Folger's Virtual Book Club
Join us for an upcoming session!
Folger Book Club: The Weird Sisters
Catch-up with previous sessions
Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit
From the bestselling author of The Wives of Los Alamos comes the riveting story of a stranger’s arrival in the fledgling colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts—and a crime that shakes the divided community to its core.
Ten years after the Mayflower pilgrims arrived on rocky, unfamiliar soil, Plymouth is not the land its residents had imagined. Seemingly established on a dream of religious freedom, in reality the town is led by fervent puritans who prohibit the residents from living, trading, and worshipping as they choose. By the time an unfamiliar ship, bearing new colonists, appears on the horizon one summer morning, Anglican outsiders have had enough.
With gripping, immersive details and exquisite prose, TaraShea Nesbit reframes the story of the pilgrims in the previously unheard voices of two women of very different status and means. She evokes a vivid, ominous Plymouth, populated by famous and unknown characters alike, each with conflicting desires and questionable behavior.
Suspenseful and beautifully wrought, Beheld is about a murder and a trial, and the motivations—personal and political—that cause people to act in unsavory ways. It is also an intimate portrait of love, motherhood, and friendship that asks: Whose stories get told over time, who gets believed—and subsequently, who gets punished?
Introductory information on the November 2023 Folger Book Club selection, which looks at the first recorded murder in the Plymouth colony.
'Beheld' Resource Guide
Resources related to colonial America in preparation for our November Book Club discussion of Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit.
Collection Connections: 'Beheld' by TaraShea Nesbit
Rachel B. Dankert revisits her November 2023 presentation on TaraShea Nesbit’s Beheld and the experience of early colonists in America.
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
In Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion’s New York Times bestselling novel that inspired a major film, a zombie returns to humanity through an unlikely encounter with love.
“R” is having a no-life crisis–he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.
And then he meets a girl.
First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl–although she looks delicious–he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.
About 'Warm Bodies'
Introductory information on the October 2023 Folger Book Club selection, a Romeo and Juliet adaptation set in the zombie apocalypse.
'Warm Bodies' Resource Guide
Resources related to Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare and horror in preparation for our October Book Club discussion of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.
Isaac Marion’s 'Warm Bodies': Containing and Curing Plague
Dr. Kathleen Miller revisits her October 2023 presentation on Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies and its connection to early modern plague practices.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
The remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian—who became one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she kept in order to make her dreams come true, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.
In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.
But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.
The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.
About 'The Personal Librarian'
Introductory information on the September 2023 Folger Book Club selection which explores the remarkable life of Belle da Costa Greene.
'The Personal Librarian' Resource Guide
Resources related to Belle da Costa Greene and the collections of the Morgan and Folger Shakespeare Libraries in preparation for our September Book Club discussion of The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray.
'The Personal Librarian,' the Morgan, and the Folger
The first part of our September 2023 conversation with Erica Ciallela and Sara Schliep as part of our discussion of The Personal Librarian.
'The Personal Librarian,' the Morgan, and the Folger (Part 2)
The second part of our September 2023 conversation with Erica Ciallela and Sara Schliep as part of our discussion of The Personal Librarian.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is “a darkly brilliant reimagining of life under Henry VIII. . . . Magnificent.” (The Boston Globe).
About 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantel
Introductory information on the August 2023 Folger Book Club selection, Hilary Mantel’s Book prize-winning novel of Thomas Cromwell.
'Wolf Hall' Resource Guide
Folger resources related to Henry VIII in preparation for our August Book Club discussion of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.
Mantel’s Wolf Hall and the Fictions of Portraiture
We revisit the August 2023 presentation by Jean Marie Christensen on Hilary Mantel’s novel, Wolf Hall.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
“One of the best mysteries of all time” (The New York Times)—Josephine Tey recreates one of history’s most famous—and vicious—crimes in her classic bestselling novel, a must read for connoisseurs of fiction, now with a new introduction by Robert Barnard.
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains—a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.
The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, a supreme achievement from one of mystery writing’s most gifted masters.
About 'The Daughter of Time' by Josephine Tey
Introductory information on the June 2023 Folger Book Club selection, Josephine Tey’s classic mystery exploring Richard III.
'The Daughter of Time' Resource Guide
Folger resources related to Richard III in preparation for our June Book Club discussion of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.
'The Daughter of Time' by Josephine Tey
'The Daughter of Time' by Josephine Tey
We revisit the June 2023 presentation by Dr. Katherine Schaap Williams on Richard III and Josephine Tey’s novel, The Daughter of Time.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
From the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom.
These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.
