100 books like Contested Will

By James Shapiro,

Here are 100 books that Contested Will fans have personally recommended if you like Contested Will. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Shakespeare, Our Contemporary

Stephen Kinzer Author Of The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

From my list on to understand Shakespeare and his times.

Who am I?

My book is about political intrigue, violence, war, heroes and villains, libels and dreams, secret plots to overthrow governments, and murders most foul. It unfolds during a tense era of cultural upheaval and radical social change. A lifetime immersed in the works of Shakespeare helped prepare me to write it. I spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, most of it as a foreign correspondent. My foreign postings placed me at the center of historic events and, at times, in the line of fire.

Stephen's book list on to understand Shakespeare and his times

Stephen Kinzer Why did Stephen love this book?

This classic work, first published in the 1960s, interprets Shakespeare’s work as portraying societies corrupted by injustice, cynical political maneuvering, and government surveillance. When it first appeared in the 1960s, it made Shakespeare’s plays seem chillingly relevant. It has the same effect today.

By Jan Kott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare, Our Contemporary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Penelope is about to turn eleven and can't wait to see what life has in store. But on the morning of her birthday, Pen- elope wakens to discover she can no longer hear, just as the Pied Piper, leads the other children of Hamelin out of town. Now Penelope must set out to rescue the children. Age 10 plus.


Book cover of Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Author Of Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen

From my list on biographies that tell the truth.

Who am I?

Fake news is not new. Biographies, in particular, are fraught with fallacies and fake stories. When fake news slanders individuals, reputations are ruined and lives destroyed. That’s what happened to Elizabeth Wydeville, Queen Consort to Edward IV, and mother of the two princes who disappeared during Richard III’s reign. When I discovered the slander that destroyed Queen Elizabeth’s reputation, I began a 5-year research project to set the record straight. Some fallacies are deliberate, originating in envy or power putsches. Others derive from historical laziness or incompetence. What I learned from my research has determined my choices of biographies, stories that tell previously unrevealed truths about individuals.

Arlene's book list on biographies that tell the truth

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Why did Arlene love this book?

Critics argue that William Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him because he lacked the knowledge of classical myth and history basic to his plots and imagery. Jonathan Bates proves that the curriculum of the grammar school in Stratford-on-Avon provided an education sufficient to explain Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Bate reviews books in English and Latin that Shakespeare would have read and that created his rhetorical brilliance. 

I treasure Bate’s biography because my own background originated in a rural, agricultural setting outside the social and economic circles that usually produce academic types. Bates disproves the fallacy that only the privileged and elite can survive and thrive in life and careers.

By Jonathan Bate,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Soul of the Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

In this illuminating, innovative biography, Jonathan Bate, one of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, has found a fascinating new way to tell the story of the great dramatist. Using the Bard’s own immortal list of a man’s seven ages in As You Like It, Bate deduces the crucial events of Shakespeare’s life and connects them to his world and work as never before.

Here is the author as an infant, born into a world of plague and syphillis, diseases with which he became closely familiar; as a…


Book cover of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Author Of Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen

From my list on biographies that tell the truth.

Who am I?

Fake news is not new. Biographies, in particular, are fraught with fallacies and fake stories. When fake news slanders individuals, reputations are ruined and lives destroyed. That’s what happened to Elizabeth Wydeville, Queen Consort to Edward IV, and mother of the two princes who disappeared during Richard III’s reign. When I discovered the slander that destroyed Queen Elizabeth’s reputation, I began a 5-year research project to set the record straight. Some fallacies are deliberate, originating in envy or power putsches. Others derive from historical laziness or incompetence. What I learned from my research has determined my choices of biographies, stories that tell previously unrevealed truths about individuals.

Arlene's book list on biographies that tell the truth

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Why did Arlene love this book?

