Book Review: The Little Book of Mahjong, by Seth Brown

Learn how to play, score and win the ancient Chinese tile game of Mahjong using either the International or American rules.

By
A comprehensive playing guide for anyone already playing the game and those curious to get started
Overall
4

Seth Brown’s comprehensive guide to the complex rules and scoring of Mahjong even goes so far as to recognise the classic Windows tile game of Mahjong Solitaire, which has very little to do with the actual game of Mahjong.

His pocket book is a wealth of information for anyone already playing the game and those curious to get started. He begins with a goldmine of historical information, explaining the game in the context of ancient Chinese history and how it grew from a gambling game of the elite, upper class, to a legal, national sport. He talks of the popularity of the game as it spread throughout the world through trade and business routes, including reasons for its adaptation in many countries.

The book focusses primarily on two versions of Mahjong– the international version and the American version where the rules are significantly different. He also touches on the many other variations including that of Taiwan, Britain, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.

Brown offers a useful glossary, a comprehensive table of contents, and breaks down the rules into the full, complex scoring and a more basic scoring option for beginners.

It sounds like a dry read, but Brown’s casual style is surprisingly enjoyable. He mixes dry facts with fascinating facts, and explains things as you would to a friend. He talks of both luck and strategy, offering the pros and cons of some of the more common strategies played.

There’s too much information to take in at once, but his book is sized and designed to sit by your side for quick reference. His openness towards different versions of the game rather than favouring just one, means the book can travel with you if you’re likely to be playing the game in other countries too. It’s an indispensable companion for any player and an initially overwhelming but ultimately useful guide for beginners.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster Australia
Released: August 2018
RRP: $24.99 hardcover

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