The best drama books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about drama and why they recommend each book.

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Oslo

By J.T. Rogers,

Book cover of Oslo

Oslo is a theatrical rendering of the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords in 1993. This Tony-Award-winning play takes a perhaps unreasonably optimistic view of potential peace. Nor will reading (or better yet, seeing) this play satisfy a serious researcher’s desire for historic detail. But it lays out the emotional stakes with humanity and humor, not qualities one usually dares to associate with the conflict in the Middle East.


Who am I?

I have spent my working life as a journalist, author and storyteller, aiming to uncover complexity that sheds new light on stories we think we know. I got my training at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—and from the wonderful editors of my twelve books. An Innocent Bystander, my book that deals with the Middle East, began as the story of a hijacking and a murder of an American citizen. But as my research widened, I came to see this story couldn’t be told without understanding many perspectives, including the Israeli and the Palestinian, nor could the political be disentangled from the personal.


I wrote...

An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

By Julie Salamon, Julie Salamon,

Book cover of An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

What is my book about?

My book is about the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and the killing of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American passenger. His murder became a historic flashpoint for the intractable struggle between Israelis and Palestinians and gave Americans a horrifying preview of what it means when terrorism hits home. An Innocent Bystander began as the story of that shattering moment and what it meant to the world and to the Klinghoffers, an American-Jewish family. As I learned more, the book’s scope widened, to investigate the tragic reverberations for the wives and sons of the Palestinian mastermind behind the hijacking.

Running through the core of my book lies the painful history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through the stories of these families, An Innocent Bystander illuminates the complex web of personal and historic grievances that lay behind the geopolitics of a region that remains in turmoil.

Oresteia

By Aeschylus, Christopher Collard (translator),

Book cover of Oresteia

The three extant plays in Aeschylus' Orestaia trilogy - Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides - form one of the cornerstones of western literature. Written in 5th century BCE Athens, they tell the story of a family, in which Fate and the Gods decree that each generation repeat the crimes and endure the suffering of their forebears. All classical Greek drama was, in some way, political and these are no exception, showing how, with the help of Athena a new system of laws, determined by men, can halt the never-ending cycles of violence.

Some of the poetry is stunning. And from the outset, we are in a solid, real world with the watchman of Argos complaining about his boring lot, before he sees the beacon which indicates that Troy has fallen and his King, Agamemnon, is returning home. Eumenides is the play which opens in Delphi at the Temple of Apollo…


Who am I?

I'm a crime writer and my latest novel is set in Delphi, Greece at the Temple of Apollo: it interweaves a modern murder mystery with perennial themes like justice, retribution and law so the cradle of law and democracy was an ideal setting, especially Delphi, which the Greeks believed to be the centre of the world. I visited there at the turn of the millennium and it has always stayed with me. Since childhood, I have been fascinated, like many, with the stories of ancient Greece, its gods, myths, and legends, and the genesis of so many of the ideas which underpin western society and thought. I've taught Classics in the past, but these books will give the reader joy as well as improving their knowledge.


I wrote...

Oracle

By Julie Anderson,

Book cover of Oracle

What is my book about?

Blood calls for blood. Near the ancient Temple of Apollo, young environmentalists protest outside an international conference. Inside, business lobbyists mingle with politicians, seeking profit and influence. Then the charismatic leader of the protest goes missing. A body is discovered, placed like an offering to the gods. The next day a broken corpse is found at the foot of the cliffs where blasphemers were once tossed to their deaths.

As a storm closes in and strange lights are seen on the mountain, the conference is cut off. Is a killer stalking them? Or are primal forces reaching out from the past? Like the cryptic Oracle of Delphi, Cassandra Fortune must supply the answers before the conference is over. And before more die. Justice will be done, but what kind of justice?

William Shakespeare

By William Shakespeare,

Book cover of William Shakespeare: The Complete Works

Shakespeare’s tragedies resonate in most cultures because they address the human condition. That is why Romeo and Juliet have spawned West Side Story, many films, and Russian ballets. I personally organised the Joe and Zara workshop with a mixed group of teenagers working on a modern take on the story. The young people in this ten-minute video from the workshop are impressive. 

