This is not just an introduction to go, though the first half of the book explains the rules and takes the beginner from 9x9 games that introduce basic concepts (a nice teaching method that is probably less overwhelming to new players than jumping right into strategy on a full-sized board) to 13x13 games, and finally to 19x19 games. There are complete examples of each, and Shotwell covers a lot of basic and intermediate theory. I did not find it enhanced my game much at my current level, but he did explain a lot of things well. Also, he makes 9x9 games look much more interesting, and covers some topics most introductory books don't talk much about, like handicap go and ranking.
As a beginning go book, I'd give Go! More Than a Game
a high recommendation. It's lengthier than Cho Chikun's
and Kaoru Iwamoto's
books, and so presents a more gradual learning curve, though Shotwell, while obviously a very good player, is not at Chikun or Iwamoto's level.
What makes this book a little different from most introductory go books is that, as implied by the title, it's not just about the game and the rules. This is the first book I've read that includes a complete, comprehensive history of go, from its Chinese and Tibetan origins (and the Tibetan variant still played today) to its flourishing in Japan, and its renaissance in Japan and Korea at the end of the 20th century. Shotwell covers all the major figures in go history, past and contemporary. He also mentions just about every work of fiction with a go connection, from The Master of Go
and A Beautiful Mind
. He even talks about the Hikaru no Go
There is a brief but interesting chapter on computer go which is still mostly up to date, as computer go hasn't changed that much since 2003 — computers have gotten better and faster, but they still can't compete with good human players. Shotwell did his homework and covered some algorithms and computer science theory, making this of particular interest to me.
There's also a lot of stuff about Taoism, which seems to be a particular interest of the author's. He connects the "Dark School of Taoism" to the strategies of go. I was particularly interested to read about the conflict between Confucianism and Taoism, going back to early Chinese history and with implications for go even in the 20th century. Apparently Confucianists originally considered go to be a trivial and possibly immoral game, leading to idleness and gambling, not the deeply intellectual cultural treasure it is today.
Shotwell's enthusiasm for the subject is deep. He also goes off on a few slightly woo-woo tangents about how go is about life and life is about go and the stones talk to each other and Oriental philosophy manifested on the go board blah blah. But he clearly loves the game, in a way that some of the drier go professionals who write books obviously do as well yet don't always express as enthusiastically. "Here is an example of good play, and incidentally go is good for developing your mind" as opposed to "THIS IS DEEP STUFF, YO! ISN'T THIS COOL?"
So purely as a book to learn go, I'd say Go! More Than a Game
holds up well against any other introductory book, though its length makes it probably something only for a seriously interested player. If you are interested in the "more than a game" part, it's quite interesting and readable. There is a lot of go history and culture that you only get a taste of from reading books about fuseki, joseki, life and death, etc.