Good Chess Books for Beginners and Beyond

Good Chess Books for Beginners and Beyond

RussBell
RussBell
Jun 11, 2017, 1:02 PM |
10

Good Chess Books for Beginners and Beyond

Whether you are new to chess, or an experienced chess amateur looking for some books to help you improve, the list below is for you. The emphasis here is on fundamentals and instructional value - for the improving chess player. These are some of the better books (IMO), elucidating the essential elements which every serious chess player should know.

While many of the books in the list are targeted primarily to the beginner-intermediate audience, there are also selections for more advanced players, up to and including expert level. So there should be something of interest here for every amateur chess player - especially those who haven't yet added "Master" to their chess title!

The list is divided roughly into the following groups - general chess coverage, tactics, attacking/checkmating technique, the opening, the endgame, positional-strategic concepts and techniques, and instructive game collections. The books further up the list tend to be targeted more to the beginner-novice. Most of the more "advanced" books appear further down the list - for example books which emphasize positional-strategic considerations. 

For the beginner-novice I suggest the following as good FIRST BOOKS to read on their respective topics (each of these books is further commented on in the main article body):

For the absolute beginner who knows next to nothing about the game and simply wants the quickest and easiest possible initial exposure to chess and how the game is played at its most basic level - "Let's Play Chess: A Step by Step Guide for New PlayersBy Bruce Pandolfini.  Another excellent introduction to chess is "Learn Chess" by John Nunn.

For a first chess course - more comprehensive than the quick-start books above, providing basic coverage of all aspects of chess - "Pandolfini's Ultimate Guide to Chess" by Bruce Pandolfini, followed by "Winning Chess Strategy For Kids" by Jeff Coakley (it's not just for kids!).

For your first book on chess tactics - "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" by Fischer and Margulies.  Follow this with "Winning Chess: How to Perfect Your Attacking Play" by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld.

For an introduction to chess opening concepts - "Discovering Chess Openings..." by John Emms.  It focuses specifically on understanding FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES of opening play.

For first books on endgame basics - two books by Bruce Pandolfini - "Pandolfini's Endgame Course" and "Endgame Workshop".

Finally, after becoming comfortable with the topics above, Bruce Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" is an excellent initial exposure to the basic elements and techniques of positional-strategic chess.  Follow this with Michael Stean's classic, "Simple Chess" (don't let the title fool you!).  Studying these first will provide the essential foundation for understanding and playing chess at a higher level, and serve as preparation for more advanced chess books.  Positional chess is the facilitator of  tactics.

Also check out my blog for book recommendations on openings, positional chess and strategy, pawn play, and more.

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Click on the titles for more information, reader reviews, etc., on Amazon.com. 

Let's Play Chess: A Step by Step Guide for New Players 

By Bruce Pandolfini.  For perhaps the easiest, quick-start introduction to chess for those brand-new to the game.  Written in a succint, easy to read format, it explains the rules, fundamental chess principles and lots of practical advice on how to think and plan correctly when playing the game. Also explains "algebraic" chess notation.   This book will get you started on the path to playing good chess.  For a deeper introduction, or supplement, see "Learn Chess" by John Nunn.

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess

By Bobby Fischer and Stuart Margulies.  It is said that the three most important of elements of chess to learn first are - Tactics, Tactics, Tactics!  If you aren't already good at seeing and using pins, forks, double attacks, checkmating attacks, etc., then you need this book!  For the beginner, this is simply the best and easiest first introduction to basic chess tactics primer.  If you are new to chess I recommend to begin your study of chess tactics here!  In fact, this would be a great very first chess book for those just starting out in chess.  As a supplement, consider "Chess Tactics for Students" by John A. Bain.

Winning Chess: How to Perfect Your Attacking Play

By Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld.  A classic, great chess book.  A primer of basic chess tactics, targeted to the beginner-novice player. Chapters are thematically organized by tactic.  Also good is "Winning Chess Tactics" by Yasser Seirawan.  Either of these books would be an excellent follow-on to the "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" book (above).

