Books for Beginners

After having a look at various literature on Go, I think that the following is probably a list that will give a good understanding of the game and avoid the redundance and overlap between various books:

Kim Sung Rae. Speed Baduk, vols. 1-12.

Yang Yu-Chia. A Scientific Introduction to Go.

Bruce and Sue Wilcox. EZ-GO: Oriental Strategy in a Nutshell.

Ikuro Ishigure. In the Beginning: The Opening in the Game of Go.

Akira Ishida and James Davies. Attack and Defense.

Ishida Yoshio. All About Thickness: Understanding Moyo and Influence.

The Nihon Kiin Handbook, vols. 1-5 (Proverbs; Fuseki; Star Point Joseki; Handicap Go; Even Game Joseki)

Iwamoto Kaoru. Invasion in Common Go Positions.

Iwamoto Kaoru. Reduction in Common Go Positions.

Antti Törmänen. Rational Endgame.

Yilun Yang. The Fundamental Principles of Go.

Neil Moffatt. Go By Example: Correcting Common Mistakes in Double Digit Kyu Play.

Neil Moffatt. More Go By Example: Improving in Single Digit Kyu Play.

Yuan Zhou. Single Digit Kyu Game Commentaries.

Feng Yun. The Best Play: In-Depth Game Analyses.

Yuan Zhou. Understanding Dan Level Play.

Yuan Zhou. Master Play: The Playing Styles of Seven Top Pros.

Shuzo Ohira. Appreciating Famous Games.

Kaoru Iwamoto. The 1971 Honinbo Tournament.

Chinese-English Dictionary of Weiqi Terms.

I have read some of these books on your list that in my honest opinion definitely are not books for beginners.

For example, Shuzo Ohira’s Appreciating Famous Games and Kaoru Iwamoto’s The 1971 Honinbo Tournament are pretty complicated for beginners.

What is your definition of a beginner?

Ikuro Ishigure’s In the Beginning: The Opening in the Game of Go is a very good book for beginners.

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I listed them in the order I thought would be good to read from being a beginner until advancing. So the idea with the list is not that you should remain a beginner but advance.

I realized myself that good commentaries on Kyu and later Dan and Pro games are more useful to beginn to develop a whole board understanding rather than reading theoretical book about various topics after getting the basics. Hence half of the list are to various degrees commentaries advancing from Kyu games to Pro games.


I should have clarified that my intention was for beginners who want to advance beyond beginner. As I said in the other reply, I personally found that it was much more rewarding to read commentaries on Kyu, Dan, and Pro games to begin to develop a whole board thinking, but I also found that it makes no sense only reading commentaries and analysis on Kyu games, but also on Dan and Pro games, since commentaries on Kyu games usually only points out what is wrong while good commentaries on Dan and Pro games indicates how you should think rather than how you should not think.


See also your older thread

After reading most those books, I realize that many perhaps do not bring so much and have a lot of overlap.

After working with Speed Baduk, I see that this series covers Life-and-Death, Tesuji, Reading, etc. in a very systematic and didactic through graded problems so there is really not much point in reading theoretical books on those topics. I also found Speed Baduk to be much more useful than the alternative series with tsumegos.

When it comes to Go theory for beginners, beyond the basic rules, I find that Bruce Wilcox and Yang have a very good approach to explain basic tactic and strategy in a systematic, didactic, and non-mystical way.

The other Japanese books are so famous that they do not need comments, but I found that the Nihon Kiin Handbook series is really enlightening since most of the volumes are systematic treatments of Fuseki and Joseki (although some are a bit old-fashioned) whose value is that the reasons behind the moves are clearly explained, so it helps you study fuseki and joseki in the sense of understanding the moves rather than memorizing them.

I also found Yilun Yang’s book to be a good introduction to general strategy, and then that it is more useful to read commented games progressing from Kyu level to Dan level to Pro level, rather than reading theoretical books on various copies since that shows theory in practice.

This is a very strange list! There are plenty of other such lists online, many of them by much stronger players…

The Iwamoto books on reducing/invading have always been very advanced material (mid dan level or higher, definitely a bit over my head). Given the massive changes in style of play over the last 20 years (things were already changing before AI), I don’t think there’s much value in learning this specific set of middlegame patterns.

I’d also question the value of in-depth joseki study (Nihon Kiin handbooks) for beginner/intermediate players.

There’s an obvious gap in terms of tsumego (tesuji, life & death). I haven’t seen the Speed Baduk books: I know they include some tsumego, but I’d still expect to see a lot more on a comprehensive list. (This is an area where you want redundancy and overlap! The more you drill the basic patterns, and see them from different perspectives, the better.)

Imho, the only books necessary for beginners are

Learn to Play Go series by Janice Kim
Graded Go Problem series

After finishing these, should be around 10-20k. Then play some good amounts of games and get reviews from stronger players, sdk shouldn’t be a problem.

Once reaching sdk, that’s where you start reading them other books.

Even then tsumegos are the basis of everything. Just doing tsumegos + playing + review is good enough for improvement. And maybe studying pro games is good too.

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I realize that I have probably a broader definition of beginner than most people here, since by beginner I mean basically anyone who hasn’t reached SDK.

Perhaps people who have reached SDK level could share which books they read when they were DDK. For me, as far as I remember, it was

  • Solving tsumegos on Tsumego Pro as well as Graded go problems for beginners volume 3, and the first half of volume 4 (the rest I found too difficult).
  • Attack and Defense (Ishida and Davies)
  • Tesuji (Davies)
  • The first chapters of “Fundamental principles of go” (Yilun Yang).



Janice Kim’s “Learn to Play Go” series. Highly recommended.
Imho nothing else is needed to get to SDK (9k) other than these books and trying to play games where you apply/practice what those books teach till you get it right. After that the “Direction of Play” is, I think, the most crucial book in line.

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That doesn’t change my answer. I still think DDK players (or even many SDKs) won’t benefit much from reading joseki dictionaries or the Iwamoto books on your list.

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