100 books like Will in the World

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Here are 100 books that Will in the World fans have personally recommended if you like Will in the World. 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 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 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 William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life

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?

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.”

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

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?

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?

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.


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

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?

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!

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…


Book cover of Shakespeare After All

Jessica Barksdale Inclan Author Of The Play's the Thing

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

Who am I?

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?

This is a hefty tome, and Garber knows her Shakespeare. I used much of this in my research, and I was impressed by the breadth of her knowledge. Why should I have been surprised? Garber teaches at Harvard, so, well, duh. But what works so well here is that she approaches the plays in chronological order. We watch Shakespeare develop as a writer—his skills and themes deepening, growingas he grapples with comedy and tragedy. This is a book to dip in and out of but never does it disappoint.

By Marjorie Garber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant and companionable tour through all thirty-eight plays, Shakespeare After All is the perfect introduction to the bard by one of the country’s foremost authorities on his life and work.

Drawing on her hugely popular lecture courses at Yale and Harvard over the past thirty years, Marjorie Garber offers passionate and revealing readings of the plays in chronological sequence, from The Two Gentlemen of Verona to The Two Noble Kinsmen. Supremely readable and engaging, and complete with a comprehensive introduction to Shakespeare’s life and times and an extensive bibliography, this magisterial work is an ever-replenishing fount of insight on…


Book cover of A Thousand Acres

Richard Zimler Author Of The Incandescent Threads

From my list on survivors of a horrific trauma.

Who am I?

I’m originally from New York but have lived in Portugal for the last 33 years. I write my novels in English and my children’s books in Portuguese. As anyone who reads my latest novel will discover, I have been greatly influenced the mythology and mystical traditions of various religions, especially Judaism (kabbalah). Happily, I discovered early on that I adore writing about people who have been systematically persecuted and silenced. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to explore taboo subjects and topics that others would prefer to forget or conceal. When I’m not working on a book, I like to garden and travel. 

Richard's book list on survivors of a horrific trauma

Richard Zimler Why did Richard love this book?

In this deeply disturbing novel, an elderly and despotic farmer named Larry Cook decides to give joint ownership of his 1000-acre farm in Iowa to his three daughters, although the youngest, Caroline, objects to this arrangement and is soon disinherited.

In the emotional wake of this family conflict, long-hidden revelations about how Cook sexually abused his two eldest daughters – Ginny and Rose – come to light. As the old tyrant’s mind and body deteriorate, Ginny and Rose run the farm as best they can and share their painful memories with each other.

Will they be able to make peace with a past that continually threatens their emotional well-being? And dare they continue running an enterprise that reminds them every day of their brutal father and damaged childhoods?  

By Jane Smiley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Thousand Acres as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This powerful twentieth-century reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear centers on a wealthy Iowa farmer who decides to divide his farm among his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will, which sets in motion a chain of events that brings dark truths to light. Ambitiously conceived and stunningly written, A Thousand Acres spins the most fundamental themes of truth, justice, love, and pride into a universally acclaimed masterpiece.


Book cover of A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599

Larry Silver Author Of Europe Views the World, 1500-1700

From my list on values in European historical periods.

Who am I?

A retired professor, an art historian who taught at Berkeley, Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania. Since my main interest is the emergence of Europe from the late Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period around 1500, I naturally gravitate to non-fiction books that engage with the shifting interests and values of that era, and my own books include similar efforts to discuss visual art in relation to religion, literature, politics, and wider contemporary cultural movements. Among my own books I would cite: Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain (with Aneta Georgievska-Shine); Europe Views the World, 1500-1700; and the forthcoming Art and Dis-Illusion in the Long Sixteenth Century.

Larry's book list on values in European historical periods

Larry Silver Why did Larry love this book?

A brilliant combination of biography and history during the amazing moment of creation of some of the Bard’s greatest plays (Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and even Hamlet). These varied dramas played out against the sensitive moment in London of an aging, heirless Queen Elizabeth I after the Armada and Irish wars but also at the formation of the East India Company.  Shapiro’s (and Shakespeare’s) sequel, The Year of Lear. Shakespeare in 1606, deserves attention, as does the vivid historical fiction, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, told from the viewpoint of Stratford village and Bard’s family during the era of the lingering Black Death.

By James Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What accounts for Shakespeare’s transformation from talented poet and playwright to one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this gripping account, James Shapiro sets out to answer this question, "succeed[ing] where others have fallen short." (Boston Globe)

1599 was an epochal year for Shakespeare and England. During that year, Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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