by Arthur Phillips
"What do you read, my lord?"
"Words, words, words."
About the Book Club
Join the Folger as we search the stacks for our favorite novels inspired by Shakespeare and the early modern era.
This informal Book Club is free and open to all. Our picks range from historical fiction to adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, encompassing a wide variety of genres—all sourced from a different local, independent bookstore partner each month.
To spark the discussion, Folger staff open each meeting with a brief presentation that provides historical context, trivia, and connects the book to relevant items from the Folger collection. Participants are then broken into smaller groups for breakout discussions, moderated by a team of staff and volunteers.
Participation is free but registration is required. Sessions will be conducted through Zoom, so keep an eye on your inbox the day before for an access link, along with recommendations for quick bites and beverages to enjoy while we chat.
Our March Pick
The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips
The year is 1601. Queen Elizabeth is dying, childless. The nervous kingdom has no heir. It is a capital crime even to think that Elizabeth will ever die. Potential successors secretly maneuver to be in position when the inevitable arrives. The leading candidate is King James VI of Scotland, but there is a problem.
The queen's spymasters—hardened veterans of a long war on terror and religious extremism—fear that James is not what he appears. He has every reason to claim he is a Protestant, but if he secretly shares his family's Catholicism, then the last forty years of religious war will have been for nothing, and a bloodbath will ensue. With time running out, London confronts a seemingly impossible question: What does James truly believe?
It falls to Geoffrey Belloc, a secret warrior from the hottest days of England's religious battles, to devise a test to discover the true nature of King James's soul. Belloc enlists Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Muslim physician left behind by the last diplomatic visit from the Ottoman Empire, as his undercover agent. The perfect man for the job, Ezzedine is the ultimate outsider, stranded on this cold, wet, and primitive island. He will do almost anything to return home to his wife and son.
Arthur Phillips returns with a unique and thrilling novel that will leave readers questioning the nature of truth at every turn.
Why did we choose this?
The Folger Shakespeare Library's collection explores not only Shakespeare's life and works, but also the plays' historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.
The King at the Edge of the World explores events within Shakespeare’s lifetime—with references to his theater and contemporaries— to weave a fascinating story of espionage, philosophy, and politics.
Order Your Book
For our March session, we are excited to partner again with Bridge Street Books, a neighborhood bookstore with an international reputation.
Their DC storefront is open from 11am-8pm Mon-Thurs, 11am-9pm Fri-Sat, and 12pm-8pm Sun. Curb-side pickup and shipping are available by calling 202.965.5200 or emailing email@example.com.