The best William Shakespeare books 📚

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

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of The Sea, the Sea

The Sea, the Sea

By Iris Murdoch

Why this book?

This 1978 Booker-winner is said to be the British philosopher and novelist’s finest work. A celebrated London theater director retires from his dissolute show-business life to the seaside, only to encounter his lost boyhood love, for whom he renews a frightening passion made of equal parts nostalgia and fantasy. In addition to its Nabokovian study in obsession and its poetic air of Shakespearean romance, The Sea, the Sea is also a seminar in the ethics of art: the characters debate their obligations to other people, the viability of art when divorced from ordinary human concerns, and even—this is not strictly…

From the list:

The best novels of ideas of the last 50 years

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of No Bed for Bacon

No Bed for Bacon

By Caryl Brahms, S.J. Simon

Why this book?

Shakespeare’s plays can be very funny, (many of my friends disagree with this, but I swear by the goddess of Renaissance puns it’s true!), and this is a light, fluffy book that deserves a place on any bookshelf because it embraces silliness and turns it right up to eleven. Our Will’s key predicament is something everyone who has ever written can relate to, being certain you have a literary masterpiece locked up in your mind if only you can be left alone long enough to make it magically appear on the blank page. 

From the list:

The best stories wherein a fictional Shakespeare enters stage right

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

By Maya Angelou

Why this book?

Maya Angelou’s famous memoir captures her childhood in rural Arkansas and wild adolescence in California with extraordinary sensitivity and insight, and rich, evocative detail. Every character, from her powerful grandmother, tumultuous parents, dear brother Bailey, and a panoply of others, fairly roar off the page, illuminating the wondrous, weird, tragic, and punishingly ordinary events of Angelou’s often heroic young life. 

From the list:

The best coming-of-age stories by diverse women

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

By James Shapiro

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books that help us understand Shakespeare and his times

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Notes from a Small Island

Notes from a Small Island

By Bill Bryson

Why this book?

To me, travel writer Bill Bryson represents the world’s yogi-master in literary observational humor. This book is snigger, snigger, chortle, laugh-out-loud funny. Notes from a Small Island is Bill’s first book (I call him Bill because he writes in such a familial way, I feel like I am travelling with him as a friend while reading). Written after the American teacher had spent 20 years living in England, it describes Bryson’s rambling journey around the farms, clifftops, and motorways of the great isle. His observations as an outsider hilariously expose the inanities and insanities of the Brits and their unique…

From the list:

The best inspirational life-changing memoirs

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 77 books about William Shakespeare

New book lists about William Shakespeare

All book lists about William Shakespeare

Bookshelves related to William Shakespeare

Browse books by…