I was at a wedding shower recently, and the guests were tasked with coming up with date ideas for the happy couple. The people around my table were brainstorming different restaurants and museums to send our newly married friends to, and then I offered my suggestion: puzzle and audiobook date! I was sure this would be met with the same enthusiasm as a night at a mid-priced restaurant, but instead I got blank stares. Because it’s a cheap way to stay in! I explained. What a nice way for introverts to bond! More blank stares. You’re working on something together, but you don’t have to talk, and it’s not TV! “It’s a great idea,” someone said, putting me out of my misery.
It was only later that I realized that the main difference between me and the rest of the people at the table was about 20 years and our expendable incomes. Not to be extremely Millennial, but a nice, quiet night in that doesn’t cost much sounds much more relaxing than planning a quick weekend trip somewhere expensive. Puzzles are remarkably inexpensive if you consider the cost per hour spent engaged. A nice puzzle is about the same price as a hardcover book, and you’ll spend at least as long assembling the puzzle as reading your average 384-page new release. Plus, you listen to that book while you’re assembling the puzzle. (Or listen to podcasts or watch a movie. Or just chat with your loved ones and or pets while you try to keep small loved ones and curious pets from stealing puzzle pieces.) You build something with your hands, and it’s nearly impossible to do while also looking at your phone.
Puzzling is an excellent way to spend an evening. It’s a gentle activity that feels productive, but you’re completely removed from your daily work, or really anything that contributes to society. And that is a good thing. It’s an activity that cannot matter in the least: you’re assembling something that is meant to be disassembled. You’re creating something lovely, alone or with others, that is designed to be taken apart and put back in a box on your shelf. I think it is very healthy to do something completely useless every once in a while, so you can remind yourself that you are not your work.
Puzzles: cheap and useless, but in only the most positive ways.
In this spirit, and because I do think the best way to do a puzzle is while listening to an audiobook, I’ve assembled a collection of the very best literary puzzles, separated by topic so you can find just the right puzzle for you. I stuck with puzzles that were 500 pieces or more, because I think it’s important to spend a good long time with your puzzle. I did not include any 3D puzzles, but I did include one dollhouse kit that isn’t exactly a puzzle, because it’s extremely cute and I couldn’t help it.