book, and the use of the spiral binding here makes doing this one over a coffee table easy (though, also a little harder to tackle when you’re on the go). Amazing Picture Puzzles is another option for picture puzzle fans, and this one offers up a variety of puzzle types.
Two solid entries into the lateral thinking puzzles category to take a look at include Perplexing Lateral Thinking Puzzles and Lateral Thinking Puzzlers. The goal of lateral thinking is to make you brain think differently about things that seem like they should be easy and logical to answer.
Often, you’re given vague details or descriptions and your job is to find the answer. These can be challenging, and they can also be really funny. Chances are that you’ve seen many lateral thinking puzzles throughout your time on social media—some of them make for great memes.
Certainly, this list of puzzle books has included an assortment of word puzzle games. But this collection is worth noting, too, as it offers up a wide variety of types of word puzzles beyond the ones that are maybe most familiar or comfortable to the average person. Also, it’s created and edited by David L. Hoyt and the team behind Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
This collection of over 450 puzzles includes “Mixed-Up Definition, unscramble the letters to reveal the definition of a given word. In Syllabary, use the clues to link syllables in a grid to create words. In Cross’d Word Connections, find the letters in common to help solve a series of four crossword puzzles. Plus Dictionary Race Winder, Make the Connection, Color Word Chains, Prism Word Finder, and other clever riffs on word searches.
The book features 20 puzzle types, which are arranged in a mixed fashion throughout for maximum variety and stimulation. They range in difficulty from an easy “1” to a brain-busting “10”—so puzzle lovers of all skill levels will be tested—and include spaces for recording completion times. Each puzzle type is explained in clear instructions, and all answers are printed in the back.” (Description is from Amazon).
Have any other best puzzle books or logic puzzle books for adults? Leave ’em in the comments—I’d love to expand my own puzzle playing horizons.