8 winning books about board games you’ll want to check out, mate


Vancouver Public Library and V.I.A. have teamed up to help you discover new reads, hidden book gems and surprising literary finds. 

This book list is for all you game players out there (no we don’t mean ghosting experts). Whether you are an occasional rainy-day player or a board game warrior, you’ll enjoy these monopoly scandals and chess thrillers.

Or if you just want to play come to the library and use our game collection.

Board game/Shutterstock

Stories featuring games

Chess: A Novella by Stefan Zweig

Nobel Prize winner Stefan Zweig keeps readers on edge in this thrilling short novel about a chess champion who is challenged by an unknown player during a twelve-day ocean voyage. Considered “the best chess story ever written, perhaps the best about any game,” Chess also alludes to events of the period after Hitler’s ascendancy and the power of evil.

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse’s final book features an elite, intellectual community whose goal is to master the complex rules of the Glass Bead game, a game which is a synthesis of all branches of knowledge. This complex and fascinating book will appeal not only to fans of multi-dimensional games, but also to those who enjoy haiku and philosophy.

The Girl Who Played Go by Sa Shan

This spellbinding novel, set in Manchuria during the time of the Japanese occupation, is reminiscent of the Romeo and Juliet narrative. It is told in short chapters from the perspectives of the two main characters: the young girl of the title, who beats all her opponents in the game of Go, and a Japanese officer intrigued by her skills.

Social history of games

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or, How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain by David Shenk

David Shenk offers both an accessible introduction to the game of chess as well as a survey of the history of the game from its Persian origins to the present. In addition, this entertaining book includes transcripts of six great chess games, information on famous chess players, such as Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer, chapters on computer chess and much more.

The Master of Go by Yasunari Kawabata

Written by Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata, this gripping novel was inspired by the 1938 retirement match of legendary Go Master Honinbo Shūsai against a young up-and-coming player. Beyond the dramatic match which lasted for six months and the rules of Go, the Master of Go has many layers of meaning and was considered by Kawabata as his finest work.

The Monopolists:  Obsession, Fury, and Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon

Few people know that Monopoly originated as “a protest against capitalism, not an endorsement of it.” Mary Pilon’s well-researched book focuses both on the social history and the scandal surrounding the invention of the popular board game. This is a fascinating read that will appeal not only to fans of Monopoly, but to anyone who enjoys a great story.

Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-playing Games by Jon Peterson

One of the few comprehensive and in-depth books that chart the vast and complex history of tabletop role-playing and simulation games. Peterson, an avid game collector and computer engineer, has spent more than five years researching his subject from the invention of role-playing games to how players from 18th century to modern times experimented with various game systems.

It’s All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan

Anyone interested in a comprehensive history of board games need not go any further than this book! In addition to covering the board games of modern times, Donovan goes back in time to trace the evolution of board games across cultures, continents, and time periods. Profiles of and anecdotes about game inventors and players add to the enjoyment of this book.