Othello too is tragic. Othello describes how Desdemona would come again ‘greedy –to hear tales of adventure sorrow and suffering. ‘She loved me for the dangers I had passed and I loved her that she did pity them.’ I relate to that.


Who am I?

I married Indian born Atam Vetta when mixed relationships were rare and viewed with hostility not just in the UK. In 1966, they were illegal in South Africa and in most Southern States of the USA (until Loving v Virginia). In India they are not illegal but many upper-caste Indians do not approve of marriage outside of caste. In the UK attitudes have revolutionised. Mixed relationships are no longer rare and it is predicted that by 2075 the majority of the population will be of mixed ancestry. There are mixed relationships in all three of my novels. My aim was to explore what we have in common whilst being honest about the challenges. The ultimate prize is an enhanced understanding and the creativity that comes with crossing cultures.


I wrote...

Sculpting the Elephant

By Sylvia Vetta,

Book cover of Sculpting the Elephant

What is my book about?

I felt the urge to write a novel that could appeal to the children of marriages which, like mine and Atam’s cross boundaries. Sculpting the Elephant is about an Oxford artist called Harry and an Indian historian called Ramma. No one chooses to fall in love with someone from a different country, a different colour, religion, or caste but when it happens how do you cope with the consequences?

I hate stereotypes. The aim of my books and my lived experience is to get people to see each other as individuals – crossing invisible barriers. My Indian-born husband Atam Vetta’s PhD was in quantitative genetics. I learned from him that each of us is unique. Sadly the world is not organised to cope with that scientific truth.

The Seven Basic Plots

By Christopher Booker,

Book cover of The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

This book is a masterwork of more than thirty years of research into why people tell stories. Booker breaks down literature into seven archetypal themes which occur across all types of stories. Using a wealth of examples ranging from ancient myths and folktales to plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, he demonstrates how these archetypal themes have remained constant over the generations. Not everyone will agree with Booker, but everyone will learn from him—about reading, writing, and understanding. This fascinating read provides writers with a new way to look at their own plotting and tap into the hero’s journey.


Who am I?

I’ve always wanted to write. It took years to get started, and after working in the library and information technology fields for over thirty-five years, I quit the day job routine in 2011 to write full time. I've learned two valuable lessons since I started writing which have been of immense help. The first is a quote from writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse, who said, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." The second is from novelist Rachel Basch, who told me that "the story has to move down, as well as forward." Both sound simple. Neither is.


I wrote...

Road of Bones

By James R. Benn,

Book cover of Road of Bones

What is my book about?

Billy Boyle is sent to the heart of the USSR to solve a double-murder at a critical turning point in the war in this latest installment of critically acclaimed James R. Benn's WWII mystery series.

It’s September 1944, and the US is poised to launch Operation Frantic, shuttle-bombing missions conducted by American aircraft based in Great Britain, southern Italy, and three Soviet airfields in Ukraine. Tensions are already high between the American and Russian allies when two intelligence agents—one Soviet, one American—are found dead at Poltava, one of the Ukrainian bases. Billy is brought in to investigate is paired, at the insistence of the Soviets, with a KGB agent who has his own political and personal agenda.

This Is Shakespeare

By Emma Smith,

Book cover of This Is Shakespeare

A book of immense humanity and authenticity, which reminds us of how the great themes of great literature and art can offer solace and guidance in moments of fragility. By helping us go back to Shakespeare with less insecurity or baggage, the book opens up new perspectives on how others have grappled with these questions about how to be human. And it reminds us that we are allowed to question, challenge, and have fun.

Who am I?

I’m a recovering ambassador, now running an Oxford college. After almost 25 years in diplomacy, including working in no 10 for three prime ministers, I realised that education is upstream diplomacy. If we are to find a way through the challenges ahead – from climate change to pandemics and economic crisis to artificial intelligence – we must act, urgently, to upgrade why, what, and how we learn. I set out to ask hundreds of the most inspirational people on the planet what they wished they had known, and what they would share with the next generation if this was their last day. 


