2020 Reading List

Dec 16, 2019 | 7 minutes read

Tags: reading, books, reading list, epics, game studies

2019 was not a banner year for me in reading, a fact I blame on the lack of a reading list. I've come to realize that I need a some means of guiding my reading for the year, especially if I have a particular theme or set of themes I am exploring.

In keeping with earlier themes, I am returning in 2020 to epics, one a month if I can read that fast. To the extent possible, I am either steering clear of Western canon or approaching it from a different point of view. For instance, I plan to read feminist takes on both Beowulf and The Odyssey this year. In addition to epics, I am also planning to read one notable work in the field of game studies each month, basically using the Game Studies Study Buddies podcast as a curriculum. I may or may not have things to say about any of these as the year progresses, but what I do have to say I will publish on this site.

I have a number of works on prior lists I hope to use as supplemental reading, but I may post that list later as an addendum. I am in no particular hurry to organize it.

Let's build a reading list, shall we?

December 2019

For the rest of this month, I plan to read Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture by Alexander R. Galloway. This is a set of essays exploring the video game as an independent medium and distinct cultural form. This book, as well as Homo Ludens below, was a gift from my Reddit Secret Santa, and happens to be short enough that I'll be able to read it within the next couple of weeks as the year winds down.

January 2020


Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of The Mayan Book of The Dawn of Life and The Glories of Gods and Kings, translated by Dennis Tedlock

This is the Quiché Mayan book of creation, detailing the deeds of the Mayan gods and the rise of the Quiché kingdom in the Guatemalan highlands. It is one of the most important surviving pre-Columbian texts we have available.

Game Studies

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture by Johan Huizinga

Something of a classic in the game studies curriculum, this seminal work provides an evaluation of play as a central activity of flourishing cultures.


(Note: Unless absolutely required, I will never after this point type February.)


The Tale of Sinuhe: and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems 1940-1640 B.C. (Oxford World's Classics), translated by R.B. Parkinson

This collection of poems offers English speaking readers a glimps into the golden age of Egyption fictional literature.

Game Studies

Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet H. Murray

The updated version of this book offers commentary on the original, explaining what panned out and what didn't. The book created instant controversy upon its publication in 1997, but she also made some interesting predictions along the way.



Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali (Revised Edition) by D T Niane

This is a work of oral tradition pinned down and captured in text. True, it was never intended to be transmitted this way, but this story, part history, part legend, tells of how Sundiata united the twelve kingdoms of Mali and built an empire.

Game Studies

Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, by Jesper Juul

Juul studies the tension between rules and fiction in video games, and examines the role computers play in mediating this tension.



War Songs, by Antarah ibn Shaddad and James E. Montgomery (translator)

Writing from the 6th century Najd highlands of the Arabian peninsula, the warrior-poet recounts his struggles for recognition. These poems are attributed to Antarah ibn Shaddad, the subject of a later epic, The Epic of ‘Antar.

Game Studies

Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity, by Shira Chess

Chess examines the implicit assumptions game designers and developers make about women as an audience for gaming, especially how they reinforce normative ideas about women.



The Kalevala: An Epic Poem after Oral Tradition, assembled by Elias Lönnrot and translated by Keith Bosley

This is the national folk epic of Finland, and grew out of its oral traditions, preserved well into the 19th century.

Game Studies

Games of Empire, by Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter

What is the role of video games in the media of Empire, and what is the impact of this role on creators and players?



Florante y Laura (Spanish Edition), by Francisco Baltazar

This Spanish edition of a Filipino romance is an epic poem about the love and determination of the Duke Florante and the Princess Laura of Albania while being pursued by the usurper Count Adolfo.

Game Studies

The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop, by Kyra D. Gaunt

This work illustrates how black musical styles are incorporated into the earlies games African American girls learn.



The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser

Arthurian romance cum Italian renaissance epic recounting the quests of each of various knights to achieve a virtue.

Game Studies

Man, Play and Games, by Roger Caillois

This is a study of what games are, and what their place in our lives is.



The Odyssey, by Homer, Emily Wilson (translator)

The club consisting of translators of The Odyssey in to English gained its first female member when Emily Wilson published this authoritative translation in 2017.

Game Studies

Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, by Espen J. Aarseth

Central to this text are questions of whether computer games make great literature, and whether video games are supplanting other narrative forms, or eliminating pure narrative entirely.



Beowulf: A New Translation, by Maria Dahvana Headley

Release date: August 25, 2020. This is a new, feminist translation of the beloved work, the earliest in the English language.

Game Studies

Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect, by Aubrey Anable

What is the role of video games in our larger emotional landscape?



Epic of the Forgotten: Bulgarian-English Dual Language Text, by Ivan Vazov, Mark J Ripkowski

Vazov wrote this to commemorate the Bulgarian fight for freedom against the Ottoman Empire, and to criticize the decline of the Bulgarian nation after the Liberation.

Game Studies

Beyond a Boundary: 50th Anniversary Edition, by C. L. R. James

A classic work of sport and culture through the lens of cricket. (It's a departure from the other kinds of games explored above.)



The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1, by Anonymous, Robert Irwin

Timeless and unforgettable tales within tales woven by the incomparable Shahrazad as she seeks to prolong her life each night. This work encompasses three volumes.

Game Studies

Gaming the Stage: Playable Media and the Rise of English Commercial Theater, by Gina Bloom

On the traditoinal theatrical concepts in gaming.



The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 2, by Anonymous, Robert Irwin

Game Studies

Literary Gaming, by Astrid Ensslin

An examination of literary videogames, or the literary-ludic spectrum.

(pause for breath…)

You may notice that I have left off at 2/3 of the 3 volume set of The Arabian Nights, which you can take to mean that this list ultimately carries me into January 2021 unless I get to it sooner. I will readjust this list as necessary, pointing you to the changelog if you're interested, because I assume I will read some things faster and some things slower, and I would prefer to keep trucking instead of merely waiting for the end of the month. Beyond the end of this current list, I have a tentative schedule worked out for 2021, believe it or not. At that point I plan to turn to some classical Chinese literature, starting with The Journey to the West and proceeding with The Story of the Stone, or The Dream of the Red Chamber. The timing and contents of the 2021 list will undoubtedly evolve as I make faster or slower progress on the 2020 list, which is not arranged to optimize page count. There are short books and long books on this list.

One other thing I should note is that, while I am confident in the idea of reading in and around game studies, I have no idea if I will be able to sustain this much interest in the topic for the whole year, or if this particular set of books will be the ultimate list. As I post changelogs to this page, you can follow along with the evolution of this list. In case I abandon the game studies reading list entirely, I will begin supplementing with some prior lists, still TBD.