Pandolfini's Ultimate Guide To Chess

By Bruce Pandolfini.  An excellent introduction to chess for the beginner.  Explains the fundamental concepts of good chess play.  Treats all aspects of chess, including basic tactics, strategy/planning, positional concepts, as well as fundamentals of opening, middlegame, and endgame play.  Also featured is a complete chess game, where the considerations involved in choosing every move are analyzed in detail.  Supplement or follow this with "Winning Chess Strategy for Kids" by Jeff Coakley (below) - it's not just for kids!

Winning Chess Strategy for Kids

By Jeff Coakley.  It must be said up front that this book is not just for kids.  It is an introductory chess course appropriate for EVERY beginner-novice (and many intermediate players). The book is loaded with great chess instruction, on every aspect of chess.  Coakley's book supplements, builds on and extends many of the ideas and concepts introduced in "Pandolfini's Ultimate Guide to Chess" (above).  Thus, the two books together would comprise a very good introductory chess curriculum.  

Having absorbed the lessons from the books above, you will be ready for the following books...

Play Winning Chess
By Yasser Seirawan. Targeted to the beginner-novice player. Focuses on explaining what GM Seirawan posits to be the four primary principles of chess – Force, Time, Space and Pawn Structure. Understanding how to properly evaluate and use these principles will enable you to formulate plans and strategies to significantly improve your chances for a successful result in your games.  The importance of the concepts introduced in this instructive book cannot be overstated.  In fact, I consider this book to be a MUST-READ for the beginner whose goal is to play better chess!

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess, Third Edition

By Patrick Wolff. A well written, introductory, comprehensive, "everything in one", book on chess for players up to intermediate level.  It provides thorough coverage of all aspects of chess.  See also "Alpha Teach Yourself Chess In 24 Hours" by Susan Polgar, et al., and "Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters" (2 vols.) by Lev Alburt and Larry Parr.

Tips for Young Players

By Matthew Sadler.  Suitable for ALL players up to intermediate level.  Introduces and clarifies practical concepts and techniques essential to playing good chess.  (Pages 70-103 are devoted to an instructive tutorial on opening play using the The London System opening).  See also, "Why You Lose At Chess" by Fred Reinfeld,  "64 Things You Need To Know In Chess" by John Walker, "The ABC's of Chess" and "The Chess Doctor", both by Bruce Pandolfini.  Discover the plethora of practical, instructive chess tips contained in all of these books.

A Guide to Chess Improvement: The Best Of Novice Nook

By Dan Heisman.  Here is a wealth of wisdom extracted from Heisman's "Novice Nook" columns on (the now apparently defunct) ChessCafe.com.  Full of invaluable advice and guidelines on just about every conceivable topic relating to how to improve your chess results.  Like having a chess mentor beside you!  

Heisman's "Novice Nook" articles in ChessCafe.com (now defunct) archives....

https://web.archive.org/web/20140625052220/http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/archives.htm

Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Positions and Ideas

by GM Lev Alburt.  A 2-volume series. The title says it all.  Here are highly instructive tactical scenarios and motifs, presented in puzzle format, which every chess player would benefit by working through. Studying these mini-lessons WILL improve your game!

1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations

An oldie but goodie, classic by Fred Reinfeld.  Chess tactics and combinations puzzles thematically arranged by chapter.  Answers in back of book.  See also "Chess Tactics" by Paul Littlewood.

Back to Basics: Tactics 

By Dan Heisman.  Focuses on the process of analyzing and calculating chess tactics, and introduces the essential concept of 'counting' material during combinations.  With its detailed explanations, many consider this to be one of the more instructive books on tactics for the novice.  For the defender's perspective on chess tactics, see "Looking for Trouble..." (2nd Ed.) also by Dan Heisman.

Fundamental Chess Tactics
by Antonio Gude.  A systematic, comprehensive course in chess tactics for all post-beginners.  Tactics are organized by theme.  Features instructive tactics examples taken from the games of world class players, including legends of chess and world champions.  This is, IMO, an exceptional chess book.  See also the popular "Chess Tactics for Champions" by Susan Polgar.

