96 books like Unprotected

By Billy Porter,

Here are 96 books that Unprotected fans have personally recommended if you like Unprotected. 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 Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

Everything that can wrong in live theatre happened to Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark—and on the biggest scale possible. How Glen Berger, the only non-rich and famous person on the creative team of The Lion King director Julie Taymor and U2 rockers Bono and The Edge, managed to tell all without being sued is a mystery. Maybe it’s because the fights, failures, and firings are all just another day at work on Broadway—as are the accidents. Every outrageous incident Berger relates I have personally experienced in the musicals I’ve written—from on Broadway to Off-Off-Broadway and around the globe. Reading Song of Spider-Man prepared me for the worst, from producers applying Mafia-style pressure to witnessing an actor plummet to the stage like a dead weight. 

By Glen Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Song of Spider-Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As you might imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can't begin to imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theatre history. Renowned director Julie Taymor picked playwright Glen Berger to co-write the book for a $25 million Spider-Man musical. Together-along with U2's Bono and Edge-they would shape a work that was technically daring and emotionally profound, with a story fuelled by the hero's quest for love...and the villains' quest for revenge. Or at least, that's what they'd hoped…


Book cover of Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

As a teacher of History and Musicals at NYU, I’ve seen how theatre students are most interested in the shows they know, which typically means those produced in their lifetime. So I try to meet them where they are and then journey backwards into the past. While Singular Sensation moves forward in time from the 1990s, it shows how the Broadway we know today came to be. And who could resist reading about Patti LuPone throwing a floor lamp out her dressing room window when Andrew Lloyd Webber fired her from Sunset Boulevard? So I hope you’ll come back for more and read Riedel’s equally dishy yet informative Razzle Dazzle, which is about Broadway in the 1970s, when someone could mug you at knifepoint in broad daylight on 42nd Street (and, in my case, did).

By Michael Riedel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary story of a transformative decade on Broadway, featuring gripping behind-the-scenes accounts of shows such as Rent, Angels in America, Chicago, The Lion King, and The Producers-shows that changed the history of the American theater.



The 1990s was a decade of profound change on Broadway. At the dawn of the nineties, the British invasion of Broadway was in full swing, as musical spectacles like Les Miserables, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera dominated the box office. But Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard soon spelled the end of this era and ushered in a new wave of American musicals,…


Book cover of Trouble in Mind

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

Like Hamlet says, “The play’s the thing,” so any reading list for theater people should include the reason we’re here in the first place. Alice Childress’s indictment of the degrading condescension inflicted on Black people in the theater by self-proclaimed white allies is as true today as when she wrote it in 1955. That makes me sad and angry, as does the fact it took 66 years for it to finally be produced on Broadway. But it also gives me hope when high-quality work gets recognized. And as a writer who finds the funny in any situation, I love how Childress serves up bitter pills of truth in spoonfuls of honeyed laughs. 

By Alice Childress,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A masterpiece . . . Trouble in Mind still contains astonishing power; it could have been written yesterday.” —Vulture

Ahead of its time, Trouble in Mind, written in 1955, follows the rehearsal process of an anti-lynching play preparing for its Broadway debut. When Wiletta, a Black actress and veteran of the stage, challenges the play’s stereotypical portrayal of the Black characters, unsettling biases come to the forefront and reveal the ways so-called progressive art can be used to uphold racist attitudes. Scheduled to open on Broadway in 1957, Childress objected to the requested changes in the script that would “sanitize”…


Book cover of Putting on the Ritz

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

Joe Keenan’s madcap farces made me want to write my own. They’re the kind of books that make you laugh so hard you just have to read lines from it to the person sitting next to you (preferably someone you know because strangers on mass transit don’t appreciate that kind of thing). As zany as they are, his novels are rooted in the real, doing-whatever-you-can-to-make-it lives of theater people. So they’re not as far-fetched as you might think. Life in New York City really can be that wildly glamorous. And hilarious.

By Joe Keenan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The witty duo from Blue Heaven invade the entourage of a tasteless real estate/media magnate, attempt to turn his talentless wife into a chanteuse, and vie for the affections of a suave magazine editor, in this deftly delicious comedy of bad manners, financial skullduggery, and romantic infighting.


Book cover of On the Stage and Off: The Brief Career of a Would-Be Actor

Patsy Trench Author Of Mrs Morphett's Macaroons

From my list on early 20th century English theatre and actors.

Who am I?

I began my professional life as an actress and have skittered around the edges of theatre ever since, in various capacities. While I haven’t been on a stage for nearly forty years and I wouldn’t venture onto one at the point of a gun, I have always found the life of the actor fascinating. I’m old enough to have witnessed huge changes in the theatre over the decades, and it is intriguing to discover how much has changed—absconding managers are pretty well a thing of the past these days, and today’s actors don’t drink as muchyet how much the adaptability and single-minded passion of actors remain the same.