A literary biography, Will in the World connects the plots of Shakespeare’s plays and the sentiments of his poems to the writer’s life and career. No one living knows more about Shakespeare than Stephen Greenblatt. His research is solid and impressive. In this book, Greenblatt verges a bit into speculative possibilities. Where, exactly, was Shakespeare living—what was he doing?—during “The Lost Years”? Was the “Shakeshafte” mentioned in a Lancashire document our man, perhaps tutoring as a schoolmaster in a Catholic home? 

Greenblatt carefully points out that he is discussing possibilities, not certainties. But a possibility mentioned too many times by a scholar of Greenblatt’s authority often becomes accepted as fact. Yet, I appreciate this book because it provides a huge amount of information about Shakespeare’s milieu, and it forces readers to examine critically every claim. In our current milieu, we need exercises in critical thinking and analysis.

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Will in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A young man from a small provincial town moves to London in the late 1580s and, in a remarkably short time, becomes the greatest playwright not of his age alone but of all time. How is an achievement of this magnitude to be explained? Stephen Greenblatt brings us down to earth to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life, could have become the world's greatest playwright.


Book cover of Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485

Stephen Kinzer Author Of The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

From my list on to understand Shakespeare and his times.

Who am I?

My book is about political intrigue, violence, war, heroes and villains, libels and dreams, secret plots to overthrow governments, and murders most foul. It unfolds during a tense era of cultural upheaval and radical social change. A lifetime immersed in the works of Shakespeare helped prepare me to write it. I spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, most of it as a foreign correspondent. My foreign postings placed me at the center of historic events and, at times, in the line of fire.

Stephen's book list on to understand Shakespeare and his times

Stephen Kinzer Why did Stephen love this book?

Shakespeare’s magnificent history plays have been described as “a feast of Henrys and Richards.” Who were those kings in real life? This book tells their true stories, and compares those stories to what Shakespeare wrote about them. Turns out he stuck pretty close to history!

By John Julius Norwich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare's Kings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward De Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford

Lena Einhorn Author Of A Shift in Time: How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth about Jesus

From my list on ancient religious texts and actual history.

Who am I?

Lena Einhorn is a writer and filmmaker, with a background in medicine. She has portrayed Greta Garbo’s life before the breakthrough, in the novel Blekinge Street 32, and in Nina’s Journey, she told the story of her mother, one of the last to leave the Warsaw ghetto alive. Nina’s Journey also became a feature film, written and directed by Einhorn. The book received the National Book Award of Sweden, and the film received the National Film Award for best picture and best script, as well as a number of international awards. In 2019 the critically acclaimed autobiographical novel The Thin Ice came out.

Lena's book list on ancient religious texts and actual history

Lena Einhorn Why did Lena love this book?

This is one of the many books that have delved into the old question of who William Shakespeare really was. And it is one of the more clever ones, drawing clear parallels between Shakespeare's texts, on the one hand, and the travels, experiences, opinions, and facilities of the main suspect, the Earl of Oxford, on the other. Looney’s book was the first one to propose and present exhaustive evidence that the Earl of Oxford was the sole author of all of Shakespeare’s works – a hypothesis that is now dominant among those who doubt the role of the relatively uneducated and untravelled “Stratford-man”.

By J. Thomas Looney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward De Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Excerpt from "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward De Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (Classic Reprint)

About the Publisher

Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books.

This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to…


Book cover of The Greater and Lesser Worlds of Robert Fludd: Macrocosm, Microcosm, and Medicine

Decimus Erasmus Buglawton Author Of Debugging Shakespeare

From my list on who William Shakespeare really was.

Who am I?

I am passionate about solving problems of any type. I have a long history of solving Computer problems that are known traditionally as “bugs”. After retiring, I turned my attention to other problems & mysteries, discovering I had a talent for historical detective work too! I wasn’t satisfied with the - very unconvincing - traditional “chocolate box” narrative of Shakespeare’s family and life. He must have had much more impact on the wider world than is currently known and I believe, after 450 years, I finally cracked it!

