Mahjong Magic: How Books Showcase This Classic Game

Mahjong GIFT IDEAS, Mahjong in literature By Nov 03, 2023 No Comments

Welcome to a world where strategy, tradition, and storytelling converge in an unexpected way – through Mahjong! Mahjong has been a surprising yet delightful presence in books and literature. In this blog post, we’ll uncover the enchanting tales in books that skillfully incorporate this beloved game. Get ready to explore the cultural depth, emotional connections, and strategic thrills that Mahjong brings to the pages of our favorite stories. Let’s embark on this unique journey of tile-based storytelling!

mahjong in literature - books with mahjong touch

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1. Crazy Rich Asians (by Kevin Kwan)

If you’ve ever wondered what happens when you combine extravagant wealth, cultural intricacies, and the fascinating world of Mahjong, look no further than “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan. While this bestselling novel isn’t solely about the ancient Chinese tile game, it certainly weaves Mahjong into its captivating tapestry of characters and their opulent lives.

The story unfolds as Rachel Chu, a smart and down-to-earth economics professor, accompanies her boyfriend, Nick Young, to Singapore for a wedding. Unbeknownst to her, Nick hails from an incredibly wealthy and influential family, and their trip quickly transforms into a whirlwind of high society events and jaw-dropping luxury. But where does Mahjong fit into this glitzy world?

Mahjong in “Crazy Rich Asians” becomes a metaphor for the power struggles, societal expectations, and the clash of cultures that the characters face throughout the story. The game serves as a lens through which the complexities of love, identity, and family dynamics are explored.

2. The Joy Luck Club (by Amy Tan)

“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan is a heartwarming and poignant exploration of the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, all wrapped in the delightful backdrop of Mahjong.

This novel invites you into the lives of four Chinese-American women and their daughters. Through a series of interconnected stories, we witness their joys, sorrows, and the cultural complexities that bridge generations. At the heart of these tales is a Mahjong group, where these women come together, not just to play a game but to share their stories and support one another.

Mahjong serves as a powerful metaphor in “The Joy Luck Club,” symbolizing the blending of traditions and the unbreakable bonds between these women. As the tiles are shuffled and stories unfold, the reader is treated to a rich narrative that explores the beauty of heritage and the strength of family ties. This book is a touching journey into the lives of these remarkable women, and a reminder of the importance of preserving one’s roots while embracing the future.

3. The Last Chinese Chef (by Nicole Mones)

In “The Last Chinese Chef” by Nicole Mones, Mahjong is incorporated as a significant element of the story, symbolizing cultural heritage and personal connection.

“The Last Chinese Chef” by Nicole Mones is a novel that combines the art of Chinese cuisine with a touching love story. The book follows Maggie McElroy, a food writer who embarks on a journey to Beijing to uncover the secrets of authentic Chinese cooking. While there, she meets Sam Liang, a gifted Chinese chef with a deep connection to his culinary heritage.

Through their shared passion for food and cooking, Maggie and Sam form a deep bond. The novel explores the intricate world of Chinese cuisine, providing readers with a sensory experience of flavors, traditions, and the cultural significance of food. As the story unfolds, Maggie and Sam’s relationship develops, and they navigate personal and cultural challenges, all set against the backdrop of a culinary adventure that celebrates the richness of Chinese culinary traditions.

4. The Red Chamber (by Pauline A. Chen)

“The Red Chamber” draws its inspiration from the classic 18th-century Chinese novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber.” In this compelling narrative, author Pauline Chen brings to life some of the original characters, offering a captivating glimpse into the opulent women’s quarters of an affluent Beijing family during that era. The story revolves around three resilient women who form a unique bond in a world where they are subject not only to their husbands but also to the authority of their elder female relatives.

For those keen to explore the intricacies of Chinese culture and history from that period, this tale proves to be an intriguing window into the past. Yet, it’s important to note that it isn’t a swift read.

Mahjong is involved in the story as it is a recurring social activity among the family members and serves as a backdrop for their interactions. The game of Mahjong becomes a symbol of tradition, status, and family dynamics, offering a unique lens through which the characters’ relationships and conflicts are portrayed.

mahjong in books and literature: how books showcase this classic game

5. The Mahjong Mavens of Boca Raton (by Ruth E. Weiner)

“The Mahjong Mavens of Boca Raton” is a heartwarming tale that brings together a group of senior women with unique personalities and quirks at the Boca Raton Senior Center. Mavis, Blooma, Gertrude, and Winnie, all in their golden years, form an unlikely friendship as they bond over their love for the game of Mahjong.

However, their dynamic is tested when Jayne, a younger woman, unexpectedly joins their group. With Jayne’s arrival, the women vie for her attention, and the story unfolds as they reveal their true selves and secrets.

Through humor and heart, “The Mahjong Mavens of Boca Raton” celebrates the power of friendship, acceptance, and the unbreakable bonds that can form in unexpected places.