I wrote...

Ten Survival Skills for a World in Flux

By Tom Fletcher,

Book cover of Ten Survival Skills for a World in Flux

What is my book about?

A handbook on what we need to survive and thrive in a time of fragility and change. Head, hand, and heart: essential knowledge, skills, and values. How do we not just navigate this unstable moment, but take the practical steps to become great ancestors?

Trouble in Mind

By Alice Childress,

Book cover of Trouble in Mind

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. 


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. 


I wrote...

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

By Marc Acito,

Book cover of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

What is my book about?

How I Paid for College is just true enough to embarrass my family and just fictional enough to shield me from prosecution. It’s about a teen actor who schemes to steal his college tuition money when his wealthy father refuses to pay for him to study acting at Juilliard. It won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and has almost been a movie or TV series for nearly 20 years.

“A brilliant, laugh-out-loud novel” - City Magazine, London, “Acito has fantastic narrative chops, writing funny, fast and satisfying chapters…This is a book for mature readers that reminds us what a blast immaturity can be.” - People Magazine

The Plot Whisperer

By Martha Alderson,

Book cover of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master

Another excellent book about plot and the importance of making sure you have a good one. The difference between a good plot and a great plot is a bestseller. If you want your story’s plot to speak of mastery, do not miss out on reading this insightful book. Add it to your personal library for good measure. It’s always a good idea to have it there, so you can reference it in the future even after finishing it.


Who am I?

I’ve been a writer since I was fourteen (possibly before that) and I’ve been an official freelance proofreader/copyeditor since 2019. I’ve published over thirty books and proofread or copyedited over sixty-two manuscripts as of this writing. I’ve garnered enough experience in both fields to, at least, be considered.


I wrote...

Make Your Writing Zing With Proofreading A Through Z!: Tips for Writers, Authors, and Publishers Alike

By John Irvin,

Book cover of Make Your Writing Zing With Proofreading A Through Z!: Tips for Writers, Authors, and Publishers Alike

What is my book about?

Do you love words and writing them down? Are you afraid your book isn’t going to quite cut it because you just know there are some typos in there? Are you unsure about a specific spelling or punctuation rule? This book gives fun little tips that could help any author or book publisher who cares about their writing!

Digital Humanities and the Lost Drama of Early Modern England

By Matthew Steggle,

Book cover of Digital Humanities and the Lost Drama of Early Modern England: Ten Case Studies

Not all archival work entails Indian Jones-style quests for hidden treasures; Steggle’s book—written at a crucial point when digital databases such as Early English Books Online and Google Books were accessible but rarely utilised to their maximum capabilities—proved how much crucial knowledge is hiding in plain sight. Steggle used a variety of search strategies to solve cruxes and mysteries that have plagued theatre historians for centuries, recovering the subject matter of lost plays that scholars routinely ignored on account of their opaque titles and scant evidence.


Who am I?

I’m a Shakespeare scholar with a particular interest in theatre history and the repertories of the London commercial playing companies of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. I’m particularly fascinated by the hundreds of plays written during this period that have not survived, whether as the result of fire, vandalism, censorship, or more mundane causes like a lack of interest in or opportunity for publication. The surviving plays from the period are the distinct minority; yet the plays lost to us were known to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, who often wrote in response to what else was being performed across London.


I wrote...

Shakespeare and Lost Plays

By David McInnis,

Book cover of Shakespeare and Lost Plays

What is my book about?

My book returns Shakespeare’s dramatic work to its most immediate and (arguably) pivotal context; by situating it alongside the hundreds of plays known to Shakespeare’s original audiences, but lost to us. It reassesses the value of lost plays in relation to both the companies that originally performed them, and to contemporary scholars of early modern drama. I revisit key moments in Shakespeare’s career and, by prioritising the immense volume of information we now possess about lost plays, provide a richer, more accurate picture of dramatic activity than has hitherto been possible.

