Useful books and CDs for readers
Because there are so many thousands and thousands of books about every detail of Shakespeare, we here narrow it down and offer the top three that we find useful for readers to read along with a play, as well as a few important books that support the idea of reading Shakespeare out loud and in community. There is also a link to a CD set for listening to the plays.
Shakespeare After All, by Marjorie Garber
Dr. Garber has written one brilliant chapter on each play. If you are not very familiar with Shakespeare, it's a great idea for at least one person in your reading circle to read the pertinent chapter and report back to everyone else. Garber not only clarifies the plot, but provides ways to think about it, questions to ponder, language to look at, motifs that show up.
Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare, by Isaac Asimov
If you have a reader in your midst who wants to know the historical background on every single reference, who is related to whom, and what every archaic allusion means, this is the book.
It's not the best book if you just want information on the plot or you want to do a quick study of the story before seeing a performance—it's more for those who want to dive deeper into the sorts of things mentioned above.
Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, by A. C. Bradley, originally published in 1904.
Bradley has been out of fashion in academia for many years because he has a focus on character, on who are these people in the plays as if they were real, instead of theoretical constructs. But most readers are not academics and really enjoy seeing the characters as living human beings. Bradley wrote this book when there were still millions of people reading the plays, out loud and in community, and it was hugely popular with them; this appeal is still there today with lay readers.
This is a complete set of the Arkangel Shakespeare series of recorded versions of the plays. You get the full text that you can read along with or listen to, performed by professional actors, most of them from the Royal Shakespeare Company, with sound effects that make you see it fully live in your mind.
The set seems to be now available only by third-party sellers, so there is no guarantee this link will get you to a buy-able version! But we just wanted you to know about it—it is pretty easy to find in various places.
“Through the memories and biographical accounts of former political inmates, including Nelson Mandela, Reading Revolution evocatively depicts the power of these great works. We see how words can inspire the human spirit, light up the intellect, and free the reader to travel the world."
“Shakespeare profressor and prison volunteer Laura Bates thought she had seen it all. That is, until she decided to teach Shakespeare in a place the bard had never been fore—supermax solitary confinement.”