Chess Tactics from Scratch: Understanding Chess Tactics

By Martin Weteschnik.  This is not your typical tactics book, but instead is a relatively advanced course in chess tactics and combinations, focusing on methodologies for analyzing tactics, for the intermediate player and above.  The uniqueness of the book is that the author attempts to systematize the process of examining any position in order to determine if certain conditions exist which would make the position amenable to a given type of tactic. The tactical themes are arranged by chapter. Read this after familiarity with the material in the introductory tactics books listed earlier.  Follow up with "How to Calculate Chess Tactics" by Valeri Beim (also advanced), "Learn Chess Tactics" by John Nunn (more advanced) and "Forcing Chess Moves" by Charles Hertan (even more advanced).

The Art of Checkmate

By Renaud & Kahn.  Perhaps the best book ever written on fundamental checkmating patterns and technique.  I recommend the new algebraic notation editions, published by Russell Enterprises, or by Batsford, of the classic originally published (using "Descriptive" notation) by Dover.  For additional, and more complex checkmating scenarios, thematically organized, follow up with the excellent "Fundamental Checkmates" by Antonio Gude.

Attacking the King

By J.N. (John) Walker.  A primer on how to attack, and checkmate, your opponent's king.  You need to learn how to create and exploit these attacking opportunities - if for no other reason than not becoming a victim yourself!  See also "The Winning Way" by Bruce Pandolfini, and "Simple Attacking Plans" by Fred Wilson.  Each of these offer valuable instruction, targeted to the beginner-novice player, on how to plan and play for an attack on your opponent's king.  For instructive, practical examples of checkmating attacks taken from master level games, see Mastering Checkmates by Neil McDonald.  Appropriate primarily for the advanced player is "Mating the Castled King" by Danny Gormally.

Art of Attack in Chess

By Ladimir Vukovic.  A classic.  A well-organized, thematic treatment of everything you wanted to know about attacking your opponent's king.  Considered by many to be the definitive work on the topic.  Highly recommended also is Jacob Aagaard's award-winning "Attacking Manual" (Vols 1 & 2).  See also “How to Play Dynamic Chess” by Valeri Beim; "Attacking Chess for Club Players" by Herman Grooten; "Secrets of Attacking Chess" by Mihail Marin.  From the defender's perspective, see "How to Defend in Chess" by Colin Crouch and  "New Art of Defence In Chess" by Andrew Soltis.  Each of these books is relatively advanced, and suitable primarily for the experienced, intermediate level and above player.

Discovering Chess Openings: Building Opening Skills from Basic Principles

By John Emms.  A MUST-READ for the beginner-novice.  Many chess teachers advise against spending excessive time on the study of openings variations for the beginner, but they do agree it is important to acquire a solid understanding of opening PRINCIPLES right from the start.  This book explains the basics of opening FUNDAMENTALS better than any other book!  If you are uncertain about what you should be thinking and doing during the opening, this book does an exceptional job of addressing these issues.  For additional instruction in chess opening fundamentals, see also "Chess Openings for Juniors" and "Winning In The Opening", both by J.N. (John) Walker.  For instructive examples of how to exploit mistakes and inaccuracies in the opening, see "Chess Openings: Traps and Zaps" (2 volumes) by Bruce Pandolfini.

Chess Openings  

By Mike Basman.  A well-written, instructive book, targeted to the beginner-novice audience, focusing on the application of opening principles and techniques.  Does a better than average job explaining not only HOW to play the opening, but WHY moves are made.  Features tutorial overview chapters on the following openings: Giuoco Piano, Sicilian Dragon, Queen's Gambit, Nimzo-Indian Defence, and Morra Gambit.  This would be a good supplement-companion to the John Emms' "Discovering Chess Openings..." (above).

First Steps: 1 e4 e5

By John Emms.  Targeted to the beginner-novice, this provides an instructive introduction and overview of the ideas, plans, tactics and strategies of all the major double king pawn openings, including the Italian Game, Evans Gambit, Two Knights Defence, Ruy Lopez, Four Knights Game, Scotch Game and others.  Another fine effort by one of the better chess authors.

