10 books like Will in the World

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Will in the World. 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.


Soul of the Age

By Jonathan Bate,

Book cover of Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare

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.

Soul of the Age

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…


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…


A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

By James Shapiro,

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

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.

A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

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…


Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage

By Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy (editor),

Book cover of Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage: Mad World, Mad Kings

Today concerns over madness and disability are very much with us, especially if they connect with issues of power and masculinity. This was also true in the age of Shakespeare. Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy’s collection of essays on the topic of mad kings on the Renaissance stage is very readable and interesting, and tie in with contemporary issues. The book is divided into three sections: distracted kingship, fractured masculinity, and performed madness. The plays under discussion include Shakespeare’s King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, Henry VI, and All’s Well That Ends Well. Gutierrez-Dennehy brilliantly and explicitly brings the topics raised in the collection into the twenty-first century

Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage

By Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides a fascinating study into the history of kingship, madness and masculinity that was acted out on the early modern stage. Providing students of early modern history, theatre and performance studies and disability studies with interesting case studies to inform their upper level seminars and research.

Throughout the volume the authors engage with the field of disability studies to show how disability and mental health were portrayed and what that tells us about the period and the people who lived in it. Showing students, a new dimension of early modern Europe.

The chapters uncover how, as the early…


Hag-Seed

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of Hag-Seed: William Shakespeare's the Tempest Retold: A Novel

The chronology of my Shakespeare-era novels hasn’t reached The Tempest, but I love how this novel features a production of the play—in a prison. The relation of the inmates to their roles and the protagonist’s personal crisis give Prospero and his island new life in a setting also set apart from society. I enjoyed how the characters come to realizations about Shakespeare’s play as they rehearse, the goal of my own novels from a different angle. Many spinoffs from Shakespeare use his plot devices, but Atwood relies on The Tempest for her plot. Each ‘best’ novel here reveals new visions to the reader and gains plot and suspense from the links to Shakespeare. Though my goals aren’t identical to these authors', their works offer inspiration.

Hag-Seed

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

** Longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction **

Selected as a Book of the Year -- Observer, Sunday Times, Times, Guardian, i magazine

`It's got a thunderstorm in it. And revenge. Definitely revenge.'

Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he's staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds.

Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by…


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