Decimus' book list on who William Shakespeare really was

Decimus Erasmus Buglawton Why did Decimus love this book?

This book contains an incredible amount of detail and diagrams about the enigmatic “Dr Robert Fludd” who I regard as just another alias of the Bard.

Fludd, like Sir Francis Bacon was a proto scientist - way ahead of his time - with a background matching closely my own beliefs about the true origin of the polymath. It offers a whole new perspective on what the Bard actually knew in addition to writing poems and plays

By Joscelyn Godwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Greater and Lesser Worlds of Robert Fludd as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An illustrated reference book on a seminal figure of occult philosophy and Renaissance thought

* Explains Fludd's thoughts on cosmic harmonies, divination, the kabbalah, astrology, geomancy, alchemy, the Rosicrucians, and multiple levels of existence

* Includes more than 200 of Fludd's illustrations, representing the whole corpus of Fludd's iconography, each one accompanied by Godwin's expert commentary

* Explores Fludd's medical work as an esoteric Paracelsian physician and his theories on the macrocosm of elements, planets, stars, and subtle and divine beings and the microcosm of the human being and its creative activities, including material never before translated

One of the…


Book cover of A Dead Man in Deptford

Clarissa Pattern Author Of Airy Nothing

From my list on wherein a fictional Shakespeare enters stage right.

Who am I?

When I first saw Shakespearean text, I could not get how anyone related to things written so many centuries ago. It took me several years before my soul awakened to these words that now felt fresh, like they could have been whispered to me that very day by a best friend who understood all the pain and all the laughter of my life. Very little is known about the man himself leaving writers a lot of room to create their own version of Shakespeare. I know my Shakespeare is just that: my magical, enigmatic, wise Shakespeare. It’s exciting to see how others give him life in their own stories.

Clarissa's book list on wherein a fictional Shakespeare enters stage right

Clarissa Pattern Why did Clarissa love this book?

A Dead Man in Deptford was the last published novel of Anthony Burgess’s lifetime and can be seen as a companion piece to his earlier fictional biography of William Shakespeare, Nothing Like the Sun. A Dead Man in Deptford follows Christopher Marlowe’s life, and Will of Warwickshire lurks very very much in the background of this novel. This somehow adds to the poignancy, as even within his own story, the reader is always aware that Marlowe’s era will be dominated by the name of William Shakespeare. 

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Dead Man in Deptford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of the most productive, imaginative and risk-taking of writers... It is a clever, sexually explicit, fast-moving, full blooded yarn'
Irish Times

A Dead Man in Deptford re-imagines the riotous life and suspicious death of Christopher Marlowe. Poet, lover and spy, Marlowe must negotiate the pressures placed upon him by theatre, Queen and country. Burgess brings this dazzling figure to life and pungently evokes Elizabethan England.


Book cover of The Private Life of William Shakespeare

Carole Levin Author Of The Reign and Life of Queen Elizabeth I: Politics, Culture, and Society

From my list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated with Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare since I was a child and read a kid biography of the queen and saw a Shakespearean comedy. The two topics are completely intertwined—Elizabeth saw Shakespeare’s plays at court and the strong women in Shakespeare’s plays reflect the queen. Elizabeth and Shakespeare have been both my passion and my profession. I have loved teaching and writing about them. One of my favorite things to do is to go see Shakespeare plays and to see portraits of the queen at museums. This passion has so enriched my life. The queen and the playwright have been very good to me. 

Carole's book list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century

Carole Levin Why did Carole love this book?

Gorgeously illustrated and elegantly written, Lena Orlin’s new study of William Shakespeare shows her great skill at doing research to give us new ways to understand the playwright. She puts the evidence of his life within the context of other Elizabethan documents. Orlin proves that we can know more about Shakespeare by examining the lives of the people in his circles. As she tells us, this is neither a literary biography nor a full biography, but it is a book that follows the evidence to tell us much more about Shakespeare the man. Shakespeare cared deeply about his father and his marriage to Anne was much less contentious and a more pleasant partnership. Though there have been so many books about Shakespeare, Orlin helps us understand him beyond the myths. Her brilliant and thorough reading of documents presents a wonderful read.