Openings for Amateurs

By Pete Tamburro.  An openings primer and repertoire for all amateurs and club players up to expert level.  Lots of practical advice, do's and don'ts of opening play and recommendations on openings to play.  Due to the more advanced nature of the material presented, his would be most appropriate as a follow-on to the openings primers above.  See also  "Back to Basics: Openings" by Carsten Hansen; "Winning Chess Openings" by Yasser Seirawan.

Pawn Structure Chess

By Andrew Soltis.  A classic.  While not strictly an openings book per se, Soltis describes and analyzes the major pawn structures arising from the opening and their implications for how to plan.  See also "Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide" by Mauricio Flores Rios;  "Chess Success: Planning After the Opening" by Neil McDonald.

FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings

By Paul van der Sterren.  If you want to delve more deeply into specific chess openings, and at some point you will, this is one of, if not the best, single-volume, comprehensive openings references available.  Covers all the major openings.  

Mastering the Chess Openings

By John Watson.  A 4-volume openings reference covering most of the major openings.  This is simply the best (IMO) and most comprehensive exposition of openings themes, plans and theory available.  Watson's ability to clarify concepts of the various openings is outstanding. See also "Chess Opening Essentials..." (4 Vols.) by Djuric, Komarov & Pantaleoni.

My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White

By Vincent Moret.  Here is a dynamic opening repertoire for White based on 1.e4, targeted to the beginner-intermediate player.  The approach is somewhat different from most repertoire books.  The author's stated intention is to present a reliable and efficient, yet aggressive set of openings which can be learned with "minimal" study.  That is, he has purposefully restricted the amount of material to that which is sufficient to understand the main themes of the recommended variations.  The presentation is focused on select variations that have a higher probability of actually being able to be played, while eschewing the myriad lines which have less likelihood.  This cuts down significantly on the amount of material to be studied.  If you require more information related to the openings he presents, you should consult resources which treat them more comprehensively.  But the author's intent is to get you started playing the recommended lines as quickly as possible by learning themes and plans, as opposed to memorizing lots of so-called "theory".

The author also does a better than average job of explaining not only WHAT you should be trying to do in each line (the themes), but also takes time to clarify WHY you are making the recommended moves, and in many cases lays out the procedure for HOW you should go about playing the lines.  Many authors don't go to the same lengths to explain things as thoroughly.  In fact, you will learn a lot about how to just play chess from this book.

Which lines are covered in the book?

  • White's main line in the open game will be the Italian Game - Giuoco Piano - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5.  Also presented is a response to The Two Knights Defense (3...Nf6), when White will respond with 4.Ng5.
  • Against the Sicilian Defense, White will head for the Grand Prix Attack - 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 - following up with a quick f2-f4.
  • Against the French Defense - 1.e4 e6 - White responds with the King's Indian Attack.
  • Against the Caro Kann Defense, White will play the Advance Variation  - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 (looking to follow with e6 and the so-called Night Attack).
  • Against The Pirc/Modern Defenses - 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 - White will head for the St.George Attack/Yugoslav Attack.
  • He briefly covers other responses by Black as well, for example The Scandinavian Defense, Philidor's Defense and Petroff Defense.

Overall this is a fun, yet effective White opening repertoire, instructively presented, which the beginner-intermediate player can quickly put to use, with "minimal" study required.  This is an outstanding chess book for the intended audience.  Highly recommended.

Chess Openings for Black, Explained: A Complete Repertoire

By Lev Alburt et al.  This, together with its companion volume, "Chess Openings for White Explained", comprise a complete opening repertoire targeted to the beginner-intermediate player.  

For Lev Alburt's Black repertoire (Book 1), the main line against 1.e4 is the Sicilian Defense - Accelerated Dragon, and against 1.d4, Black will play the Nimzo-Indian Defense, if given the opportunity.

Also from Black's perspective in the "Open" game (1.e4 e5) , see  "Play the Open Games As Black" by John Emms; "Beating the Open Games, 2nd Ed." by Mihail Marin; "Opening Repertoire: The Open Games with Black" by Martin Lokander;  "Play 1 e4 e5: A Complete Repertoire for Black in the Open Games" by Nigel Davies.