Patsy's book list on early 20th century English theatre and actors

Patsy Trench Why did Patsy love this book?

I had no idea before I read this book that Jerome K Jerome started his working life as an actor—or rather a would-be actor, as his acting days didn’t last long. This is a highly entertaining account of his days trying to woo corrupt agents and indifferent theatre managers, and how his own lofty perceptions of his talents as an actor were dashed by absconding producers. His experiences of life at the bottom of the acting ladder are also reflected in other actors’ memoirs, some (but not all) of whom went on to bigger things. A must-read for any parent who wants to dissuade their offspring from taking up a life ‘on the boards’.

By Jerome K. Jerome,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book contains Jerome K. Jerome's 1891 monograph on stage productions, entitled "On the Stage and Off". Within this work, Jerome reflects on his personal experiences - both good and bad - working as an actor in the late-nineteenth century. A fascinating and insightful text, "On the Stage and Off" is highly recommended for those with an interest in the development of theatre, and would make for a great addition to collections of related literature. The chapters include: "I Determine to Become and Actor", "I Become and Actor", "Through the Stage Door", "Behind the Scenes", "A Rehearsal", "Scenery and Supers",…


Book cover of The Shakespeare Stealer

Nancy McDonald Author Of One Boy's War

From my list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes.

Who am I?

A longtime student of history, particularly WW2 and the Cold War, my interest was personally piqued when I started to discover more about how my husband’s family narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo – and certain death in a concentration camp. I’m driven to write novels set in this era for middle grade kids – featuring brave young heroes faced with moral dilemmas– so they can learn about the horrors of antisemitism, tyrants, and war because “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Nancy's book list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes

Nancy McDonald Why did Nancy love this book?

Widge is an orphan in Elizabethan England, where orphans are sadly too common. But Widge is unusual. He has a unique talent which he learned from his first master: he knows a secret kind of shorthand. Sold to a dastardly villain who wants to use that talent to steal Shakespeare’s newest play, Widge finds himself in London apprenticing with the theatre company. Will he steal the play or risk his life to be loyal to the only “family” he’s ever known? Inspired by Shakespeare’s Lord Chamberlain's Men – and a very real problem of plays being stolen – there’s plenty of action, including swashbuckling swordplay. From the first page, I found myself rooting for Widge, hoping he would make the right choice and live to become an actor in the company.

By Gary Blackwood,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Shakespeare Stealer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A delightful adveture full of humor and heart set in Elizabethan England!

Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet"--or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's players perform. As full of twists and turns as a London alleyway, this entertaining novel is rich in period details, colorful characters, villainy, and drama.

* "A fast-moving historical novel that introduces an important era with casual familiarity." --School Library Journal, starred review

"Readers…


Book cover of The Rise of the Victorian Actor

Patsy Trench Author Of Mrs Morphett's Macaroons

From my list on early 20th century English theatre and actors.

Who am I?

I began my professional life as an actress and have skittered around the edges of theatre ever since, in various capacities. While I haven’t been on a stage for nearly forty years and I wouldn’t venture onto one at the point of a gun, I have always found the life of the actor fascinating. I’m old enough to have witnessed huge changes in the theatre over the decades, and it is intriguing to discover how much has changed—absconding managers are pretty well a thing of the past these days, and today’s actors don’t drink as muchyet how much the adaptability and single-minded passion of actors remain the same.

Patsy's book list on early 20th century English theatre and actors

Patsy Trench Why did Patsy love this book?

I’ve often wondered how it was that actors went from the ‘rogues and vagabonds’ of Shakespeare’s time through the days of early Victorian theatre, when acting was considered a highly disreputable profession, to apparent respectability at the end of the 19th century with the creation of the first theatrical knight, Sir Henry Irving. This book—again meticulously- and widely-researched—explains in a highly readable form how changing attitudes among politicians, audiences, and playwrights contributed to the rise in the status of actors, so that by the beginnings of the 20th century it was considered perfectly respectable for even a middle-class man—or woman—to enter the profession.  

By Michael Baker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1978. Between 1830 and 1890 the English theatre became recognisably modern. Standards of acting and presentation improved immeasurably, new playwrights emerged, theatres became more comfortable and more intimate and playgoing became a national pastime with all classes. The actor's status rose accordingly. In 1830 he had been little better than a social outcast; by 1880 he had become a member of a skilled, relatively well-paid and respected profession which was attracting new recruits in unprecedented numbers.

This is a social history of Victorian actors which seeks to show how wider social attitudes and developments affected the changing…


Book cover of I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir

Candace Wade Author Of Adrift on a Sea of Grief: (With a Quart of Ice Cream and a Fifth of Gin)

From my list on life rafts from loss – with a shot of gin.

Who am I?

