Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Mines a copious vein of 1980s pop culture, catapulting the reader on a light-speed adventure in an advanced but backward-looking future.

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Vince’s Notes: Even if you saw the movie, trust me, it didn’t ruin the book. The details of the contest are more intricate and the 80’s references are off the charts! Read it. (Or listen to the audio book read by Wil Wheaton, which is hilarious because he is mentioned in the book!)

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.