How to Play “The Book Game”

There was no comic last week because of the holidays, but I have a really fun writing game to tell you about! Don’t worry if you have no literary knowledge—you just have to enjoy writing (usually cheesy) sentences. I played it with my sister, her boyfriend, my cousin, and my uncle. My uncle found out about this game from a New York Times article called What’s Scrabble When You Can Play Novelist?. You can either use cheap paperback books or, in the new digital age, you can use Amazon.com. You need around 4-8 people and some sheets of paper (they should all match). Here’s how it works:

  1. One person has to be the moderator. My cousin was the moderator the whole time (because he enjoyed it), but normally players would rotate each round.
  2. The moderator finds a book. Bad genre novels (bad romance, bad sci-fi, etc.) are a lot of fun, but you can mix it up with some good ones too. If you’re using Amazon, browse the Book section for a ridiculous-looking book, and make sure it has the option to “Search inside this book.” You need to be able to view the first sentence.
  3. The moderator reads the title, the blurb, and can even show the book cover. Players should take some quick notes. The moderator will probably have to read the blurb a couple times.
  4. Players write down their names and write a plausible first sentence to the book—they’re not trying to predict the real sentence; they’re trying to match the tone and style. At the same time, the moderator should write down the real first sentence on a sheet of paper (click on the cover, then click on “First Pages.” We skipped the Prologue if it had one).
  5. After everyone is done they hand them to the moderator, who mixes them up, and then numbers them.
  6. The moderator reads all the sentences aloud. The players write down the number of the sentence they think is real, and hand their sheets to the moderator.
  7. The moderator reads down the list of sentences, saying who wrote each one, and which is real. Players get two points if they guessed the correct one, and they get one point for each person they fooled (i.e., if three people thought my fake sentence was the real one, I get three points).

We didn’t have a time limit, but you may want one. Coming up with sentences isn’t the hard part—it’s settling on only one. The guessing stage is also frustrating, because you don’t know if a sentence is so bad because it’s the real one, or because a player is trying to trick you.

To give you a taste of the actual gameplay, here are the books we used and some of our sentences (plus the real one), in the same order we heard them. I’m not including all of them, so you have better odds than we did on some of these. Can you guess the real sentence? I’ll put all the answers at the end of this post. Remember, these are intentionally bad.

Kindling the Moon

Meet Arcadia Bell: bartender, renegade magician, fugitive from the law. . . .

Being the spawn of two infamous occultists (and alleged murderers) isn’t easy, but freewheeling magician Arcadia “Cady” Bell knows how to make the best of a crummy situation. After hiding out for seven years, she’s carved an incognito niche for herself slinging drinks at the demon-friendly Tambuku Tiki Lounge.

But she receives an ultimatum when unexpected surveillance footage of her notorious parents surfaces: either prove their innocence or surrender herself. Unfortunately, the only witness to the crimes was an elusive Æthyric demon, and Cady has no idea how to find it. She teams up with Lon Butler, an enigmatic demonologist with a special talent for sexual spells and an arcane library of priceless stolen grimoires. Their research soon escalates into a storm of conflict involving missing police evidence, the decadent Hellfire Club, a ruthless bounty hunter, and a powerful occult society that operates way outside the law. If Cady can’t clear her family name soon, she’ll be forced to sacrifice her own life . . . and no amount of running will save her this time.

Amazing. I am so reading that book (seriously, I just ordered it). She teams up with Lon Butler! LON BUTLER! Anyway, here are some of the sentences:

  1. “These are on the house,” I said, spilling a round of drinks into his lap.
  2. I was dropping the final pineapple into a punch-bowl sized Tahitian Tango when the semi-daemonic firestarter walked in.
  3. Cady poured another Triple Brain Blast over ice.
  4. I knew better than to be preoccupied when Tambuku Tiki Lounge was overcapacity.

This was the first round, and we all guessed it correctly! There was just something about the real one we all honed in on. As we later found out, this is really rare. Most rounds were all over the place.

Summer’s End

Deanna was eighteen when she married a handsome Frenchman, attorney Marc-Edouard Duras. Now, at thirty-seven, she should be happy with Marc, her elegant home in San Francisco, and their teenage daughter, Pilar. But one summer changes it all when she realizes her failing marriage is a trap she must escape.

Sentences:

  1. Deanna Duras opened one eye to look at the clock as the first light stole in beneath the shades.
  2. It’s funny how nineteen years can feel like a lifetime.
  3. One morning I knew that even our view of the Golden Gate, the aroma of eucalyptus, the fine brass fixtures, and the Aztec jade couldn’t save me from the truth.
  4. Startled by her dream, she awoke and instinctively reached out, but his side of the bed was empty…and cold.

River’s End

Olivia’s parents were one of Hollywood’s golden couples—until the night her father destroyed their home and took her mother away forever. Now, years later, Olivia is forced to recall those horrifying events and discover the truth about her childhood.