About 'Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow' by Gabrielle Zevin
Introductory information on the May 2023 Folger Book Club selection, Gabrielle Zevin’s exploration of gaming, grief, and collaboration.
'Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow' Resource Guide
Folger resources related to Shakespeare and digital technologies to accompany our discussion of Gabrielle Zevin’s novel.
Shakespeare, videogames, and Gabrielle Zevin’s 'Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow'
We revisit the May 2023 presentation by Dr. Erin Sullivan about Shakespeare and digital technologies, part of our discussion of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.
Gaming and grieving with Shakespeare: Gabrielle Zevin’s new novel puts the ghostliness in gameplay
A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein
An Elizabethan espionage thriller in which playwright Christopher Marlowe spies on Mary, Queen of Scots while navigating the perils of politics, theater, romance—and murder.
England, 1585. In Kit Marlowe’s last year at Cambridge, he is approached by Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster offering an unorthodox career opportunity: going undercover to intercept a Catholic plot to put Mary, Queen of Scots on Elizabeth’s throne. Spying on Queen Mary turns out to be more than Kit bargained for, but his salary allows him to mount his first play, and over the following years he becomes the toast of London’s raucous theater scene. But when Kit finds himself reluctantly drawn back into the world of espionage and treason, he realizes everything he’s worked so hard to attain—including the trust of the man he loves—could vanish in an instant.
Pairing modern language with period detail, Allison Epstein brings Elizabeth’s lavish court, Marlowe’s colorful theater troupe, and the squalor of sixteenth-century London to vivid, teeming life. At the center of the action is Kit himself—an irrepressible, irreverent force of nature.
About 'A Tip for the Hangman' by Allison Epstein
Introductory information on the March 2023 Folger Book Club selection, Allison Epstein’s exploration of Elizabethan London and espionage.
'A Tip for the Hangman' Resource Guide
Folger resources related to espionage and Christopher “Kit” Marlowe to accompany our discussion of Allison Epstein’s novel.
Collection Connections: ‘A Tip for the Hangman' by Allison Epstein
We revisit the March 2023 presentation by Abner Aldarondo about the ciphers and censorship related to A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein.
Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next sixteen years. Junius Booth—breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor, and master of the house in more ways than one—is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war. As the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.
About 'Booth' by Karen Joy Fowler
Introductory information on the February 2023 Folger Book Club selection, Karen Joy Fowler’s intimate portrayal of an American family whose celebrity turned to infamy,
'Booth' Resource Guide
Folger resources related to Folger resources related to 19th-century Shakespeare performance and the Booth family to accompany the February 2023 book club discussion of Booth.
Collection Connections: ‘Booth' by Karen Joy Fowler
We revisit the February 2023 presentation by David McKenzie about the Booth family and 19th-century performance as depicted in Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves. Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.
About 'Black Cake' by Charmaine Wilkerson
Introductory information on this multi-generational family story, the December 2022 Folger Book Club selection.
'Black Cake' Resource Guide
Folger resources related to food and food pathways to accompany the December 2022 book club discussion of Black Cake.
Collection Connections: ‘Black Cake' by Charmaine Wilkerson
We revisit the December 2022 presentation by Brittany Merritt Nash about sugar production and its relationship to Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson.
Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson
Ramón Montez always achieves his goals. Whether that means collecting Ivy League degrees or growing his father’s fast-food empire, nothing sets Ramón off course. So when the sexy señorita who kissed him on the Day of the Dead runs off into the night with his heart, he determines to do whatever it takes to find her again. Celebrity chef Julieta Campos has sacrificed everything to save her sea-to-table taqueria from closing. To her horror, she discovers that her new landlord is none other than the magnetic mariachi she hooked up with on Día de los Muertos. Even worse, it was his father who stole her mother’s taco recipe decades ago. Julieta has no choice but to work with Ramón, the man who destroyed her life’s work—and the one man who tempts and inspires her. As San Diego’s outraged community protests against the Taco King takeover and the divide between their families grows, Ramón and Julieta struggle to balance the rising tensions. But Ramón knows that true love is priceless and despite all of his successes, this is the one battle he refuses to lose.
About 'Ramón and Julieta' by Alana Quintana Albertson
Resource Guide for 'Ramón and Julieta' by Alana Quintana Albertson
Collection Connections: ‘Ramón and Julieta’ by Alana Quintana Albertson
Katherine Gillen, Adrianna Santos, and Kathryn Vomero Santos take us through their presentation from our discussion of ‘Ramón and Julieta’ by Alana Quintana Albertson as part of the Folger’s virtual Book Club.
Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor
Henry Irving is Victorian London’s most celebrated actor and theater impresario. He has introduced groundbreaking ideas to the theater, bringing to the stage performances that are spectacular, shocking, and always entertaining. When Irving decides to open his own London theater with the goal of making it the greatest playhouse on earth, he hires a young Dublin clerk harboring literary ambitions by the name of Bram Stoker to manage it. As Irving’s theater grows in reputation and financial solvency, he lures to his company of mummers the century’s most beloved actress, the dazzlingly talented leading lady Ellen Terry, who nightly casts a spell not only on her audiences but also on Stoker and Irving both. Bram Stoker’s extraordinary experiences at the Lyceum Theatre, his early morning walks on the streets of a London terrorized by a serial killer, his long, tempestuous relationship with Irving, and the closeness he finds with Ellen Terry, inspire him to write Dracula, the most iconic and best-selling supernatural tale ever published.
About 'Shadowplay' by Joseph O'Connor
Resource Guide for 'Shadowplay' by Joseph O'Connor
Collection Connections: 'Shadowplay' by Joseph O'Connor
Learwife by JR Thorp
Word has come. Care-bent King Lear is dead, driven mad and betrayed. His three daughters too, broken in battle. But someone has survived: Lear’s queen. Exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten. Now she can tell her story. Though her grief and rage may threaten to crack the earth open, she knows she must seek answers. Why was she sent away in shame and disgrace? What has happened to Kent, her oldest friend and ally? And what will become of her now, in this place of women? To find peace she must reckon with her past and make a terrible choice – one upon which her destiny, and that of the entire abbey, rests.
About 'Learwife' by J. R. Thorp
Resource Guide for 'Learwife' by J.R. Thorp
Collection Connections: 'Learwife' by J.R. Thorp
J.R. Thorp on Learwife
Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 181 A banished queen receives word that her husband and three daughters are dead. Learwife, a new novel by J.R. Thorp, picks up where Shakespeare’s King Lear leaves off: The queen is Berte, Lear’s wife and Regan,…
Excerpt: Learwife by J. R. Thorp
Picking up where Shakespeare’s King Lear ends, a new novel imagines the life of Lear’s wife, who in this telling has been banished for 15 years when she receives word of her family members’ deaths. Learwife by J.R. Thorp gives…
Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola
A high-born Nigerian goddess, who has been beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover, longs to be truly seen. A young businesswoman attempts a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life. A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether she should uphold her family’s politics or be true to her heart. In her debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places. With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favorite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres.
Words, Words, Words: 'Love in Color: Mythical Tales Around the World, Retold' by Bolu Babalola
Resource Guide: 'Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold' by Bolu Babalola
Collection Connections: 'Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold' by Bolu Babalola
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner. Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost. When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?
Words, Words, Words: 'Vinegar Girl' by Anne Tyler
Resource Guide: 'Vinegar Girl' by Anne Tyler
Collection Connections: 'Vinegar Girl' by Anne Tyler
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it. A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras. But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.
Words, Words, Words: 'If We Were Villains' by M. L. Rio
Resource Guide: 'If We Were Villains' by M. L. Rio
Collection Connections: 'If We Were Villains' by M. L. Rio
A night at Hamlet's castle, followed by a debut novel
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.
Words, Words, Words: 'The King at the Edge of the World' by Arthur Phillips
Resource Guide: 'The King at the Edge of the World' by Arthur Phillips
Collection Connections: 'The King at the Edge of the World' by Arthur Phillips
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. When Helen is summoned by a former student to view a cache of newly discovered seventeenth-century Jewish documents, she enlists the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.” Electrifying and ambitious, The Weight of Ink is about women separated by centuries–and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind.
Words, Words, Words: 'The Weight of Ink' by Rachel Kadish
Resource Guide: 'The Weight of Ink' by Rachel Kadish
Collection Connections: 'The Weight of Ink' by Rachel Kadish
All’s Well by Mona Awad
Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic back pain, a failed marriage, and a deepening dependence on painkillers. And now she’s on the verge of losing her job as a college theater director. Determined to put on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that promised, and cost, her everything, she faces a mutinous cast hellbent on staging Macbeth instead. Miranda sees her chance at redemption slip through her fingers. That’s when she meets three strange benefactors who have an eerie knowledge of Miranda’s past and a tantalizing promise for her future: one where the show goes on, her rebellious students get what’s coming to them, and the invisible, doubted pain that’s kept her from the spotlight is made known.