The Karpman Drama Triangle Explained

By Chris West,

Book cover of The Karpman Drama Triangle Explained: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, Trainers, Therapists – and Everybody Else

Perhaps you wonder why some people sometimes behave so badly, including becoming an internet troll, protesting with violence, and shouting at people at work or in restaurants. This book explains the games that disturbed people play (‘Persecutor’, ‘Victim’ and ‘Rescuer’) and how to avoid getting sucked into their dramas.


Who am I?

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 40 years and now pass on that knowledge to mentees and university students. The key to success in business is being able to attract and then learn from mentors, who, in my opinion, always should provide their knowledge, wisdom, and connections free of charge. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to go down ‘The Dark Side’, especially if the pursuit of money and power becomes overwhelming. Many famous billionaires are not especially nice people. But there are many nice businesspeople out there and I aspire to be one of those, hence my pursuit of a daily advancement in esoteric, hermetic, and other knowledge.


I wrote...

The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

By Mike Southon, Chris West,

Book cover of The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

What is my book about?

The Beermat Entrepreneur helps you convert your jotted notes about your business idea into a big and successful business. With wit and humour, this quick-to-read and simple-to-use book could turn your beermat inspiration into reality.

You’ve got a bright idea. An idea that you think maybe, just maybe, could become a brilliant business. But what next? The Beermat Entrepreneur is the answer. It takes you through all the crucial stages between those first notes on a beermat and a business that is sound, lasting, and profitable. It tells you what the other books don’t – the lessons that most people have to learn by bitter experience; the tricks that all entrepreneurs wish somebody had told them before they set out. From testing your idea and finding a mentor, through selecting and motivating the right people and securing your first customer, to deciding when to ‘go for growth’ – this is the guide to turning good ideas into real businesses.

The Bacchae and Other Plays

By Euripides, Philip Vellacott (translator),

Book cover of The Bacchae and Other Plays

Euripides is the Greek tragedian who, in my humble opinion, appeals most to the modern sensibility. Even in his own time (5th century Athens, BCE) he was regarded as an innovator who questioned the certainties of previous ages. The Bacchae is probably his greatest play, but Ion is the play set in Delphi. It includes the oracle (the Priestess of Apollo), as well as Apollo and Athena, as characters and, in it, the playwright begins to question the legitimacy of the gods themselves. Ion is the result of a divine rape, taken from his mortal mother at birth. The son of Apollo, he believes his parents abandoned him and works as a dogs-body and general helper in Apollo's Temple in Delphi. Then his mother and her husband, childless, arrive for a consultation...

Who am I?

I'm a crime writer and my latest novel is set in Delphi, Greece at the Temple of Apollo: it interweaves a modern murder mystery with perennial themes like justice, retribution and law so the cradle of law and democracy was an ideal setting, especially Delphi, which the Greeks believed to be the centre of the world. I visited there at the turn of the millennium and it has always stayed with me. Since childhood, I have been fascinated, like many, with the stories of ancient Greece, its gods, myths, and legends, and the genesis of so many of the ideas which underpin western society and thought. I've taught Classics in the past, but these books will give the reader joy as well as improving their knowledge.


I wrote...

Oracle

By Julie Anderson,

Book cover of Oracle

What is my book about?

Blood calls for blood. Near the ancient Temple of Apollo, young environmentalists protest outside an international conference. Inside, business lobbyists mingle with politicians, seeking profit and influence. Then the charismatic leader of the protest goes missing. A body is discovered, placed like an offering to the gods. The next day a broken corpse is found at the foot of the cliffs where blasphemers were once tossed to their deaths.

As a storm closes in and strange lights are seen on the mountain, the conference is cut off. Is a killer stalking them? Or are primal forces reaching out from the past? Like the cryptic Oracle of Delphi, Cassandra Fortune must supply the answers before the conference is over. And before more die. Justice will be done, but what kind of justice?

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