By Lena Cowen Orlin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Private Life of William Shakespeare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new biography of William Shakespeare that explores his private life in Stratford-upon-Avon, his personal aspirations, his self-determination, and his relations with the members of his family and his neighbours.

The Private Life of William Shakespeare tells the story of Shakespeare in Stratford as a family man. The book offers close readings of key documents associated with Shakespeare and develops a contextual understanding of the genres from which these documents emerge. It reconsiders clusters of evidence that have been held to prove some persistent biographical fables. It also shows how the histories of some of Shakespeare's neighbours illuminate aspects of…


Book cover of Behind the Arras: Thomas Cecil as Shakespeare

Decimus Erasmus Buglawton Author Of Debugging Shakespeare

From my list on who William Shakespeare really was.

Who am I?

I am passionate about solving problems of any type. I have a long history of solving Computer problems that are known traditionally as “bugs”. After retiring, I turned my attention to other problems & mysteries, discovering I had a talent for historical detective work too! I wasn’t satisfied with the - very unconvincing - traditional “chocolate box” narrative of Shakespeare’s family and life. He must have had much more impact on the wider world than is currently known and I believe, after 450 years, I finally cracked it!

Decimus' book list on who William Shakespeare really was

Decimus Erasmus Buglawton Why did Decimus love this book?

I recommend this 93-page book because Defoe provides some convincing evidence for Thomas Cecil being a contender for the role of the author of Shakespeare.

Although I believe he was just one of many aliases of the Bard, she definitely nails this one!

Another reason I enjoyed this book is that it includes a proper book index, which is becoming more rare these days. I know how long it takes to create a good index and Defoe has produced a very usable one in my opinion. It shows she cares about her readers!

By Deborah Defoe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Behind the Arras as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This first comprehensive biography of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, eldest son of Lord Burghley, provides a wealth of evidence that Cecil was the true author of the Shakespeare canon. Specifically his education acquired within the rarefied Cecil household, his inside knowledge of the politics of the court, his military experience, and his knowledge and application of architectural principles set him apart from all other authorship candidates.


Book cover of The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare

Richard Scholar Author Of Émigrés: French Words That Turned English

From my list on just how much English owes French.

Who am I?

I have long been struck, as a learner of French at school and later a university professor of French, by how much English borrows from French language and culture. Imagine English without naïveté and caprice. You might say it would lose its raison d’être My first book was the history of a single French phrase, the je-ne-sais-quoi, which names a ‘certain something’ in people or things that we struggle to explain. Working on that phrase alerted me to the role that French words, and foreign words more generally, play in English. The books on this list helped me to explore this topic—and more besides—as I was writing Émigrés.

Richard's book list on just how much English owes French

Richard Scholar Why did Richard love this book?

This is a brilliant essay in literary criticism. It traces English ambivalence towards French language and culture in the centuries that followed the Norman Conquest. It does so by delving into major literary texts—by Chaucer and Shakespeare among others—that explore that ambivalence for what it is: the symptom of a fetish. I like the way Williams writes and I find her inspiring in her desire to remain faithful to the complexity of the texts she studies and their attitudes.

By Deanne Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What was the impact of the Norman Conquest on the culture of medieval and early modern England? Deanne Williams answers this question by contending that not only French language and literature, but the idea of Frenchness itself, produced England's literary and cultural identity. Examining a variety of English representations of, and responses to, France and 'the French' in the work of Chaucer, Caxton, Skelton, Shakespeare and others, this book shows how English literature emerged out of a simultaneous engagement with, and resistance to, the pervasive presence of French language and culture in England that was the legacy of the Norman…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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