The most compelling books from the world of chess that I encountered researching my book

Why am I passionate about this?

We stumble onto games very early on in life and yet one game alone stood apart for me and hundreds of millions of other people over the centuries: chess. Across 1500 years of the games existence, chess has attracted players numbering in the billions regardless of language, culture, or creed, they were all unified in a passion for the irresistible allure of this remarkable game. In 2016, I was hired by Simon and Schuster to cover the world chess championship featuring arguably the greatest player ever to wield chess pieces, Magnus Carlsen. Fully immersing myself into the game during the researching and writing of the book, I collided with powerful themes.


I wrote...

The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again

By Brin-Jonathan Butler,

Book cover of The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again

What is my book about?

The first week of November 2016, hundreds descended on the city’s South Street Seaport. They were there to watch the World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Sergey Karjaki.

The championship hadn’t been hosted in New York City in more than two decades. With both Carlsen and Karjakin just 25 years old, the tournament organizers were billing it as a battle of the millennials—the first time the championship had been waged among the generation that grew up playing chess primarily against computers. Oddsmakers had given Carlsen, the defending champion, an 80% chance of winning. It would take everything he had to retain his title. In doing so, he would firmly make his case to be considered the greatest player chess has ever seen.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness

Brin-Jonathan Butler Why did I love this book?

Frank Brady’s intimate portrait of Bobby Fischer, one of the most complex, confounding, and frustratingly remote and available American characters of the 20th Century, illuminates the genius and madness of a man whose daily exploits occasionally overshadowed the Vietnam War and Watergate. In 1500 years, the world had never been as transfixed by the game of chess as when Fischer sat at a board. Chess has never remotely been the same since Fischer refused to defend his title. No writer has written as compelling about Fischer as Brady.  

By Frank Brady,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Endgame as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Who was Bobby Fischer? In this “nuanced perspective of the chess genius” (Los Angeles Times), an acclaimed biographer chronicles his meteoric rise and confounding fall, with an afterword containing newly discovered details about Fischer’s life.
 
Possessing an IQ of 181 and remarkable powers of concentration, Bobby Fischer memorized hundreds of chess books in several languages, and he was only thirteen when he became the youngest chess master in U.S. history. But his strange behavior started early. In 1972, at the historic Cold War showdown in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he faced Soviet champion Boris Spassky, Fischer…


Book cover of Searching for Bobby Fischer: A Father's Story of Love and Ambition

Brin-Jonathan Butler Why did I love this book?

Waitzkin was a freelance journalist when he discovered his young son was a brilliant prodigy at the chessboard. This book offered the most useful and colorful portrait of the bizarre ecosystem of chess that I’ve ever come across in print. The story also documents a dangerous father-son relationship as Josh navigates his way to realizing the potential that has unexpectedly corrosive effects for both of them.   

By Fred Waitzkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Searching for Bobby Fischer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The father of a real american chess prodigy reflects on chess, competition, childhood, and his son's meteoric rise to the highest levels of global competition.

"[A] little gem of a book." -The New York Times

Fred Waitzkin was smitten with chess during the historic Fischer-Spassky championship in 1972. When Fisher disappeared from public view, Waitzkin's interest waned-until his own son Josh emerged as a chess prodigy.

Searching for Bobby Fischer is the story of Fred Waitzkin and his son, from the moment six-year-old Josh first sits down at a chessboard until he competes for the national championship. Drawn into the…


Book cover of The Immortal Game: A History of Chess

Brin-Jonathan Butler Why did I love this book?

The brilliance of Shenk’s book is that even someone who didn’t know the basic rules of chess would be enthralled by the backdrops of the game he introduces to the reader. Chess is played around the world by hundreds of millions of people and Shenk delves into the reasons why the game has such perversely addictive appeal. 

By David Shenk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Immortal Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fresh, engaging look at how 32 carved pieces on a Chess board forever changed our understanding of war, art, science, and the human brain.

Chess is the most enduring and universal game in history. Here, bestselling author David Shenk chronicles its intriguing saga, from ancient Persia to medieval Europe to the dens of Benjamin Franklin and Norman Schwarzkopf. Along the way, he examines a single legendary game that took place in London in 1851 between two masters of the time, and relays his own attempts to become as skilled as his Polish ancestor Samuel Rosenthal, a nineteenth-century champion. With…


Book cover of Grandmasters of Chess

Brin-Jonathan Butler Why did I love this book?

Harold Schonberg explores the nuances of what goes into creating a brilliant chess player across the vast history of chess. The characters he details within this gem of a book rival anything he assembled in his other breathtaking tomb on classical music, “The Lives Of Great Composers.” Schonberg’s backstories of the rogues gallery of chess great add such texture and nuance to the vast eccentricity at the heart of genius chess players and also highlights the times in which they lived so that they and it comes to life. Probably my favorite resource for my work with “The Grandmaster.”

By Harold C. Schonberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Grandmasters of Chess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What makes a great chess player? Mr. Schonberg is explicit: vast memory, imagination, intuition, technique, a healthy body, relative youth, a high degree of visual imagery, and the unyielding determination to win are the prerequisites. Almost always child prodigies, chess geniuses invariably have massive egos. Mr. Schonberg begins with François Philidor, the eighteenth century French-man who laid the foundations for the game as it is played today. Among those who followed are the irascible Howard. Staunton, designer of the chess pieces that are still universally used; Paul Morphy, one of the best natural players who ever lived and one of…


Book cover of The Rookie: An Odyssey through Chess (and Life)

Brin-Jonathan Butler Why did I love this book?

Stephen Moss’s book about the history of chess and his obsession with it is one of the most pleasurable reads about chess for chess laymen. It’s a kaleidoscopic portrait of the game and the characters and his own personal journey with the game is filled with color and humor. As Moss seeks fulfillment and gratification from the game he encounters a kind of mental torture again and again that resonated a great deal for me with so many of the people who devoted their lives to chess, willingly or unable to resist. 

By Stephen Moss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rookie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chess was invented more than 1,500 years ago, and is played in every country in the world. Stephen Moss sets out to master its mysteries, and unlock the secret of its enduring appeal. What, he asks, is the essence of chess? And what will it reveal about his own character along the way?

In a witty, accessible style that will delight newcomers and irritate purists, Moss imagines the world as a board and marches across it, offering a mordant report on the world of chess in 64 chapters - 64 of course being the number of squares on the chessboard.…


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The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

Book cover of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

Kathryn Betts Adams Author Of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I was first a clinical social worker and then a social work professor with research focus on older adults. Over the past few years, as I have been writing my own memoir about caring for my parents, I’ve been drawn to memoirs and first-person stories of aging, illness, and death. The best memoirs on these topics describe the emotional transformation in the writer as they process their loss of control, loss of their own or a loved one’s health, and their fear, pain, and suffering. In sharing these stories, we help others empathize with what we’ve gone through and help others be better prepared for similar events in their own lives.

Kathryn's book list on Memoirs illness aging death moving vivid prose

What is my book about?

The Pianist's Only Daughter is a frank, humorous, and heartbreaking exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her mother, an English scholar and poet, and her father, a pianist and music professor. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' newly single father flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Their daughter watches in disbelief…

The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

What is this book about?

Grounded in insights about mental health, health and aging, The Pianist’s Only Daughter: A Memoir presents a frank and loving exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her English scholar and poet mother and her pianist father. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' father finds himself single and flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with…


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