Sentences:

  1. A sound—something between a telephone’s ring and a death rattle—gave her a chill of horror.
  2. All she could remember were the golden shards of glass, so pretty, she thought, if they weren’t covered in blood.
  3. Olivia was four when the monster came.
  4. The sound of a camera flash, once warm and familiar, now echoed the memories of a broken home, a broken life.
  5. Her response was automatic—something Olivia had adopted in the aftermath of all the tragedy.

Love Her to Death

In the midst of Pennsylvania’s Amish country, on a peaceful summer night in 2008, the body of 45-year-old Jan Roseboro was found at the bottom of her backyard pool. Her husband Michael, a successful businessman and a member of a prominent family, showed no emotion as he learned of her death. But the next day an autopsy revealed Jan had been savagely beaten and strangled before being tossed in the water to drown. Soon Michael’s secret lover, pregnant with his child, stepped into the media spotlight. And a horrifying true story of illicit passion, deadly deceit, and cold-blooded murder unfolded…

Sentences:

  1. Linda looked up to see the reflection of flashing red and blue lights.
  2. By the time the news spread, an eerie stillness had settled on our street and my only thought was, “no, not Jan, not like that.”
  3. It’s a good living—relaying to the media someone’s heartfelt apology, or their resolve to fight these charges…or even their grief.
  4. When confronted with brutality and death, the public expects a reaction.
  5. She was fighting for her life.

A Wicked Snow

Hannah Griffin was a girl when tragedy struck on her family’s farm. She still remembers the flames reflected against the newly fallen snow and the bodies the police dug up—one of them her mother’s. It was the nation’s worst murder scene in decades and the killer was never found. Two decades later Hannah is a CSI investigating a case of child abuse when the past comes hurtling back. Years of buried questions are brought to life. A killer with unfinished business is on the hunt. And an anonymous message turns Hannah’s blood cold: Your Mom called…

Sentences:

  1. Strolling back from the crime lab cafeteria, Hannah decided her ham sandwich could wait as she eyed the new stack of paperwork dropped on her desk.
  2. The girl remembered the snow and the evil that had come with it.
  3. It was winter again and the snow had frozen into a hard crust that shattered loudly with every step.
  4. At some point in this job, the unspeakable became routine.
  5. “Nothing,” Detective Cullen said, shutting the closet door.

Lucky

A hot-blooded beauty in love with power and hungry for pleasure, Lucky’s dazzling odyssey — and her trail of enemies — sweeps from the casinos of Las Vegas to a private Greek island, from cutthroat Hollywood to chic New York and Paris.

She’s a gambler and a lover. She’s wild, savvy, and proud. She’s

Lucky

…and you’ll never forget her.

Sentences:

  1. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” I said, smiling, as I picked up $45,000 in chips.
  2. “Yuri, a change of plan—forget Paris and head for Greece.”
  3. The jury filed silently into the courtroom.

Play Dead

Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that those magic practitioners without a moral compass walked the straight and narrow. But now he just wants to keep his head down, play guitar, and maintain a low profile with Lou, his magical canine companion. But Mason is down on his luck, and when a job with a large payout comes along, he finds the offer hard to resist-not knowing it might mean sacrificing what both man and his best friend hold most dear.

Sentences:

  1. The rain was vicious, drenching the streets, bouncing off the pavement, and running down the gutters.
  2. Like clockwork, Lou materialized at the worst moment, just when things with Sally started heating up.
  3. I awoke to the sound of my best friend scratching at my door.

(You really need to see the large version of that cover; click on it to go to the Amazon page.)

Variations:

  • Also have players guess who wrote each sentence, and award a point for each they guess correctly (and award, say, four points for the real sentence). There were a few times where I guessed the correct sentence by eliminating the fake ones, because I thought I knew who wrote them. This may take too long if you have a lot of players.
  • See who can come up with the funniest or cheesiest sentence that sounds like it could be real. Then the players vote on their favorite. This can be played at the same time. You might want to do this as a second round so people don’t get distracted or take forever writing two sentences at once.
  • Have the moderator give a hint about the sentence before everyone writes, like, “it doesn’t mention a name,” or “‘Cindy’ is mentioned.” That would remove the weird situation where the real sentence is a non sequitur, and easy to spot (see “Lucky”, below)—although maybe some people like that.

Answers:

Kindling the Moon: 4

Summer’s End: 1

River’s End: 3. Weird, eh? No one guessed it; we all thought it was too stupid to be real. This became a running joke with us, where we’d replace “Olivia” with the current character’s name: “[Name] was [age] when the monster came.” If you find a different version of the book on Amazon the blurb actually does mention “a monster,” so it makes a bit more sense.

Love Her to Death: 5

A Wicked Snow: 2. This one is so bad and sounded so much like the Olivia sentence that no one guessed it.

Lucky: 3. What?! This has nothing to do with anything! This sentence is actually from the prologue, though, which my cousin normally skipped. This is a good example of why you should skip it. The first sentence of the first chapter is, “Lennie Golden had not set foot in Vegas for thirteen years, even though it was the city of his conception, birth and first seventeen years of life.”

Play Dead: 1

Well, how did you do? Let me know in the comments!