The Moves That Matter

A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life
Narrated by: Jonathan Rowson
Length: 10 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson, read by Jonathan Rowson. 

Refined and perfected throughout human history, chess has long been a touchstone for shrewd tacticians and master strategists. But enfolded within this ancient game can be found a singularly resonant metaphor for the challenges, thrills and setbacks that fill our lives with meaning and complexity.  

Jonathan Rowson’s competitive success as a Grandmaster and his work as a philosopher of public policy have given him a unique perspective on why the great game is more important than ever for understanding the conflicts and uncertainties of the modern world. In 64 witty and addictive vignettes, Rowson takes us on an exhilarating tour of the game of life, from the psychology of gang violence, to the aesthetics of cyborgs, the beauty of technical details, and the endgame of death. Chess emerges as a rich and endlessly evocative way of thinking about the desires that shape the world around us.  

The Moves That Matter celebrates the redeeming power of intense concentration while offering a humane and compassionate account of our interdependence and need for community. Jonathan Rowson reveals, one move at a time, what it means to love, think or care deeply in the intricate game of life.

©2019 Jonathan Rowson (P)2019 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"Terrific...What a beautiful, thoughtful work. I see thinking in a fresh light. I see my own life in a fresh light as well." (David Bodanis, author of Einstein’s Greatest Mistake and E=MC2

"At a time when we urgently need new ways to think about the challenge of creating a meaningful life - far more than we need conventional self-help advice - Jonathan Rowson has written a powerfully unconventional and mind-expanding book...A generous, nuanced and witty meditation on confronting the challenges life throws at us all." (Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking)

"A remarkable, highly original and personal book, unlike anything else you have ever read, packed with wisdom about life. You need to know next to nothing about chess to enjoy it and to want to keep coming back for more." (Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and His Emissary)

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Profile Image for Paul Butcher
  • Paul Butcher
  • 12-15-19

Compelling, beautifully written, audio page turner

I was not sure what to expect before I started listening to this - from what I had heard I knew it would be part personal story, part investigation of what is important in life and that chess would somehow be the prism through which the insights were explained/ revealed. (And i know the rules of chess but thats about it).

But nothing could prepare me for how utterly compelling the book was. The strangest “page turner” I have ever listened to - I wanted to hear more as quickly as possible. Several things made this the case. Firstly, it is beautifully written with exquisite precision. Much of the time I listened I was simply marvelling at the extreme aptness of the analogies he continually made. Second, linked to the first point, the clarity of thought and perceptiveness of what he was saying and the way he was able to communicate it so effectively was mesmerising. There was so much packed into so few words all the time. Thats what turned it into a “page turner” I kept wanting more of this concentrated insight.

The tools that Rowson used also worked brilliantly. Chess clearly does have a lot to teach us both directly, and as Rowson showed again and again (with astonishing insight and creativity) by analogy. The other tool he uses to great effect was his life experiences (which of course involve a lot of chess but go far beyond that).

Basically what the reader/ listener is gaining from this book that means it is worth so much more than anyone else writing about their life experiences (or chess for that matter) is that Rowson is a very very deep thinker and also a consummate communicator. He shines his powerful mind onto the deep questions of life we all face and helps the reader/listener expand their mind/ see things from refreshing, interesting, surprising, humorous and ultimately uplifting ways.

In summary this is an uncharacterisable tour de force which I would recommend everyone to read/ listen to - regardless of any interest in chess.

Final point: I am sometimes wary of buying audiobooks read by the author, but Rowson reads it perfectly and this very personal (though still universal) book gains a lot from having the author speak his own words.

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  • Daniel Fonseca
  • 02-10-20

great book

Thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you Jonathan for sharing your thoughts with us, even some embarrassing details, your honesty is much appreciated!