In honor of Shakespeare Reading Month, I thought it might be a good idea to feature different aspects of the bard. While many of us have been exposed to a play or two (Romeo and Juliet in high school?), and know the basics about his life and world, why not take the opportunity to explore more?
I went on a little quest to find some books about dear Will. In addition to selecting a little biography to read in the midst of my pile of plays, I also wanted to find a variety of things for you all to mull over. Who knows, you might be inspired to pick one of these up one day!
I should preface this by saying I haven't read any of these. :) I found these by scouring my bookstore, as well as some searching online. There are MANY more biographies, criticisms, and random books about Shakespeare out there; these titles are ones I found interesting (and have added to my own TBR list). Please enjoy and let me know if you've read any of these in the comments below!
Bardisms: Shakespeare for all Occasions by Barry Edelstein
This title is one I spent some time flipping through in the bookstore. Edelstein identifies many of Shakespeare's best quips, passages, quotes, and advice and organizes them for easy reference. It is a fun book and one that I really loved looking through.
This is a great reference book, especially when you are looking for a quote for a perfect occasion-know what I mean? ;) I would love to have this one on my shelf, especially for use in a classroom.
Shakespeare's Words: A Glossary and Language Companion by David and Ben Crystal
This one almost made it home with me. I had it in my arms until I hit the register, then I sadly walked and put it back. I'm still wondering why I didn't just buy it!
This volume is a great reference book, especially for those who want to dive deeper into the nuances and quirks of Shakespeare's actual language. It discusses some of the "made-up" words Shakespeare uses, as well as references to things that have passed from our common knowledge.
This one is definitely going to make it on my shelf at some point!
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
The bookstore didn't have this one in stock, which made me sad since this is the one I went to the store to buy. :) In this volume, Bloom goes through the complete works of Shakespeare and points out the lessons, insight, etc that Shakespeare shares within his works. It has a huge emphasis on the words Shakespeare invented, as well as his lasting impact on the English language.
In addition, Bloom also explains how Shakespeare's characters show us the true side of humanity through their struggles and triumphs.
This is one I know I am going to keep searching for as the month goes on because it really is a title I want to read now. I'm impatient and I don't want to wait. :)
Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
When I asked, the worker who was helping me told me that this one was the most read of any they carry on a regular basis in the store.
This title focuses on the life and world of William Shakespeare. I flipped through it. The style is very approachable-pulling the reader directly into the life and times of Shakespeare's world. from what I read, Ackroyd writes in a very approachable and meaningful style that pulls you in.
One thing I did notice is that Ackroyd does make some assumptions about Shakespeare in his every day life. Because as famous as Shakespeare is, he really didn't leave a lot of information about his everyday life behind.
This is another one I'll have to get to sooner rather than later. I really enjoyed the few pieces I read!
Contested Will: Who wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro
If you are looking for a book about the controversy surrounding Shakespeare's authorship, this is probably the book to choose. In this one Shapiro examines the question of whether William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays attributed to him. Since Shakespeare was poor and relatively uneducated given the depth and complexity of his plays, there has always been a question of whether his contemporaries (like Marlowe) actually penned his plays.
This is definitely one to think about, but considering I wanted this month to be a celebration of Shakespeare's works, I figured I would leave the controversy and that whole discussion for a later date.
But I do want to read this one at some point!
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
I found this title in one of my many searches online. Sadly, it was also not in stock at the bookstore.
But! This one looks fascinating. The author, Greenblatt, uses the information that IS known about William Shakespeare to draw connections between his own life and scenes from his plays. There is a lot of focus on the places historians know Shakespeare visited in his lifetime, as well as the influences in his world (like Catholicism, politics, etc).
I almost see this one as the other side of the controversy. I like that Greenblatt makes real connections to the information that we actually have!
Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber
Garber's title is another one I found in a search online. This is a massive guidebook by one of the best Shakespeare scholars.
This book goes in chronological order through Shakespeare's plays. Garber uses a bunch of different literary theories to discuss each of the 38 plays, which is an interesting way to see Shakespeare.
I think this would be a great guide for someone taking Shakespeare more seriously-someone working their way through the complete works for example! In any case, I'm pretty curious about what Garber has to say about some of my favorite plays, so I might have to get my hands on this (lengthy) title.
Shakespeare: A Guide to the Complete Works by Michael J. Cummings
This is actually the title Jillian is reading, so she can probably speak more about it than I can!
From what I have gathered online (this one wasn't in stock either-I looked for it), this title explores a lot of the history, themes, etc that relate to each of Shakespeare's plays. It discusses a lot of the background information about the plays and sonnets-something I could really sink my teeth into!
I think this is another title that would be great for those working through a larger number of Shakespeare's works!
Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson
THIS is the title I brought home with me (I know you were all waiting to find out). :)
Bryson gives a concise biography on the Bard and his life. This title is probably the most recommended from what I found online and when I talked to other bloggers (it is also ranked 1st in the Goodreads list "Best Books About Shakespeare). I haven't had a chance to start it yet, but reviewers said that Bryson gives a great portrait of the man!
I should also note that there is another edition by Bryson also called Shakespeare. I've looked everywhere, and it seems that the second edition was released to expand on this one (what I can find tells me it includes pictures, maps, etc), but the content is the same.
There you have it! A list of books about the famous William Shakespeare! I hope that I add one to your TBR!
Let me know in the comments if you've read any of these or have another title to add to the list.