It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review, so I decided to make sure to fit one in this month. Today I am reviewing Mah-Jongg: From Shanghai to Miami Beach by Christina Cavallaro and Anita Luu. You’ll notice throughout this review that it strays a bit from the normal format. This is because this book is more of a historical account of the game rather than an instructional book. In fact, this book is unique in that it’s one of the best resources on mahjong that I’ve read thus far and it has, for the most part, absolutely nothing to do with teaching you how to play. But if you’re interested in the history and various variations of the game played throughout the world, this is definitely a book for you.
I want to start out by saying that I completely loved reading this book. It’s bright, colorful, and full of character. The book runs about 175 pages but I breezed through it in a day. Over half the book is devoted to just the history of the game. How it got started, some of the various theories on which mahjong was based off of, and even cultural references throughout history involving mahjong.
Throughout your entire journey of the history of mahjong, you’re treated to many bright color pictures, illustrations, and famous quotes that help paint a very good picture of the past, present, and future of mahjong. The book is called “Shanghai to Miami Beach,” and that is exactly how it’s covered. Included in the book is how Mahjong spread throughout the world from china, to Japan, to Europe and to the US. The book also includes a very nice section about how Mahjong got started in the US complete with pictures of the original marketed Milton Bradly box games, the original scoring cards that were first used, and how mahjong was integrated into pop culture throughout its history in America.
The second part of the book touches lightly on the basics of mahjong and its variations. It talks about what the first tiles were made out of, and the differences of the various materials. There is also a very good chart giving the merits / fallacies of all the different kinds of sets you can buy even today. Finally, towards the end, it walks you through a few of the different variations of mahjong including traditional Chinese rules, and American rules. It’s not done in an instructional method, but more of an informative method. Having never really taken the time to learn any rule sets beyond Reach, I found it very interesting to learn than in American mahjong, tiles are passed before play starts almost like in hearts.
This is a very fun read for anyone interested in the history of mahjong and it has become a very big recommendation of mine after having completed it. If I were to put it to a scale, I’d definitely give it a 10 out of 10 for presentation, character, and historical facts.
You can find this book off of Amazon US for under 10 American dollars here, so if you have a chance, definitely pick it up!
Mah-jongg: From Shanghai to Miami Beach on Amazon