The most recommended Stephen Greenblatt books

Who picked these books? Meet our 4 experts.

4 authors created a book list connected to Stephen Greenblatt, and here are their favorite Stephen Greenblatt books.
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Book cover of Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life

Jinny Webber Author Of Bedtrick

From my list on relating to Shakespeare.

Who am I?

As a long-time teacher of Shakespeare’s plays who’s performed in and directed amateur productions and written spin-off plays myself, I love all aspects of William Shakespeare. Before writing my own books set in his era I did intensive research into its theatre and politics, but the more imaginative approach of novelists offers different delights. I like shedding our reverence for The Bard and looking at the man, his relationships, and what contributed to his plays beyond his sources. Rather than real or fictional biographies of Shakespeare, my list features creative stories for both pleasure and learning. 

Jinny's book list on relating to Shakespeare

Jinny Webber Why did Jinny love 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 strictly biographical. I found his ground-breaking work inspiring, and it’s a bawdy lark for readers who persevere!

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nothing Like the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magnificent, bawdy telling of Shakespeare's love life, following young Will's maturation into sex and writing. A playful romp, it is at the same time a serious look at the forces that midwife art, the effects of time and place, and the ordinariness that is found side by side with the extraordinariness of genius.


Book cover of Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World

Andrew Hadfield Author Of Amazons, Savages, and Machiavels: Travel and Colonial Writing in English, 1550-1630: An Anthology

From my list on early English travel writing.

Who am I?

I am a Professor of English at the University of Sussex. I have worked on a wide range of subjects over the years, mainly about the English Renaissance. I have a long-standing interest in travel and colonial writing, the ways in which the English interacted with other peoples and other places, which started with my interest in Ireland where I studied and which was the subject of my early books. I have broadened my perspective as I have read more on the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia, over the years and am committed to uncovering the truth of the uncomfortable, challenging, and fascinating history of the early British Empire.

Andrew's book list on early English travel writing

Andrew Hadfield Why did Andrew love this book?

This book contains a series of inspired readings that show how the newly discovered American continent transformed English/European notions of what it was to be human in an age dominated by religion.

The peoples found in America generated fear, hatred, confusion, but, most of all, wonder at the possibilities of human life, challenging the ways in which Europeans had habitually thought.

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A masterwork of history and cultural studies, Marvelous Possessions is a brilliant meditation on the interconnected ways in which Europeans of the Age of Discovery represented non-European peoples and took possession of their lands, particularly in the New World. In a series of innovative readings of travel narratives, judicial documents, and official reports, Stephen Greenblatt shows that the experience of the marvelous, central to both art and philosophy, was manipulated by Columbus and others in the service of colonial appropriation. Much more than simply a collection of the odd and exotic, Marvelous Possessions is both a highly original extension of…


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

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 a scholar of Greenblatt’s authority often becomes accepted as fact. Yet, I appreciate this book because it provides a huge amount of information about Shakespeare’s milieu, and it forces readers to examine critically every claim. In our current milieu, we need exercises in critical thinking and analysis.

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Will in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A young man from a small provincial town moves to London in the late 1580s and, in a remarkably short time, becomes the greatest playwright not of his age alone but of all time. How is an achievement of this magnitude to be explained? Stephen Greenblatt brings us down to earth to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life, could have become the world's greatest playwright.