Words, Words, Words: 'All's Well' by Mona Awad
Resource Guide: 'All's Well' by Mona Awad
On December 6, 2021 the Folger hosts its Virtual Book Club, featuring a discussion of All’s Well by Mona Awad. To prepare for the discussion, we have pulled together a list of resources related to the novel and the plays…
Collection Connections: 'All's Well' by Mona Awad
Excerpt – ‘All's Well’ by Mona Awad
Mona Awad on All's Well
Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 173 In her new novel, All’s Well, author Mona Awad combines elements of All’s Well That Ends Well, Macbeth, and the 1999 movie Election to tell the story of Miranda Fitch, a theater professor with a mutinous…
The Porpoise by Mark Haddon
In a bravura feat of storytelling, Mark Haddon calls upon narratives ancient and modern to tell the story of Angelica, a young woman trapped in an abusive relationship with her father. When a young man named Darius discovers their secret, he is forced to escape on a boat bound for the Mediterranean. To his surprise he finds himself travelling backwards over two thousand years to a world of pirates and shipwrecks, of plagues and miracles and angry gods. Moving seamlessly between the past and the present, Haddon conjures the worlds of Angelica and her would-be savior in thrilling fashion. As profound as it is entertaining, The Porpoise is a stirring and endlessly inventive novel from one of our finest storytellers.
Words, Words, Words: 'The Porpoise' by Mark Haddon
Resource Guide: 'The Porpoise' by Mark Haddon
Collection Connections: 'The Porpoise' by Mark Haddon
How Pericles Inspired Mark Haddon's novel The Porpoise
Shakespeare Unlimited:Episode 131 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time author Mark Haddon’s books take twists and turns that sometimes seem to only make sense in the context of his stories. Shakespeare’s Pericles takes twists and turns that…
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen
The story begins in 1618, in the German duchy of Württemberg. Plague is spreading. The Thirty Years’ War has begun, and fear and suspicion are in the air throughout the Holy Roman Empire. In the small town of Leonberg, Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch. When the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that has made her ill, Katharina is in trouble. Her scientist son must turn his attention from the music of the spheres to the job of defending his mother.
Words, Words, Words: 'Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch' by Rivka Galchen
Resource Guide: 'Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch' by Rivka Galchen
Collection Connections: 'Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch' by Rivka Galchen
We That Are Young by Preti Taneja
When a billionaire hotelier and political operator attempts to pit his three daughters against one another, a brutal struggle for primacy begins in this modern-day take on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Set in contemporary India, where rich men are gods while farmers starve and water is fast running out, We That Are Young is a story about power, status, and the love of a megalomaniac father. A searing exploration of human fallibility, Preti Taneja’s remarkable novel reveals the fragility of the human heart—and its inevitable breaking point.
Words, Words, Words: 'We That Are Young' by Preti Taneja
Resource Guide: 'We That Are Young' by Preti Taneja
Collection Connections: 'We That Are Young'
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
The Larkin family isn’t just lucky-they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer. But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century. Epic, funny, and sweepingly romantic, The Last True Poets of the Sea is about the strength it takes to swim up from a wreck.
Words, Words, Words: 'The Last True Poets of the Sea' by Julia Drake
Resource Guide: 'The Last True Poets of the Sea' by Julia Drake
Collection Connections: 'The Last True Poets of the Sea' by Julia Drake
Sweet Sorrow by David Nichols
Sixteen-year-old Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. But when Fran Fisher bursts into his life, despite himself, Charlie begins to hope. The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet learned and performed in a theater troupe over the course of a summer. Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.
Words, Words, Words: 'Sweet Sorrow' by David Nicholls
Resource Guide: 'Sweet Sorrow' by David Nicholls
Collection Connections: 'Sweet Sorrow' by David Nicholls
Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology. With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.
Words, Words Words: 'Circe' by Madeline Miller
The Folger’s virtual book club, Words, Words, Words continues on Thursday, May 6 with a discussion of Madeline Miller’s Circe. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this award-winning novel about a fascinating figure from…
Resource Guide: 'Circe' by Madeline Miller
Collection Connections: 'Circe' by Madeline Miller
A Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke
Hawke’s narrator is a young man in torment, disgusted with himself after the collapse of his marriage, still half-hoping for a reconciliation that would allow him to forgive himself and move on as he clumsily, and sometimes hilariously, tries to manage the wreckage of his personal life with whiskey and sex. What saves him is theater: in particular, the challenge of performing the role of Hotspur in a production of Henry IV under the leadership of a brilliant director, helmed by one of the most electrifying–and narcissistic–Falstaff’s of all time. Searing and raw, A Bright Ray of Darkness is a novel about shame and beauty and faith, and the moral power of art.
