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July 27th, 2010 by karenmartin

I’m not sure if Choose Your Own Adventure books count as shared making or shared reading (or both?) but I would certainly claim it as an augmented reading experience. The Choose Your Own Adventure series of children’s books was published by Bantam books between 1979 and 1998, however, the format was used for several other series of books including Fighting Fantasy (which was the Choose Your Own Adventure books of choice for my brother and I when we were kids).


Genuine Choose Your Own Adventure book covers from a fabulous collection at superduper.shapesofsweetness.com

In case you’ve never come across them, the premise is that you – the reader – take the role of protagonist in the books and at the end of each short section of narrative you are presented with a number of options representing your next actions. For example, in The Cave of Time, the first choice you are required to make is:

If you decide to start back home, turn to page 4.
If you decide to wait, turn to page 5.

Turning to the page for your chosen option the narrative continues, eventually leading to one of multiple different endings. Like I said, my brother and I read these a lot as kids and while the narratives tend to be quite similar and the range of options can be frustrating (“But why can’t I throw my frying pan at the King of the Ants?!”) they were also truly engaging as we tried to figure out the potential consequences of our actions.


More from superduper.shapesofsweetness.com

Of course, the branching structure and constrained options translate easily into computer programs and computer games might be seen as the multimedia, all-bells-and-whistles version of Choose Your Own Adventure. In my current reflection on the nature of books though I begin to wonder if the format of these books creates a different experience for maker/readers? For my brother and I these books were very definitely a collaborative experience – just as computer games can be – but they are also slower paced and with the opportunity to take a sneaky look ahead and see what happens if you choose a particular path. While I wouldn’t say that Choose Your Own Adventure books are more engaging than computer games (we gave them up around the time we got our first computer..) I think they might offer a unique type of reading – constructive, collaborative and accountable.

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