Here are some of my recommendations for good endgame books to read. This covers the area of exact or theoretical endgames. You need only to study the 30 that I have outlined from the huge lot.
What I like about these books is that they have lots of explanations in how the winning method is achieved. Some are even directed towards the level of players and what they should know - eg Silman.
Basic Chess Endings has been around for years as the 1st encyclopedia of chess endgames. Though there are quite a few errors, what I like about this book is that it gives sound advice on what to do when you have no definite idea how to proceed. Take for example pawn endings. So you have 1 pawn more than your opponent. Fine's advice?
" The winning process in endings with a pawn ahead as follows:
1 Force a passed pawn
2 Sacrifice the pawn at a moment to get either
a a pawn that queens by force
b a sufficient proponderence (means more) of material
c a win in one of the basic positions"
So its good to just get the advice. The analysis in the other books below are more trusted.
For the post beginner about P1 or 2, this is quite a good book to read as Silman carefully divides the material to what you should learn at the level you are playing. The exercises are good and easy to understand.
This book is the most concise for the primary school player. It covers many of the methods with an explanation, but you will need to sit down and play over quite a few examples to understand how it works. It is like a cookbook - with recipes but you need the basic skills first. The book is not quite written for children so it does take a little motivation to read.
For the more serious player who's playing for school competition, you should own 1 of the few below:
Grivas's book is known as the textbook of endgames for the FIDE trainers today, rightfully so as he's the main man in planning materials for the FIDE training course for endgames. It is well-explained, but needs a level of 1300 to understand it. Definitely not for those just starting to play chess.
Before Grivas what do we have? Paul Keres's classic of course. This book is out of print I believe, but if you have friends or relatives who used to play chess in the 80's they may own this book. We carry it to tournaments often as it contains most of what you need to know when you need to win a particular position. Very concise, but again not many like its approach - Keres tests your patience by giving you the same arrangement of pieces in the centre, then shifts it 1 file to the left, 1 rank up toward the last rank just to prove a point. Some of my peers hated this. But Keres is trying to make a point in that not all the methods work everywhere on the board - you need to pay attention to the contours of the board too, as some manoeuvres cannot be executed owing to lack of squares either on the side or up front.
Finally, the KING of theoretical endgames books - the author needs no introduction as he is currently acclaimed as THE chess trainer, having produced world class players like Dolmatov, Dreev and Yusupov. He wrote this to correct the number of ghastly produced encyclopedias from the past 40 years which he feels has no relevance in todays competitive context. Selecting 200 positions which he believes a serious FIDE-rated player should master, he gives you all the necessary methods and exercises (very tricky ones) to test you. This is a workbook - you should have to read it, practice the examples until you understand the material and then watch your endgame grow.
Endgame Strategy books are rather hard to come by these days, not many are good. I have these 2 to recommend.
I enjoyed this book a lot - it teaches by the student asking questions and the master answering them (and your questions too) on what to focus on endgames. Most players see the endgame as the need to memorise many winning methods and are unsure about how to conduct them. Reading this book will at least remove that fear and give you a new set of eyes when looking at any endgame.
For those who have started playing chess competitions, this is the best book I can find that introduces the strategems of chess endgames to the reader. When this book was first published, it sold out really well as it was the only 1 of its kind - explaining the mysteries of the champions when it comes to endgames. Many of the topics covered are so relevant to the competitive player in that by just knowing them, you've gained so much understanding in how the top-players work during endgame play. Sit through 1 example, read the notes, then try to guess the moves of the winner. This is the best way to work through the book.
LB Hansen's book was about 20 years late but he makes up by expanding the number of strategems and added more later examples. The later examples may not necessary mean better instructive ones though. Some of them are quite complicated to follow so primary school children I feel should not attempt this one.
If you are already FIDE-rated and want to go for the FM,IM or GM titles, this book will be a good investment. You should arm yourself with the full arsenal of endgame weapons given in this book.