For Lev Alburt's White repertoire (Book 2), the main line in the open game (1.e4 e5) features either of the Scotch Gambit, Italian Game/Giuoco Piano, or Two Knights Defense, depending on how Black responds; Against the Sicilian Defense, White plays the Grand Prix Attack (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 - with f2-f4 soon to follow); against the Caro-Kann Defense, White plays the Exchange Variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5); against the French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5) White responds with 3.Nc3.

Also from the White perspective, see "Beating 1 e4 e5: A Repertoire for White in the Open Games" and "Attacking With 1 e4", both by John Emms; "Winning With the Slow (but Venomous!) Italian" by Muller & Souleidis; "Beating Unusual Defenses 1 e4" by Andrew Greet.

Better Chess Openings

By J.E.F. Kaan.  A comprehensive opening repertoire for both White and Black targeted to the beginner-intermediate player.  For White, repertoires based on 1.e4 (featuring the Ruy Lopez) and also on 1.d4 are offered (you have a choice!).  For Black, against 1.e4 the repertoire recommends 1...e5  for beginner-novice and 1...e6 (French Defense) for intermediate players; against 1.d4, 1...Nf6 (Queen's Gambit and Indian Defenses) are featured.  Overall, a sound opening repertoire is provided. The Amazon Kindle eBook edition has the title "Learning The Chess Openings" by the same author.  

Alterman Gambit Guide

By Boris Alterman.  Playing gambits is fun, but most importantly in so doing you will hone your tactical and attacking skills, while learning the importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative.  In this very instructive 3-volume series the author offers a select gambit repertoire for both White and Black.  The first volume covers White gambits (G.) as follows: Danish G., Urusov G., Cochran G., Evans G., Morra G., and the Milner-Barry G..  Several other openings are covered including the Morphy Attack vs the Two Knights Defense, the Max Lange Attack and the Panov-Botvinnik Attack.  The second volume features Black Gambits against 1.d4 and 1.c4, primarily the Benko G., Blumenfeld G. and Vaganian G..  The third volume continues with Black Gambits against 1.e4 and 1.f4 - The Marshall Attack, Hector G., Traxler Counterattack, Frankenstein-Dracula G., Falkbeer Counter G., and From's G.  See also "Open Gambits" by George Botterill.  A site devoted to gambits - http://www.ianchessgambits.com/

How to Build Your Chess Opening Repertoire

By Steve Giddins.  A book to guide you in the considerations involved in choosing your openings - the title says it all.  For some opening repertoire suggestions see...

http://www.chesspublishing.com/content/repert.htm                                                     http://www.mark-weeks.com/aboutcom/aa02i07.htm                            http://grandpatzerchess.blogspot.com/2007/03/openings-for-improving-players-part-1.html

Pandolfini's Endgame Course

By Bruce Pandolfini.  A popular introductory endgame book for the beginner-novice, covering endgame basics, in an easy to use format - one lesson per page.  Recommended despite the occurrence of occasional typos which minimally detract from its overall instructive value.  For book errata see...  http://www.glennwilson.com/chess/books/pec_errata.html#end37 

For more detailed exposition of fundamental endgame concepts and principles see "Endgame Workshop", also by Bruce Pandolfini.  In fact, it would be a good idea to study both of these endgame books together, as they more complement/supplement, than duplicate, each other.

Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner To Master

By Jeremy Silman.  A popular, comprehensive, introductory endgame manual, covering most of the basic endgame scenarios you should become familiar with on your way to chess mastery!  For players rated below 2000, if you could own only one introductory endgame book this would be a good choice. A useful supplement would be "Winning Chess Endings" by Yasser Seirawan.  For an advanced treatise, see "Fundamental Chess Endings" by Muller & Lamprecht.  Also recommended for its historical as well as instructional value is the classic "Basic Chess Endings" by Reuben Fine (algebraic notation edition, McKay-Random House, 2003).

