2015 Books of the Year: Best Non-Fiction

December: time for my Books of the Year.  This was a disappointing year overall with few stand out, must recommend titles, especially among the non-fiction selections.

Best Non-Fiction. The Immortal Game: a history of chess by David Shenk. I appreciate books that take a unique perspective of history such as Tom Standage’s A History of the World in Six Glasses, which examines different civilizations by focusing on the dominant beverage of the time. David Shenk’s history of chess is similar in that he doesn’t just recap the developments of the game and its noteworthy players and matches, but also shows its importance in each society over the last 1,400 years beginning with the game’s origins in India. He is able to track the game’s changes through its foundation in the Muslim world into its expansion in Europe in medieval times and to today’s global landscape. He connects chess to broad concepts such as social morality and class standing, the Enlightenment, and totalitarianism. By looking how chess relates to military strategy, mathematics, psychology, politics and artificial intelligence, Shenk takes what could have been a very dry topic and makes it very readable. And by delving into his personal relationship with the game, he adds a human perspective as well.

For all my previous “books of the year” lists, see my dedicated page for these titles.


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