Books

10 Books Like The Queen's Gambit That Prove Chess Is Far From Boring

Beth Harmon isn't the only master of the game.

Netflix

One week after it premiered on the streaming service, The Queen's Gambit became Netflix's no. 1 show. The limited series, which is based on Walter Tevis' novel of the same name, has captivated audiences with its midcentury modern decor, pitch-perfect performances from Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) and breakout star Moses Ingram, and — of course — chess. The series tracks the wins and losses of Beth (Taylor-Joy), an orphaned chess prodigy who climbs through the classic board game's male-dominated ranks to become one of the top players in the world.

If Netflix's The Queen's Gambit has you looking for more chess-themed entertainment, keep reading. The titles on the list below will help you keep the chess fun coming, long after the show's finale. These 10 novels and nonfiction books like Queen's Gambit are just what you need on your nightstand right now:

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1

In 2012, teenage chess player Phiona Mutesi became one of the first Ugandan players to be titled as a Woman Candidate Master by the International Chess Federation. Her origins were humble, but Mutesi's plans for her life were anything but modest. Read her story in Tim Crothers' Queen of Katwe.

2

After finding her late father's letter to a minor Russian celebrity among his belongings, Irina packs her bags and heads for St. Petersburg. Facing certain death from the degenerative illness that killed her father, she's intent on forcing an answer out of Aleksandr Bezetov: a chess champion who has just challenged Vladimir Putin in what will surely be an ill-fated presidential campaign. As Irina and Aleksandr draw closer together, the letter's inquiry — How does one proceed in a lost cause? — becomes critical to them both.

3

Set in 16th-century Scotland, the first installment of Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles centers on Francis Crawford: Scotland's frustrating and gifted prodigal son, who might just save his country from English invaders. Chess is baked into Dunnett's novel, which features actual bouts as well as references to the game.

4

Ten years ago, Annika and Jonathan conducted a brief, but passionate, love affair after meeting in the University of Illinois' chess club. They've gone their separate ways since college, but can they make a fresh go at their relationship, now that they're established in their adult lives?

5

From the author of Chocolat comes Gentlemen and Players, a quiet thriller in which chess is more metaphor than real presence. After teaching at St. Oswald's School for Boys for more than three decades, classics instructor Roy Straitley may be the only person capable of saving it. As fresh blood flows into the faculty offices, Straitley discovers that one new hire has plans to dismantle St. Ozzie's from the inside.

6

A teenage girl comes of age against the backdrop of Japanese-occupied Manchuria in French author Shan Sa's The Girl Who Played Go. The ancient board game has just as much strategy as chess, and this novel's Chinese protagonist will need to be as careful and cunning as possible when she faces off against a Japanese soldier.

7

Looking up books about chess will make you start to wonder — just where are all the women chess players? American Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade sheds some light on women's experiences and status in the sport in Chess Bitch.

8

Like Go, Mahjong is another East Asian game of strategy, and it lies at the heart of The Joy Luck Club. Amy Tan's debut novel centers on a group of Chinese immigrant women and their American-born daughters, focusing on how the two generations wrestle with their filial relationships and cultural identities.

9

For 500 years, she didn't exist. For nearly 500 more, she was weaker than a pawn. Then Isabel of Castile took the Spanish throne, and nothing would ever be the same. Marilyn Yalom traces the history of the chessboard queen, examining its ties to real-life female sovereigns, in The Birth of the Chess Queen.

10

Austrian author Stefan Zweig's final novella, Chess Story, is a tender look at the game and its place as a metaphor for life. Weaving its way through a group of ocean travelers who set out to beat their fellow passenger, a chess master, at his own game, Zweig's 1942 story continues to resonate with readers today.