100 books like Exhibiting Englishness

By Rosie Dias,

Here are 100 books that Exhibiting Englishness fans have personally recommended if you like Exhibiting Englishness. 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 Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

Alan R. Young’s close focus on an individual play over nearly two centuries shows how far images can shape our ideas of what a play is about. He looks at paintings, illustrations, prints, photographs, and comic burlesques, demonstrating the incredible variety of images which have been inspired by Hamlet. I find Young’s chronological approach incredibly helpful, since it shows how one image influences another, and how representations of a single scene can change over time in line with fashions in the art world. 

By Alan R. Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book examines the manner in which Shakespeare's Hamlet was perceived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and represented in the available visual media. The more than 2,000 visual images of Hamlet that the author has identified both reflected the critical reception of the play and simultaneously influenced the history of the ever-changing constructed cultural phenomenon that we refer to as Shakespeare.


Book cover of The Afterlife of Ophelia

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

If Young’s focus on just one play seemed hyper-specific, this book takes it a step further by looking at the afterlife of a single character from Hamlet. Deanne Williams and Kaara L. Peterson have brought together chapters looking at Ophelia in painting, photography, film, stage design, and even on social media. The international group of authors looks at Ophelia from different perspectives and demonstrates her connections with the history of women’s physical and mental health. The striking photograph on the cover – Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled (Ophelia) is a key example of the collection’s scope: it restages a famous nineteenth-century painting of the drowning Ophelia, but sets it in a modern living room. 

By Kaara L. Peterson (editor), Deanne Williams (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Afterlife of Ophelia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of new essays is the first to explore the rich afterlife of one of Shakespeare's most recognizable characters. With contributions from an international group of established and emerging scholars, The Afterlife of Ophelia moves beyond the confines of existing scholarship and forges new lines of inquiry beyond Shakespeare studies.


Book cover of Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

Barbara Hodgdon’s sensitive, thoughtful, and often funny writing about how we remember Shakespeare's performances was one of the main reasons I wanted to explore this topic; her essay "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Still" shaped my thinking about Shakespeare's photography. This book reflects on her lifetime of theatregoing and puts personal memories and souvenirs into conversation with other kinds of records – photographs, sketches, prompt books, and props. In the process she explores the relationship between rehearsal, performance, and archives. Her approach is consciously playful, acknowledging the role of the imagination in the workings of memory.

By Barbara Hodgdon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shakespeare, Performance and the Archive is a ground-breaking and movingly written exploration of what remains when actors evacuate the space and time of performance. An analysis of 'leftovers', it moves between tracking the politics of what is consciously archived and the politics of visible and invisible theatrical labour to trace the persistence of performance.

In this fascinating volume, Hodgdon considers how documents, material objects, sketches, drawings and photographs explore scenarios of action and behaviour - and embodied practices. Rather than viewing these leftovers as indexical signs of a theatrical past, Hodgdon argues that the work they do is neither strictly…


Book cover of Shakespeare on Silent Film: An Excellent Dumb Discourse

Sally Barnden Author Of Still Shakespeare and the Photography of Performance

From my list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I studied Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate, I became intrigued by the questions of why and how we got to the point where Shakespeare’s name is recognised all over the world, his plays are quoted in everyday conversation, and his works are central to every English Literature course. I’ve pursued these questions in my academic research, where I look at the history of Shakespeare in performance, but also at how these performances are remembered in souvenirs, pictures, and objects. 

Sally's book list on Shakespeare’s plays and the visual arts

Sally Barnden Why did Sally love this book?

Today, one of the most prominent visual media in which Shakespeare’s plays are recreated is cinema. Judith Buchanan’s work exposes the role of Shakespeare in building intellectual credibility for the early film industry and addresses the paradox of adapting plays celebrated for their language in a medium with no spoken words. She shows how early films were shaped by the visual conventions of the Victorian stage and by popular technologies such as the magic lantern. The book demonstrates some of the techniques used by silent films to remake familiar images and adapt Shakespeare’s long speeches to visual storytelling. 

By Judith Buchanan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Several hundred films based on Shakespearean material were made in cinema's 'silent' era. What economic and cultural ambitions combined in order to make Shakespeare such attractive source material for the film industry? What were the characteristic approaches of particular production companies and of particular national film industries? How were silent Shakespeare films marketed, distributed, exhibited and received? Through a series of close readings, and drawing upon a wealth of primary research, this engaging account tells an evolving story that both illuminates silent Shakespeare films already known, and brings into critical circulation other films not yet commercially available and therefore little…


Book cover of Entertaining Mr. Pepys

Carol M. Cram Author Of The Muse of Fire

From my list on when you’re in the mood for a spot of Shakespeare.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved the theater ever since I first stepped on stage in a high school production of You Can’t Take It With You. I had one line and was hooked! And as for Shakespeare–I fell in love with the Bard when I was 13 and saw Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. My best friend and I spent hours reciting the lines (I still remember whole speeches). So, when I was looking for an artsy subject (I love the arts) for my third novel, I naturally turned to the theater. I have a Master of Arts in Drama from the University of Toronto and when I’m not writing, I run Art In Fiction, a website showcasing 1700+ novels inspired by the arts.