100 Endgames You Must Know

By Jesus de la Villa.  The title says it all.  Though focused on common endgame scenarios, this book is more suitable for the experienced, post-novice player.  See also "Chess Endings Essential Knowldege" by Yuri Averbakh; "Secrets of Pawn Endings" by Muller & Lamprecht; "The Survival Guide to Rook Endings" by John Emms; "Understanding Rook Endgames" by Muller & Kovonal; "Starting Out: Minor Piece Endgames" by John Emms; "101 Chess Endgame Tips" by Steve Giddins.

Capablanca's Best Chess Endings

Edited and annotated by Irving Chernev.  A classic.  60 complete games featuring the brilliant, instructive endgame play of a true chess genius and the Third World Champion - Jose Raul Capablanca.

Weapons of Chess: An Omnibus of Chess Strategies 

By Bruce Pandolfini.  A MUST-READ for the chess novice.  After acquiring proficiency in chess tactics, this is the book to begin your study of POSITIONAL CHESS - the essential foundation for playing chess at the highest levels.  Introduces the fundamental concepts - the building blocks - essential to evaluating chess positions in order to develop plans and strategies.  A useful supplement is "The Complete Book of Chess Stategy" by Jeremy Silman.  Follow these with another must-read, “Simple Chess” by Michael Stean, below.  

Elements of Positional Evaluation: How the Pieces Get Their Power

By Dan Heisman.  A good supplement or follow-up to Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" (above). Heisman provides detailed instruction in fundamental positional chess principles and technique.  See also "Back To Basics: Strategy" by Valeri Beim.

Simple Chess

By Michael Stean.  A classic, MUST-READ.  Suitable for players rated higher than 1300.  An introduction to positional play in practice, within the context of Grandmaster games.  Read after exposure to the concepts introduced in Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" (above).  If you aspire to progress significantly beyond novice level you will need to have a solid grasp of the positional concepts and techniques presented in this essential book.  See also "Simple Chess" and "More Simple Chess: Moving On From the Basics", both by John Emms, and the classic "Modern Chess Strategy" by Ludek Pachman (in descriptive notation).

Winning Chess Strategies

By Yasser Seirawan.  Addtional in-depth exposition and practical examples of many of the positional-strategic concepts and techniques introduced in Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" and Michael Stean's "Simple Chess" (above).  Follow up with two exceptionally instructive books -  "The Art of Planning In Chess: Move By Move" and "Chess Secrets: The Giants of Strategy...", both by Neil McDonald.

Techniques of Positional Play: 45 Practical Methods to Gain the Upper Hand in Chess

By Valeri Bronznik & Anatoli Terekhin.  An advanced book.  The title says it all.  The techniques are arranged thematically.  This is an exceptional resource for the continuing study of the techniques of positional chess.  Work through this after familiarization with concepts in Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" and Michael Stean's "Simple Chess" (above).  See also the similar "Chess Training for Post-Beginners..." by Yaroslav Srokovski.

The Soviet Chess Primer

By Ilya Maizelis.  This was the classic chess training manual-course in the Soviet Union, and is destined to become a classic in The West.  The book is endorsed by three former World Chess Champions - Lasker, Karpov and Kasparov.  Though it begins by treating elementary concepts, the book quickly becomes challenging for the beginner-novice; it therefore is more suitable for the experienced, intermediate player and above.  The book is structured to take the student, with diligent study, to expert level and perhaps beyond. If you are looking for an "advanced" chess course, this would be a good choice.  Consider following this with "Soviet Middlegame Technique" by Peter Romanovsky (below).

Soviet Middlegame Technique

By Peter Romanovsky.  The classic text of the middlegame course used in the former Soviet Union.  An advanced book, targeted to the more experienced player, who possesses a good understanding of positional concepts. This is the most recent english translation (thanks to the publisher, Quality Chess) of the 1960 edition of Romanovsky's work.  The chess course focuses on the practical application of positional concepts and techniques, strategy and planning through the use of games and game fragments of the world's greatest players from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries.  While the games may not be recent, the instructional content is enduring.  See also the classics "The Middlegame" (2 Vols.) by former World Champion Max Euwe and H. Kramer, and "The Art of the Middle Game" by Paul Keres and Alexander Kotov (in Descriptive notation).

