The Lone Wolf books incorporate “Choose Your Own Adventure” elements with point and dice RPG’s. You not only can choose which path to take in the forest or whether or not you want to challenge that guard to fight or try to sneak around him, you get to equip your character with weapons, armor, tools, and skills and get into D&D-type numbers combat. It’s a long series and there was also another side story you could do with another character, iirc.
If you chose to fight (as opposed to trying to run away or sneak around an opponent), the book would tell you the stats of your opponents and you would calculate your results based on the random numbers you generated combined with your own character’s stats. The book would say something like “If you win, turn to page 54. If you lose, turn to page 21.” I think you could also use skills and tools outside of combat, so you could have a page option that was only available if you were at least Level 2 in Lockpicking or something.
One interesting question would be when the first “Choose Your Own Adventure” type book came out. For example, would Mark Twain have had some familiarity with the concept, even though he might not have written any or been a particular fan of them? Or was this a 20th century innovation?
An Amazon search on “choose your own adventure for adults” reveals that there are plenty of them out there, regardless of which sense of “for adults” you mean. (Soapy Bimbo Car Wash Fantasy, anyone?)
I haven’t heard of any that have any serious literary merit. Maybe there won’t ever be, because such books are too stuck in between traditional fiction and more interactive genres (like computer games) to fully rise to the level of either; but that’s just speculation.
I don’t really know of any that fit your definitions, especially in regards to literary recognition.
One of my favorite series is the Lone Wolf books (currently available free through Project Aon). They’re a little bit of a fusion of CYOA and RPGs. I enjoyed them as a kid, but they’re good enough that I also enjoy them as an adult. (They weren’t even done publishing them until I was in college). I would say that anyone who still enjoys Lord of the Rings would also enjoy them.
It’s funny you ask this because one such book has just been re-released.
Titan books has been re-releasing Kim Newman’s works. And Life’s Lottery (originally published in 1999) was their latest release (on April 22). While it’s written in the “choose your adventure” format it’s a serious novel. And you can choose to not read it as an interactive novel. If you just read it straight through, there’s a separate story line that connects the individual sections into a single narrative.
The Time Machine series of CYOA-style books were written with a real nod toward historical and scientific accuracy. I remember them being much more mature (and fun to read) than your typical CYOA book. I don’t know if you would call them literary classics but I think they would keep an adult entertained.
I’ve never seen a gamebook on a serious list of good books.
Having said that I loved them as a kid. I’d rate Steve Jackson’s four book Sorcery! as the best of the lot, even better than Lone Wolf. But it’s literary merit is pretty minimal, maybe being as high as a middling fantasy writer?
I remember when some people were loudly insisting that the linear narrative novel was a relic of the past and all future fiction would be interactive. And then scorned and scoffed when we just rolled our eyes.
I’m going to be an obnoxious literary snob and say that the very best novels are, in a way, choose-your-own adventures. A great book will grow and change with you. You’ll get something different from it every time you read it.
I don’t think any printed “turn to page X” game novels are considered great literature, but I DO belive there’s a few computer-based “interactive fiction” novels that are held in pretty high regard, albeit by a fairly niche audience.
These are the successors to the old Zork-style text-input games, but I’m under the impression that some of the newer ones signficantly simplify the player/reader’s input compared to the clunky, confusing older ones.
I’m (obviously) far from an expert on this subject, but I’ve heard devotees suggest there’s a few works out there that merit consideration as literature, but the barrier to entry is pretty high.
A few friends of mine work at or write for Choice of Games. Their games stick pretty close to the old CYOA style (a page or so of text, and several choices, repeat until end of story), rather than the more freeform interactive fiction (Zork et al). Those I’ve played are quite well written.
Not classic literature but Lost in Austen was pretty fun. You are Elizabeth Bennet and follow her adventures, but get to choose several different pathways. Some are total deviations from the novel (like accepting Mr. Collins proposal!) and others take you for a turn into a different novel (and you can steal Mr. Knightley away from Emma!). There is a sometimes confusing points system involved, but many parts of the story just let you chose what you want. I read the whole thing, eventually, and loved it!