The Queen’s Gambit has taken Netflix — and viewers — by storm.
Ever since the mini-series, based on Walter Tevis’ novel of the same name, landed on the streaming service, people have been absolutely hooked. And it’s easy to see why.
The coming-of-age story, which explores the true cost of genius, follows a young Beth Harmon after she’s been entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s. It is there that she discovers an astonishing talent for chess, while also developing an addiction to tranquillisers provided by the state as a sedative for the children.
Haunted by her personal demons and fuelled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, Beth becomes determined to conquer the traditional boundaries established in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.
And if you’ve found yourself totally hooked by the series, here are 6 books to read if you’re obsessed with The Queen’s Gambit.
1. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
Whether you want to start Beth’s story all over again or you want to read the book that inspired the miniseries, Tevis’ 1983 novel should be at the top of your list.
The story follows Beth Harmon, who becomes an orphan after her parents are killed in a car accident. The eight-year-old is place in an orphanage in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, where the children are given a tranquilliser twice a day. Plain and shy, she starts to learn chess from the janitor in the basement — and so discovers she’s a chess genius.
Beth is adopted by Alma and Allston Wheatley, and while she starts going to a local school, she remains an outsider. But she’s desperate to study chess. Since she has no money, she steals a chess magazine from a newspaper store and some money from Alma and a girl at her school, all so she can enter a tournament. At thirteen, she wins the tournament. At sixteen, she’s competing in the US Open Championship. And she hates to lose.
If you’re looking to read something in a similar kind of vein as The Queen’s Gambit, make sure to check out the story of Edward ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson, a pool hustler with a reputation to be feared. A story of a man’s struggle with his soul and his self-esteem, it’s also made the leap from the page to the screen.
Fast Eddie Felson has a reputation as a pool hustler to be feared, but his ambitions go far beyond taking small-town players for a few dollars here and there. He’s got the talent to make big money, but he soon learns that it takes more than just talent to become a real winner.
He goes to Chicago to test himself against the legendary Minnesota Fats in more than forty-hours of high-stakes pool. But will he be able to find the will to overcome his failings and fulfil his potential as the best there is?
Zweig’s final novella places the reader right in the middle of the game, giving them insight into the players’ minds as well as a tender and thoughtful look at the game of chess itself.
Taking place in World War II, the mysterious Dr. B — who is obsessed with the game of chess — is on an ocean liner going from New York to Buenos Aires. Also aboard the ship are a group of passengers obsessed with the game, and the world chess champion Mirko Czentovic. The passengers all try to beat Czentovic, but are all swiftly and soundly defeated.
But then Dr. B steps forward to take a chance against Czentovic, and everything changes.
While chess is more of a metaphor in this one, the book itself is tense, gripping and is perfect for those who are fans of The Secret History.
A new year has just begun at St Oswald’s, a long-established boys’ grammar school in the north of England. But for the staff and boys of the school, a wind of unwelcome change is blowing. Suits, paperwork and Information Technology rule the world; and Roy Straitley, the eccentric veteran Latin master, is finally — and very reluctantly — contemplating retirement.
However, beneath the little rivalries, petty disputes and everyday crises of the school, a darker undercurrent is stirring — and a bitter grudge, which has been carefully hidden and nurtured for thirteen years, is about to abrupt.
If you’re looking for one focusing on the chess tournaments as well as the players, this is the book for you. A tense, fast-paced novel that will have you quickly hooked in, with an exceedingly complicated relationship between a father and son at its core.
Freshman Daniel Pratzer has been given the chance to prove himself when the chess team invites him and his father to a weekend-long parent-child tournament. Thinking that his father is a novice, Daniel can’t understand why his teammates want so badly for them to participate. Then he finds out the truth: as a teen, his father was one of the most promising young players in America, but the pressures of the game pushed him too far, and he had to give up chess to save his own life and sanity.
Thirty years later, Mr. Pratzer returns to the game to face down an old competitor and the same dark demons that lurk in the corners of a mind stretched by the demands of the game. Daniel was looking for acceptance—but the secrets he uncovers about his father will force him to make some surprising moves himself.
If you’re a fan of games of strategy, then this is another book that you should add to your to-read list. Mahjong lies at the heart of The Joy Luck Club, a story of four mothers, four daughters, and four families whose histories move with the winds — depending on who’s telling the stories.
In 1949, four Chinese women who are all recent immigrants to San Francisco begin to meet together: they eat dim sum, play mahjong and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club.
Nearly forty years later, one of the members has died. Her daughter has come to take her place, only to learn of her mum’s lifelong — and heartbreaking — wish, as well as the tragic way that it’s come true. The revelation of this secret unleashes an urgent need among the women to reach back and remember…
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