The Amateur's Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery

A popular book by Jeremy Silman, targeted to the beginner-intermediate chess audience.  Silman analyzes chess games, positions and concepts as though he is discussing them with an amateur player, for the purpose of clarifying proper chess thinking, pointing out typical amateur mistakes and making suggestions for correct play.  See also two classics,  "Chess Master vs Chess Amateur" by former World Chess Champion Max Euwe & Walter Meiden, and "The Game of Chess" by Siegbert Tarrasch (both in descriptive notation).

World's Most Instructive Amateur Game Book

Dan Heisman annotates a collection of amateur games where the pros and cons of the moves are discussed in detail, and pearls of chess wisdom are offered.  See also "Best Lessons of a Chess Coach" by Sunil Weeramantry.

How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances

By Jeremy Silman.  According to the author, this book "was designed for players in the 1400 to 2100 range' to 'imbue the serious student with a rock solid positional chess foundation...plus an understanding of how to make logical plans based on the needs of the position."  As this is a relatively advanced book for the amateur, it is recommended after becoming familiar with the positional chess fundamentals covered in Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" and Michael Stean's "Simple Chess" (above).  See also  "50 Essential Chess Lessons" by Steve Giddins.

Masters of the Chessboard

By Richard Reti.  A classic.  Here is instructive analysis and commentary of the style of play of the most of the great masters from the mid 19th to the early-to-mid 20th century, including Morphy, Anderssen, Rubinstein, Steinitz, Tarrasch, Tartakower, Spielmann, Capablanca, Lasker, Alekhine, etc.  See also (the chronologically earlier, and also a classic) "Modern Ideas In Chess" by Richard Reti.

Logical Chess - Move By Move

by Irving Chernev.  A classicOne of the most popular chess books of all time.  Targeted to the beginner-intermediate player, this is a collection of grandmaster games, with the reasoning behind virtually every move analyzed and explained.  Identical in format but featuring more recent games, is "Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking From the First Move to the Lastby Neil McDonald (get both!).  See also another Chernev classic "The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played" and "The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games" by Burgess, Nunn & Emms.

Winning Chess Brilliancies

By Yasser Seirawan.  Twelve grandmaster games deeply annotated, appropriate for all post-beginners. A superb, highly instructive book, which provides an object lesson in how chess games should be annotated.

Multiple Choice Chess
By Graeme Buckley. Multiple Choice Chess I & II (two volumes). Analysis of complete grandmaster games where you participate by being asked to guess the next move (choose from a list of candidate moves). You are awarded points based on your answers, allowing you to rate your level of play. A fun way to learn and compare yourself to the masters.

My 60 Memorable Games

By Bobby Fischer.  A classic.  Games of one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and former World Champion, selected and annotated by the phenomenon himself.  See also "Bobby Fischer: Complete Games of the American World Chess Champion" (contains essentially the game scores only - very little analysis).

How I Beat Fischer's Record (Judit Polgar Teaches Chess)

By Judit Polgar.  The first volume of an award winning trilogy by one whom many consider to be the greatest female chess player ever.  Exceptionally well written chess instruction based on her games.  This is chess thinking at the highest level clearly explained.  See also "Judit Polgar: The Princess of Chess" by Tibor Karolyi; "Breaking Through: How the Polgar Sisters Changed the Game of Chess" by Susan Polgar.   A nice article about Judit Polgar's chess career -

http://en.chessbase.com/post/judit-polgar-the-greatest-prodigy-ever

Pawn Power in Chess
By Hans Kmoch. A classic - masterpiece of the chess literature!  Everything you wanted to know about pawn play. Although the usage of the outdated "Descriptive" chess notation, and the somewhat quirky, but apt, terminology used to describe structures and concepts may require getting acclimated to, study of this book will continue to pay dividends throughout your chess career.  See also "The Power of Pawns" by Jorg Hickl.

My System

By Aron Nimzowitsch.  A classic.  Initially published in 1925, perhaps no other chess book has had as profound an influence on how chess was played throughout the 20th century.  While there are several excellent editions available, the Lou Hays 21st Century edition may be the easiest (English) translation to read.  See also "Chess Praxis" by Aron Nimzowitsch.