The best Stephen Greenblatt books 📚

Browse the best books on Stephen Greenblatt as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

By Stephen Greenblatt

Why this book?

I suspect everyone who writes shares a secret belief that a single book has the power to change the world – but how often does a world-famous academic come along with a brilliantly readable book explaining exactly how, where, when, and why this actually happened. (Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, rediscovered in 1417 by a book hunter named Bracciolini.)

The only non-fiction book on my list, I love The Swerve unreservedly for the evidence it provides – if any were needed – that while our literary dreams of making the world a better place almost certainly won’t come…

From the list:

The best historical adventure books that also make you think

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

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

By Stephen Greenblatt

Why this book?

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…

From the list:

The best biography books that tell the truth

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Book cover of Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life

Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life

By Anthony Burgess

Why this book?

Readers will either be drawn to this book by a novelist who studied Shakespeare in depth or put off by Burgess’ language. His wordplay is quite mad at times, especially when ‘WS’—Will Shakespeare—is drunk. No contemporary novelist would likely create such a mixture of Elizabethan and modern English. Despite Burgess’ knowledge of Shakespeare’s life and works, much of the plot is fanciful. However, his daring is encouraging, his imagination freeing. I never considered writing a book where Shakespeare speaks, but Nothing Like the Sun suggests, why not? Many biographies seem fictional in their guesswork; Burgess’ vitality and imagination outshine the…

From the list:

The best novels relating to Shakespeare

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