Okay, I am cheating here. Technically, Shakespeare’s works are not books, they are plays. They were not meant to be read but performed, and are only fully experienced when performed. Beyond that, I am not picking one. Honestly, I just wanted to include Shakespeare in this list because he’s…well, if I need to explain it, you just don’t get it. He’s great.
Every high school kid has memories of Romeo and Juliet or MacBeth or Julius Caesar. One of my favorite college classes was an elective on Shakespeare in which we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, King Lear and Othello. They’re all brilliant. Most recently I got it in my head I wanted to read his histories. I discovered a wonderful podcast called ChopBard and listened to his episodes on the first half of the histories. After this I watched the first season of the Hollow Crown. The histories covered in each of these were Richard III, Henry IV part 1, Henry IV part 2 and Henry V.
The reflections on leadership in these plays is worthy, and perhaps a must read for any leader. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown” Of course, these four plays culminate in the triumph of the British forces under Henry V at Agincourt, which certainly hit upon patriotic fervor for his audience. They also include one of Shakespeare’s most memorable figures, John Falstaf, who was apparently so popular Queen Elizabeth demanded another play with him in it (The Merry Wives of Windsor).
I hope to read the second half of the histories, covering Henry VI in three parts and Richard III. For now, if you’ve always wanted to tackle Shakespeare and felt intimidated, check out ChopBard.
*If you’re into podcasts, I should also mention Rex Factor which is covering all the kings and queens of England to judge which one is the best.