Carol's book list on when you’re in the mood for a spot of Shakespeare

Carol M. Cram Why did Carol love this book?

Entertaining Mr. Pepys explores the world of British theater during a time when women were finally allowed on stage as actresses. I loved it because of how the author explored her main character’s fascination with acting, which reminded me very much of how Grace in my own book is captivated by the stage and willing to go to any lengths to become an actress. I have read several of Swift’s novels and credit them with inspiring me to write my own novels based on women in the arts.

By Deborah Swift,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Entertaining Mr. Pepys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Anne O'Brien and Elizabeth Chadwick, Deborah Swift brings a unique period in history to vivid, fascinating life in her acclaimed Pepys trilogy.

'A remarkably beguiling read. It transported me to the glitter and filth of seventeenth century London' Martine Bailey, author of The Almanack

'The fusion of historical facts and fiction is so flawless that it is hard to know where reality ends and fiction begins' Readers' Favorite

London, 1666. Elizabeth 'Bird' Carpenter has a wonderful singing voice, and music is her chief passion. When her father persuades her to marry horse-dealer…


Book cover of Martyr

Adele Jordan Author Of The Gentlewoman Spy

From my list on exciting adventure in the Renaissance.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a ghostwriter, I’m asked to turn my hand to many genres. Yet the one I keep returning to is Renaissance Adventure. Having always been a fan of adventure, in films, TV, or books, for my English Degree at Exeter University, I dedicated my dissertation to the genre, and the fascination shows no sign of fading. I love all these books, but there is one difference between these and my series. That is the heroes here are all men. Bring on more adventure in this era with women! I hope you enjoy the books on this list – they are a fantastic way to spend your evenings with your pulse racing.

Adele's book list on exciting adventure in the Renaissance

Adele Jordan Why did Adele love this book?

Part of the Shakespeare family? Working for Walsingham in the height of the spy era? Who wouldn’t want to read about John Shakespeare!

There are many books in this series, but I’ve picked Martyr in particular as it’s the first, and what an introduction. With the threat of war imminent, and Mary Stuart about to be assassinated, a dark world is created here where it feels like every day that Shakespeare wakes up, he might struggle to keep breathing. What danger!

Once more, Rory Clements creates a world of intrigue that isn’t solely placed at the royal court but opens our eyes to the darker underbelly of the city. This book first got me into this genre many years ago. I could not recommend it enough as a first dip. 

By Rory Clements,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Martyr as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

*****Part of the bestselling John Shakespeare series of Tudor spy thrillers from Rory Clements, winner of the Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award*****

'Does for Elizabeth's reign what CJ Sansom does for Henry VIII's' Sunday Times

England is close to war. Within days the axe could fall on the neck of Mary Queen of Scots, and Spain is already gathering a battle fleet to avenge her.

Tensions in Elizabeth I's government are at breaking point. At the eye of the storm is John Shakespeare, chief intelligencer in the secret service of Sir Francis Walsingham. When an intercept reveals a plot to…


Book cover of The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England

Toni Mount Author Of How to Survive in Tudor England

From my list on survival in Tudor England.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve studied and written about the Tudors for many years including a monthly article in Tudor Life magazine, plus I’ve written several successful books looking at the lives of ordinary people in history and now, my first full scale look at the Tudors. The Tudor period is one of the best known in our history and is dominated by so many well-known and fascinating characters but my interest rests with the ordinary folk and how their lives changed so fundamentally in this time. The dissolution of the monasteries changed everyday life for many and marked the end of the medieval period and the beginning of a more enlightened time. 

Toni's book list on survival in Tudor England

Toni Mount Why did Toni love this book?

Ian Mortimer gives us a fascinating insight into Elizabethan life, and I think this edition of his Time-Traveller’s Guide is as entertaining and informative as the others in the series.

I really enjoyed the details of everyday life, such as what would be in the kitchen or larder, although sometimes the lists were a little long. I enjoy the format of this type of book being written as a travel guide, it is educational as well as easy to read.

By Ian Mortimer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A fresh and funny book that wears its learning lightly' Independent

Discover the era of William Shakespeare and Elizabeth I through the sharp, informative and hilarious eyes of Ian Mortimer.

We think of Queen Elizabeth I's reign (1558-1603) as a golden age. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory…


Book cover of The Tutor

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Author Of The Play's the Thing

From my list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more.

Why am I passionate about this?

While I taught Shakespeare’s plays all my teaching career, I stayed in my lanes: Hamlet, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear. As a poetry teacher, I used his sonnets as examples of metaphor and form, but never did I consider myself an expert. However, when the idea for my novel popped into my head, I realized I had some serious reading to do. Not only did I study the facts, I delved into the fiction. While some of these books came out during my writing and others after, I didn’t lose my interest, picking up whatever new Shakespeare book appeared. These are some of my favorites.

Jessica's book list on to help you love William Shakespeare even more

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Why did Jessica love this book?

With this piece of historical fiction, we are back to “Who is Shakespeare,” and did he write all those plays? We are asked to consider parts of Shakespeare’s life where there is no historical record at all. In this novel, he did pen his plays and poems, but he had a lot of help from a smart, learned woman. Yes, another great woman behind the man story. And yet, we are allowed into not only Will’s and Katherine’s collaborative writing process but into their love story. Thus we end this list as we started with Shakespeare in love.

By Andrea Chapin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tutor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bold and captivating novel about love, passion, and ambition that imagines the muse of William Shakespeare and the tumultuous year they spend together. 

The year is 1590, and Queen Elizabeth’s Spanish Armada victory has done nothing to quell her brutal persecution of the English Catholics. Katharine de L’Isle is living at Lufanwal Hall, the manor of her uncle, Sir Edward. Taught by her cherished uncle to read when a child, Katharine is now a thirty-one-year-old widow. She has resigned herself to a life of reading and keeping company with her cousins and their children. But all that changes when…


Book cover of Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life

Jinny Webber Author Of Bedtrick

From my list on relating to Shakespeare.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a long-time teacher of Shakespeare’s plays who’s performed in and directed amateur productions and written spin-off plays myself, I love all aspects of William Shakespeare. Before writing my own books set in his era I did intensive research into its theatre and politics, but the more imaginative approach of novelists offers different delights. I like shedding our reverence for The Bard and looking at the man, his relationships, and what contributed to his plays beyond his sources. Rather than real or fictional biographies of Shakespeare, my list features creative stories for both pleasure and learning. 

Jinny's book list on relating to Shakespeare

Jinny Webber Why did Jinny love this book?

Readers will either be drawn to this book by a novelist who studied Shakespeare in depth or put off by Burgess’ language. His wordplay is quite mad at times, especially when ‘WS’—Will Shakespeare—is drunk. No contemporary novelist would likely create such a mixture of Elizabethan and modern English. Despite Burgess’ knowledge of Shakespeare’s life and works, much of the plot is fanciful. However, his daring is encouraging, his imagination freeing. I never considered writing a book where Shakespeare speaks, but Nothing Like the Sun suggests, why not? Many biographies seem fictional in their guesswork; Burgess’ vitality and imagination outshine the strictly biographical. I found his ground-breaking work inspiring, and it’s a bawdy lark for readers who persevere!

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nothing Like the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magnificent, bawdy telling of Shakespeare's love life, following young Will's maturation into sex and writing. A playful romp, it is at the same time a serious look at the forces that midwife art, the effects of time and place, and the ordinariness that is found side by side with the extraordinariness of genius.


Book cover of Imperfect Alchemist

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

I found this historical novel about the life of Mary Sidney Hebert, the Countess of Pembroke really enjoyable because it offers me the fantasy of filling in the gaps in the historical record about one of the early women writers.

I find it impressive because it draws on years of research on Mary Sidney Herbert by the author who is a renowned literary critic. Miller tells Mary Sidney Herbert’s story ingeniously by paralleling it with the life of a fictional character, Rose, who serves as her waiting woman.

Although I know the historical facts, the twists and turns in the narrative successfully cast new light on how I read Mary Sidney Herbert’s poetry and her play Antonius, though, for me, the co-authorship that the novel imagines remains entirely fictional.

By Naomi Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Imperfect Alchemist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable life lost to history is brought into sharp focus

England, 1575. Young Mary Sidney is bearing a devastating loss while her father plans her alliance to Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. But Mary is determined to make her mark on the world as a writer and scientist.

As Mary Sidney Herbert steps into her new life with the earl at his home, Wilton House, an unusual friendship is forged between her and servant Rose Commin, a country girl with a surprising artistic gift, that will change their lives for ever.

Defying the conventions of their time, mistress and…


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