10 books like Soul of the Age

By Jonathan Bate,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Soul of the Age. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Shakespeare, Our Contemporary

By Jan Kott,

Book cover of Shakespeare, Our Contemporary

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.

Shakespeare, Our Contemporary

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.


Will in the World

By Stephen Greenblatt,

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

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.

Will in the World

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.


Shakespeare's Kings

By John Julius Norwich,

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

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!

Shakespeare's Kings

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.......


Contested Will

By James Shapiro,

Book cover of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

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.

Contested Will

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…


William Shakespeare

By S. Schoenbaum,

Book cover of William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life

Schoenbaum’s massive compilation of documents from the life of William Shakespeare is the “go-to” book for anyone who wants the facts about the Bard. A large, folio-size edition, the book contains facsimiles of over 200 contemporary documents that record important moments and events in the life and career of Shakespeare. Arranged chronologically, Schoenbaum’s quite readable narrative explains the significance of each image and creates a living person from the documents that define Shakespeare, the man.

For anyone who asks the question, “Who Was Shakespeare,” Schoenbaum provides the answer. I love “just the facts.”

William Shakespeare

By S. Schoenbaum,

Why should I read it?

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


Shakespeare the Player

By John Southworth,

Book cover of Shakespeare the Player: A Life in the Theatre

Written from an actor’s perspective, Shakespeare The Player researches acting companies in Stratford-on-Avon and England during Shakespeare’s youth and adolescence. Southwark explores the possibilities of Shakespeare spending those “Lost Years” from 1585-1592 as an apprentice with acting companies. Shakespeare The Player provides otherwise obscure information about the world of the theater during Shakespeare’s formative years as an actor and writer. 

How else did Shakespeare learn the crafts of writing, playing, and directing for which Robert Greene lambasted that “upstart crow…the only Shakes-scene in a country” in 1592?

Shakespeare the Player

By John Southworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shakespeare the Player overturns traditional images of the Bard, arguing that Shakespeare cannot be separated from his profession as actor any more than he can be separated from his works.


The Millionaire and the Bard

By Andrea Mays,

Book cover of The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio

The Millionaire and the Bard almost makes you believe in money. This biography of Henry Clay Folger records a great American success story: “Poor-Boy-Makes-Good” (with money from Standard Oil). But look at what Folger did with his money! He collected copies of Shakespeare’s Folios, the first edition of which is the most valuable book in the world ($9.98 million for the copy sold in New York on October 14, 2020).  

Andrea Mays tells three stories: the biography of Henry Folger, who saved the First Folio; the story of the Folio itself (how it was published, read, and preserved); and the creation of the Folger Shakespeare Library, an amazing research and educational institution, improbably sited in Washington, D.C. I love this biography because it proves that one person (greatly assisted by his wife) can surely make a difference!

The Millionaire and the Bard

By Andrea Mays,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today it is the most valuable book in the world. Recently one sold for over five million dollars. It is the book that rescued the name of William Shakespeare and half of his plays from oblivion. The Millionaire and the Bardtells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio, and of the American industrialist whose thrilling pursuit of the book became a lifelong obsession.
When Shakespeare died in 1616 half of his plays died with him. No one-not even their author-believed that his writings would last, that he was a genius, or that future generations would…


Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

By Alan R. Young,

Book cover of Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

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. 

Hamlet and the Visual Arts, 1709-1900

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.


Providence of a Sparrow

By Chris Chester,

Book cover of Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds

An electrician and his wife rescue an orphaned baby house sparrow and raise him into adulthood and beyond. This beautifully and at times hilariously told story is full of precious revelations about the rich personality of a bird routinely overlooked by us.

Providence of a Sparrow

By Chris Chester,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” --William Shakespeare, Hamlet

B fell twenty-five feet from his nest into the life of Chris Chester. The encounter was providential for both of them.
B and Chester spent hours together playing games like bottle-cap fetch or hide-and-seek. They learned “words” in each other’s vocabularies. B developed a fetish for nostrils and a dislike of the color yellow. He grew anxious if Chester came home late from work. At bedtime he would rub his sleepy eyes on Chester’s thumb and settle to sleep in his palm. Chester ended up turning part…


Hamnet

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Book cover of Hamnet

In Hamnet, set in the late 16th century, I can “see” the town, the room, the farm, the children, the kittens, even the furniture. Agnes' role as a healer, a free soul, a caring mother, makes her an unforgettable heroine. The terrible transposing of the illness from one twin to the other is something O'Farrell makes one believe could happen. Add to that the desperate plight of Agnes' son in a world that, despite her reputation as a healer, has no remedy for most illnesses and especially the plague. The grief she feels enters your psyche and is made more terrible by her having to experience it alone. That Hamlet could be based on Hamnet, is Hamnet, is Shakespeare's son too, is to me entirely credible.

Hamnet

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Hamnet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2020 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION - THE NO. 1 BESTSELLER 2021
'Richly sensuous... something special' The Sunday Times
'A thing of shimmering wonder' David Mitchell

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London.

Neither…


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