6. Cracks in a Marriage (by Barbara Barrett)

In “Cracks in a Marriage,” a cozy mystery from the Mah Jongg Mystery series, Sydney Bonner, a retiree and mahjongg player, stumbles upon a chilling secret. Overhearing an argument between a fellow mahjongg player and her husband, Sydney suspects that their seemingly perfect marriage hides dark secrets. When the husband is found dead, Sydney, along with her three friends Marianne, Kat, and Micki, all retirees living in a small Florida town, embarks on a secret investigation.

Though lacking any formal detective training, the spirited quartet delves into the complexities of their community’s social life, unveiling a host of potential suspects, from dubious acquaintances to resentful golf buddies. As they inch closer to uncovering the murderer, they must also keep a watchful eye on the possibility of the killer closing in on them. Set against a backdrop of retirement life, golf outings, community activities, and newfound wealth, “Cracks in a Marriage” weaves an engaging tale of friendship, secrets, and amateur sleuthing in a small town.

This book is part of The Mah Jongg Mysteries (10 book series).

Throughout the series, the women engage in various community activities, social gatherings, and adventures, including golf outings, coffeehouse visits, and shopping trips. The women’s relationships with the men in their lives, such as Syd’s husband Trip, Marianne’s husband Beau, and the romantic interests like Sheriff Rick Formero and retired attorney Guy Whitney, add depth to the storyline.

While the women don’t actively seek out murder cases, circumstances draw them into investigations, where they surprisingly excel. Despite their civilian status, they use their skills and special abilities to assist law enforcement, even learning self-defense along the way. The series combines friendship, romance, and amateur sleuthing, creating an engaging narrative filled with twists, turns, and unexpected adventures.

7. Mah jongg Mondays (by Fern Bernstein)

In “Mah jongg Mondays,” Fern, a suburban Long Island wife and mother of three, embarks on a journey to learn the Chinese tile game of mahjongg. As she gathers with a diverse group of women for weekly games, deep friendships blossom around the mahjongg table. This close-knit community becomes a vital source of support and strength when Fern’s husband is diagnosed with cancer, presenting her with fears and challenges to overcome. The memoir beautifully weaves themes of destiny, faith, friendship, time, and love throughout the narrative.

Fern’s story takes readers on a touching journey around the mahjongg table, to the scenic town of Greenport, and through her husband’s battle with cancer, demonstrating the power of faith, friendship, and personal connection with God. “Mah jongg Mondays” is a heartwarming account of the extraordinary bonds that form when five women come together to play an ancient Chinese game, reminding us that love knows no bounds and that time is precious.

8. The Wind, the Flowers, the Bamboos: A Story of Friendship (by Sally Lake-Dolejsi)

In “The Wind, the Flowers, the Bamboos: A Story of Friendship” by Sally Lake-Dolejsi, the enduring beauty of friendship is depicted through the changing seasons. Mrs. Owl and her woodland neighbors come together monthly to share laughter, treats, and the game of mahjong. With each season, from autumn’s birthday celebrations to winter’s festive gatherings and the arrival of spring and summer, these friends remain steadfast in their bond.

The story beautifully illustrates how friendship, like the intricate tiles in mahjong, requires time, patience, and nurturing to create a harmonious and enduring combination. Through the varying winds of joy, happiness, solitude, sadness, and gratitude, these six friends celebrate, support, and remain connected, highlighting the profound and timeless nature of their special relationship.

9. The Mermaid Mahjong Circle: A Fairy Tale for Women (by Claudia Grossman)

“The Mermaid Mahjong Circle: A Fairy Tale for Women” is a captivating story that follows the journey of two lifelong friends and artists, Evie and Hannah. Their adventure begins when they stumble upon a mysterious mahjong tile with a century-old history on a San Francisco beach. This extraordinary discovery propels them into a whirlwind journey that transcends time and tests the boundaries of their minds and hearts.

Smart, funny, and infused with whimsical magic, the story explores the power of friendship, art, and the belief in something beyond reality that can transform lives. “The Mermaid Mahjong Circle” is a tribute to women empowering themselves through their passions and the connections they hold dear. Step into this enchanting circle and prepare to be charmed by a tale of art, friendship, and the extraordinary.


As we wrap up our exploration of Mahjong’s role in books and literature, we hope you’ve enjoyed this delightful journey through the world of storytelling and strategy. Just like a well-played Mahjong game, the stories we’ve uncovered are intricate, filled with unexpected twists, and bound to leave a lasting impression.

Whether you’re a passionate Mahjong player or simply a bookworm seeking new tales to devour, we trust you’ve discovered the magic that this ancient game brings to the narratives we cherish. So, next time you pick up a book or watch a movie, keep an eye out for those captivating Mahjong moments, and remember that in both literature and life, the tiles of our stories can create beautiful combinations.

Thank you for joining us on this enchanting journey, and may your next Mahjong game or book be filled with endless adventures and surprises! And before you go, let us know in the comments what your favorite storytelling book with a Mahjong footprint is. We’d love to hear your recommendations!

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