Words, Words, Words: ‘A Bright Ray of Darkness’ by Ethan Hawke
Resource Guide: 'A Bright Ray of Darkness' by Ethan Hawke
Collection Connections: 'A Bright Ray of Darkness'
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Felix is at the top of his game as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, but it will also heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge, which, after twelve years, arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Margaret Atwood’s innovative take on Shakespeare’s play of enchantment, retribution, and second chances leads us on an interactive, illusion-ridden journey filled with new surprises and wonders of its own.
Words, Words, Words: ‘Hag-Seed’ by Margaret Atwood
Resource Guide: ‘Hag-Seed’ by Margaret Atwood
Collection Connections: ‘Hag-Seed’
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
In these pages, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first Black explorer of America: Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico. As he journeys across America with his Spanish companions, the Old World roles of slave and master fall away, and Estebanico remakes himself as an equal, a healer, and a remarkable storyteller. His tale illuminates the ways in which our narratives can transmigrate into history—and how storytelling can offer a chance at redemption and survival.
Words, Words, Words: ‘The Moor’s Account’
Resource Guide: ‘The Moor’s Account’ by Laila Lalami
Collection Connections: ‘The Moor’s Account’
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young, alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on.
A luminous portrait of a marriage, a shattering evocation of a family ravaged by grief and loss, and a tender and unforgettable re-imagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, and whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays of all time, Hamnet is mesmerizing, seductive, impossible to put down—a magnificent leap forward from one of our most gifted novelists.
Words, Words, Words: ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell
Resource Guide: ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell
Collection Connections: ‘Hamnet’
Excerpt – ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell
Hamnet was William Shakespeare’s only son, but he died in 1596 at the age of 11. Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel, Hamnet, imagines a story in which a young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an…
Maggie O'Farrell on Hamnet
Anne and William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died in 1596, when he was 11 years old. We don’t know too much more about him. But author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel, Hamnet, delves into his story and comes away with…
License to Quill by Jacopo della Quercia
License to Quill is a page-turning James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during history’s real life Gunpowder Plot. The story follows the fascinating golden age of English espionage, the tumultuous cold war gripping post-Reformation Europe, the cloak-and-dagger politics of Shakespeare’s England, and lastly, the mysterious origins of the Bard’s most haunting play: Macbeth.
Words, Words, Words: ‘License to Quill’ by Jacopo della Quercia
Resource Guide: ‘License to Quill’ by Jacopo della Quercia
Collection Connections: ‘License to Quill’
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Condé
This wild and entertaining novel expands on the true story of the West Indian slave Tituba, who was accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, arrested in 1692, and forgotten in jail until the general amnesty for witches two years later. Maryse Condé brings Tituba out of historical silence and creates for her a fictional childhood, adolescence, and old age. She turns her into what she calls “a sort of female hero, an epic heroine, like the legendary ‘Nanny of the maroons,’” who, schooled in the sorcery and magical ritual of obeah, is arrested for healing members of the family that owns her.
Words, Words, Words: ‘I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem’ by Maryse Condé
Resource Guide: ‘I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem’
Collection Connections: ‘I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem’
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julia Schumacher
Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. His ex-wife is sleeping with the dean who must approve whatever modest initiatives he undertakes. The fearsome department secretary Fran clearly runs the show (when not taking in rescue parrots and dogs) and holds plenty of secrets she’s not sharing. The lavishly funded Econ Department keeps siphoning off English’s meager resources and has taken aim at its remaining office space. And Fitger’s attempt to get a mossbacked and antediluvian Shakespeare scholar to retire backfires spectacularly when the press concludes that the Bard is being kicked to the curricular curb.
Words, Words, Words: ‘The Shakespeare Requirement’ by Julie Schumacher
Resource Guide: ‘The Shakespeare Requirement’ by Julie Schumacher
Collection Connections: ‘The Shakespeare Requirement’
Excerpt - 'The Shakespeare Requirement' by Julie Schumacher
Julie Schumacher on The Shakespeare Requirement
Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 109 Should college students be required to study Shakespeare? As American universities examine the role of the liberal arts and humanities in our society, what will—and what should—happen to the Bard’s place in English curricula? The Shakespeare…
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
Words, Words, Words: ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St. John Mandel
Resource Guide: ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St. John Mandel
Collection Connections: ‘Station Eleven’
“The world unwinding”: Station Eleven, Shakespeare, and an artist’s-eye view of apocalypse
During the covid-19 pandemic, two methods of escape for me have been Shakespeare and depictions of fictional catastrophes, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that a novel that combines both — Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven…