100 books like Shakespeare's Kings

By John Julius Norwich,

Here are 100 books that Shakespeare's Kings fans have personally recommended if you like Shakespeare's Kings. 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 Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

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 scholars hate discussing the “authorship question” for the same reason astronomers hate discussing whether space aliens kidnap human beings. There is no real “question.” But because guessing who wrote the plays has become such a parlor game, James Shapiro took on the challenge. His book tells the crazy history of the “authorship question” and makes irrefutably clear that yes, the fellow from Stratford really did write those plays. This should settle the issue forever—but of course it won’t.

By James Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For two hundred years after William Shakespeare's death, no one thought to argue that somebody else had written his plays.

Since then dozens of rival candidates - including The Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe - have been proposed as their true author. Contested Will unravels the mystery of when and why so many people began to question whether Shakespeare wrote the plays (among them such leading writers and artists as Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Orson Welles, and Sir Derek Jacobi)

Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro's fascinating search for the source of this controversy…


Book cover of Under the Hog: A Novel of Richard III

Stephen Morillo Author Of War and Conflict in the Middle Ages: A Global Perspective.

From my list on about medieval warfare globally.

Who am I?

I fell in love with medieval military history in high school, and have been studying and writing about it as an undergraduate at Harvard, as a graduate student at Oxford, and as a professor of history ever since, eventually bringing the comparative methods and urge to generalize of a world historian to the task. I’ve written ten books and numerous articles. Good history gives me the thrill of time travel without the risk of the bubonic plague, and it has spawned related interests in sword and sorcery fantasy lit and wargaming, alongside my interests in painting, cartooning, and cooking the food of my native New Orleans. My motto: Have fun!

Stephen's book list on about medieval warfare globally

Stephen Morillo Why did Stephen love this book?

Academic books too dry? Primary sources too intimidating? Find a copy of Under the Hog, a historical novel set in the War of the Roses in 15th century England that is perhaps the best historical novel ever — certainly the best written by a pseudonymous author! It gives a variety of close-up views of medieval combat, politics, and culture, and is a favorite among folks who think that king Richard III of England (yes, the evil hunchback of Shakespeare’s depiction) got a reputational raw deal from the Bard. 

By Patrick Carleton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

‘This is still one of the best novels on the life of Richard III’ - The Richard III Society

England, 1471.

In a kingdom rent by civil strife Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is determined to keep the Royal House of York on the throne and bring peace to England.

His unswerving support of his brother, Edward IV, against the conspiracies of both their turncoat brother George, Duke of Clarence, and the powerful Lancastrian claimants, wins him many enemies.

And when fate destines him to take the throne, he is forced to quell the rebellions of Lord Rivers and the Duke…


Book cover of Agincourt: A Novel

Ethan Bale Author Of Hawker and the King's Jewel

From my list on medieval epic adventures.

Who am I?

Long before I started my career in journalism I was a voracious reader of historical novels. I devoured epic adventure about medieval Europe and eventually got involved in European martial arts: fighting in full armour in tournaments and melees. My love of history finally won out over my day job of defence reporting and I began penning novels. The books I most enjoy are more than just battle tales, they’re about people. Good historical fiction isn’t just about the history. It needs more than volleys of arrows and swinging swords, it needs characters you care about. These books combine authenticity with passionate, compelling writing and unique characters you won’t soon forget.

Ethan's book list on medieval epic adventures

Ethan Bale Why did Ethan love this book?

Cornwell is one of the best—if not the best—historical novelists writing today.

In Azincourt, we follow one English longbowman on an epic adventure that culminates in one of the most famous battles in history. Cornwell deftly weaves in authentic period detail without hitting you over the head with it.

Most importantly, he is a master of characterisation and rich prose who makes you truly care about the people on the page. Leavened with humor, grittiness, and an engaging romance set amidst war, I found it a compelling and moving read.

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary and dramatic depiction of the legendary battle of Agincourt from the number one historical novelist

Azincourt, fought on October 25th 1415, St Crispin's Day, is one of England's best-known battles, in part through the brilliant depiction of it in Shakespeare's Henry V, in part because it was a brilliant and unexpected English victory and in part because it was the first battle won by the use of the longbow - a weapon developed by the English which enabled them to dominate the European battlefields for the rest of the century.

Bernard Cornwell's Azincourt is a vivid, breathtaking and…


Book cover of The Collected Stories

Alison Jean Lester Author Of Lillian on Life

From my list on keeping it real about older women.

Who am I?

Literary agents often say they are looking for books about ‘quirky’ female protagonists. I’m more entertained by female characters who feel real to me. When I write, I make myself uncomfortable a lot of the time, trying to express the many ways people both disguise and reveal the truth. I blame my devotion to my parents for this because when I left home in Massachusetts for college in the foreign land of Indiana, studied for a year in China, then studied in Italy, then worked in Taiwan, then moved to Japan, and later to Singapore, I wrote them copious descriptive, emotional letters. My parents are gone now, but in a way, I’m still doing that.

Alison's book list on keeping it real about older women

Alison Jean Lester Why did Alison love this book?

Lots of men write women in middle and older age well – Jim Harrison’s short story called "The Woman Lit by Fireflies" is incredible, and of course, there’s Shakespeare. I’d like to point you to the Irish writer William Trevor, though. His collected stories begin with one called "A Meeting in Middle Age" in which the character of Mrs. da Tanka (who is seeking grounds for her second husband to divorce her by paying a man to spend a sexless night with her in a hotel bed) crackles with dissatisfaction. Trevor writes aging people with a tenderness that isn’t always immediately evident. You learn to wait for it, if you can stand the tension while you do and the heartache when it arrives.

By William Trevor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Collected Stories - a stunning volume of William Trevor's unforgettable short stories

William Trevor is one of the most renowned figures in contemporary literature, described as 'the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language' by the New Yorker and acclaimed for his haunting and profound insights into the human heart. Here is a collection of his short fiction, with dozens of tales spanning his career and ranging from the moving to the macabre, the humorous to the haunting. From the penetrating 'Memories of Youghal' to the bittersweet 'Bodily Secrets' and the elegiac 'Two More Gallants', here…


Book cover of King Hereafter

Mary Lancaster Author Of A Prince to be Feared: The Love Story of Vlad Dracula

From my list on controversial historical heroes.

Who am I?

I’m a Scottish writer of historical fiction and historical romance. I’m also a history graduate with imagination, by which I mean I’m as interested in what might have happened as what definitely did! So much of history is open to interpretation, taking account of who wrote what for whom, and why, and that is a large part of what fascinates me. And of course, I love a good historical novel that combines compelling writing with excellent research—especially when a controversial hero is shown in a new or captivating light.

Mary's book list on controversial historical heroes

Mary Lancaster Why did Mary love this book?

This book became my ultimate escapism at a low point in my life. It’s a wonderfully written, well-researched epic novel about the eleventh century Scottish king, Macbeth, based on the bold premise that he and Thorfinn the Mighty, Earl of Orkney, were one and the same man. Most of us—especially those who went to school in Scotland!—are familiar with the Macbeth of Shakespeare, but Dorothy Dunnett brings him alive in his own time, no guilt-ridden villain but a complicated warrior of great depth and humanity, true to his beliefs, his people, and his wife who is nothing like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth either! This is a rattling good read by any standards—engrossing, exciting, humorous, and moving. Even knowing the tragedy was coming, I cried. Each time.

By Dorothy Dunnett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked King Hereafter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel about Macbeth, King of Scotland, by the author of the "Lymond" series. 11th-century Europe is full of young kings. Macbeth - part-Christian, part-Viking - has the imagination and determination to move himself and his people out of a barbarian past and into flowering nationhood.


Book cover of Shakespeare for Squirrels

Carol M. Cram Author Of The Muse of Fire

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

Who am I?

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?

Christopher Moore’s Shakespeare-themed novels are a hoot! He takes the hallowed works of the Bard and turns them into hysterical adventures starring Pocket (King Lear’s fool), Drool, and their pet monkey Jeff. The second in a trilogy is Shakespeare for Squirrels, Moore’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s irreverent and hilarious and left me breathless with admiration for Moore’s incredibly fertile imagination.

By Christopher Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller!

Shakespeare meets Dashiell Hammett in this wildly entertaining murder mystery from New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore-an uproarious, hardboiled take on the Bard's most performed play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring Pocket, the hero of Fool and The Serpent of Venice, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff.

Set adrift by his pirate crew, Pocket of Dog Snogging-last seen in The Serpent of Venice-washes up on the sun-bleached shores of Greece, where he hopes to dazzle the Duke with his comedic brilliance and become his trusted fool.

But the island is in turmoil.…


Book cover of Shakespeare, Rhetoric and Cognition

Helen Hackett Author Of The Elizabethan Mind: Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty

From my list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved all things Elizabethan, and I especially love spending time with books and manuscripts where voices from the period speak to us directly. Wanting to understand how Shakespeare and his contemporaries understood themselves led me to investigate their ideas about relations between mind and body, about emotions, about the imagination, and about the minds of women and those of other races. I’ve learned that the Elizabethans grappled with many conflicting ideas about the mind, from classical philosophies, medieval medicine, new theologies, and more – and that this intellectual turmoil was essential fuel for the extraordinary literary creativity of the period.

Helen's book list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind

Helen Hackett Why did Helen love this book?

Renaissance writers were trained in rhetoric: how to use language to work through a problem or convey a state of mind.

Today, theories of cognition explore how linguistic devices relate to processes in the brain; for example, metaphor replicates how the mind understands something by associating or comparing it with something else. Lyne’s radical innovation is to bring together these historical and contemporary frameworks for understanding thought and language.

He explores points of contact between Renaissance rhetorical theories and present-day cognitive theories, then applies his insights to analyse works by Shakespeare. This offers a wholly fresh approach to understanding how Shakespeare translates thoughts – his own and those of his characters – into words; and how those words in turn work on our minds as readers or listeners.

By Raphael Lyne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Raphael Lyne addresses a crucial Shakespearean question: why do characters in the grip of emotional crises deliver such extraordinarily beautiful and ambitious speeches? How do they manage to be so inventive when they are perplexed? Their dense, complex, articulate speeches at intensely dramatic moments are often seen as psychological - they uncover and investigate inwardness, character and motivation - and as rhetorical - they involve heightened language, deploying recognisable techniques. Focusing on A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Cymbeline and the Sonnets, Lyne explores both the psychological and rhetorical elements of Shakespeare's language. In the light of cognitive linguistics and cognitive…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in William Shakespeare, the Middle Ages, and the Wars of the Roses?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about William Shakespeare, the Middle Ages, and the Wars of the Roses.

William Shakespeare Explore 176 books about William Shakespeare
The Middle Ages Explore 402 books about the Middle Ages
The Wars Of The Roses Explore 23 books about the Wars of the Roses