My husband of 35 glorious years died of Pancreatic cancer in 2020. In two months, as COVID slammed, we had to put our beloved dog down, my husband’s lesson horse went hooves up, my husband died, I replaced two HVAC units and a water heater. I am a writer/journalist whose style is conversational. Writing about my grief maelstrom as if telling a friend focused me on the dark humor. My book Horse Sluts and articles in Horse Nation and other equine and/or mature-focused magazines are written in the same, “I’m no expert, but this is my experience” POV. I know the tone that helps.

Candace's book list on life rafts from loss – with a shot of gin

Candace Wade Why did Candace love this book?

“Bat shit is patient.” Simple, clear, dead on to describe the crazy life-clowns that leap from dark corners as I fend off grief... loss.

I Was Better... may not be a “grief” book, per se, but Fierstein dances us through the fears, struggles, and losses in his journey to live a life he wants. His quote, “Look back, but don’t stare” felt as though he quoted it for me to help deal with many joyous and painful memories of my husband.

I Was Better... is a tropical island where I could escape the squalls of my life of loss. I relished his musicals, strode the flamboyant streets of New York, and was embraced by Fierstein’s poignant and dearly funny honesty. His rage against the night was mine too. He and I kept dog paddling – together.

By Harvey Fierstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Was Better Last Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A poignant and hilarious memoir from the cultural icon, gay rights activist, and four-time Tony Award–winning actor and playwright, revealing never-before-told stories of his personal struggles and conflict, of sex and romance, and of his fabled career

Harvey Fierstein’s legendary career has transported him from community theater in Brooklyn, to the lights of Broadway, to the absurd excesses of Hollywood and back. He’s received accolades and awards for acting in and/or writing an incredible string of hit plays, films, and TV shows: Hairspray,  Fiddler on the Roof, Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Cheers, La Cage…


Book cover of The Princess Diarist

Hanna Flint Author Of Strong Female Character

From my list on championing women in cinema.

Who am I?

I'm a London-based critic, author, and host whose love affair with film began after seeing The Lion King in the cinema as a kid. I trained as a journalist because I wanted to talk about the world. Since then I’ve been covering film and culture for the likes of Empire Magazine, Time Out, and IGN. I co-host MTV Movies and the weekly film reviews podcast Fade to Black; co-founder of The First Film Club event series and podcast, and am a member of London's Critics' Circle. I'm a voice for gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry and an advocate for MENA representation as a writer of Tunisian heritage.

Hanna's book list on championing women in cinema

Hanna Flint Why did Hanna love this book?

Carrie Fisher is a phenomenal writer whose Hollywood upbringing and career makes her insightful voice when it comes to the experience of women in film.

Turning the diaries she kept while shooting Star Wars – playing the iconic Strong Female Character, Princess Leila – into a memoir offers and eye-opening perspective about life as an actress working in a male-dominated world.

It’s full of humour, self-deprecation, and real vulnerability, as well as juicy tidbits about the production.

By Carrie Fisher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Carrie Fisher discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved - plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naivete, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Now her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her co-star, Harrison Ford.
With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher's intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of…


Book cover of The Mask of Apollo

Edoardo Albert Author Of Edwin

From my list on overlooked or largely forgotten historical fiction.

Who am I?

I am a writer and historian, specialising in the early-Medieval period and the fractious but fruitful encounter between the Christian and Islamic worlds. My fiction is informed by my non-fiction work: it’s a great help to have written actual histories of Northumbria in collaboration with some of the foremost archaeologists working on the period. I regard my work as the imaginative application of what we can learn through history to stories and the books I have selected all do this through the extraordinarily varied talents of their authors. I hope you will enjoy them!

Edoardo's book list on overlooked or largely forgotten historical fiction

Edoardo Albert Why did Edoardo love this book?

The final sentence of The Mask of Apollo has haunted me for decades since I first read the book in my teens. When I read it again, many years later, I discovered that the story is as moving as I remembered. Renault weaves a fascinating re-creation of classical Greek theatre with Plato’s attempt to tutor a true philosopher king in the kingdom of Syracuse. But it’s the final chapter, after Plato’s death, that raises the book to the level of tragedy. For then we meet the young Alexander, already almost god-like in his charisma, a fire seeking fuel for its burning. Alexander burns through the world seeking it, but what he is looking for in the world has already left it: a broken Plato has already died.

By Mary Renault,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mask of Apollo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in fourth-century B.C. Greece, The Mask of Apollo is narrated by Nikeratos, a tragic actor who takes with him on all his travels a gold mask of Apollo, a relic of the theatre's golden age, which is now past. At first his mascot, the mask gradually becomes his conscience, and he refers to it his gravest decisions, when he finds himself at the centre of a political crisis in which the philosopher Plato is also involved. Much of the action is set in Syracuse, where Plato's friend Dion is trying to persuade the young tyrant Dionysios the Younger to…


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