Monday, February 19, 2007

"The Immortal Game"

David Shenk is an award-winning, national-bestselling author of five books, and a contributor to National Geographic, Slate, Harper's, National Public Radio, The New Yorker, Gourmet, Wired, and The American Scholar.

His latest book is 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.

David applied the "page 69 test" to his book and reported the following:
My page 69 lands us in the middle of the explanation of chess's "near-infinite" nature, the number of distinct possible games being 10 to the 120th power -- not truly infinite, but well beyond the reach of any person (or even any computer's) lifetime. It's a core observation, and yet I wouldn't say this page gives you a very good insight into the book's breadth.

The book's major aim is to understand how chess has endured 1,500 years and thrives across so many different cultures. What makes chess, above all other games ever invented, so intriguing to ancient Persian warriors, Islamic philosophers, medieval knights and clergy, and contemporary psychologists and computer scientists -- not to mention eight year olds in Brooklyn?

One answer is its extraordinary combination of simplicity and complexity. Another is its ability to serve as a metaphor for any dynamic system -- language, math, politics, the workings of the human brain. The game is just removed enough from everyday life that it will never become dated, and just connected enough to the human condition that it compels us to play and consider it often.

Probably the biggest challenge was to write something that would be completely accessible to chess-ignorant, and yet still appealing to the serious player. Hopefully I've straddled that line effectively.
Read an excerpt from The Immortal Game.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.