Shakespeare Rising! Books for Adults and Teens

2023 marks the 400-year anniversary of the publication of Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, known today simply as the First Folio. It is difficult to imagine a world without The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, and Macbeth, but these are just some of the plays that were only preserved thanks to the astounding labor of love that was the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

The literary world seems to have noticed as well! There has been a big uptick in titles related to William Shakespeare’s work, both research-based and retellings. We’ve collected a list of recent titles for adults and teens that celebrate the great Bard and his (or her?) work!

Adult titles

Dane of My Existence by Jessica Martin
A seriously type A lawyer spends the summer in her Shakespeare-obsessed hometown and goes toe to toe with a commercial developer threatening the town's history in this hilarious rom-com.

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad
A bold, evocative novel that follows actress Sonia as she returns to Palestine and takes a role in a West Bank production of Hamlet.

The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking about Race by Farag Karim-Cooper
This book is a response to the question: ‘What does race have to do with Shakespeare?’ Karim-Cooper sets the record straight on the diversity of Tudor England enabled by the rise of international travel and trade.In a work that skillfully establishes the need – and sheer logic – of reading Shakespeare through race, the author affirms, ‘We all have the right to claim the Bard’. 

The Hundred Loves of Juliet by Evelyn Skye
Evelyn Skye has created a deeply affecting and ultimately uplifting reimagining of one of the most famous love stories ever told, Romeo and Juliet. In The Hundred Loves of Juliet, we meet an eternal Romeo cursed to lose version after version of Juliet over many generations — until he meets one who can remember their shared past. 

Juliet: the Life and Afterlives of Shakespeare's First Tragic Heroine by Sophie Duncan
Romeo and Juliet may be the greatest love story ever told, but who is Juliet? Oxford Shakespeare scholar Sophie Duncan reveals Juliet's legacy which stretches beyond her literary lifespan into a cultural afterlife ranging from enslaved African girls in the British Caribbean to the real-life Juliets of sectarian violence in Bosnia and Belfast.
The King's Pleasure: a Novel of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
The bulk of this novel revolves around the relationships between Henry and his first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Weir also touches on the complex political web that Henry was involved in, not just in England but European politics of the 16th century and readers will see how Henry interacted with his children and how the emotional weight of all of his decisions dragged on him.

The Making of Shakespeare's First Folio by Emma Smith.
Smith, a Shakespeare studies professor at the University of Oxford, offers a meticulous history of the First Folio, a collection of 36 Shakespeare plays published seven years after his death in 1616. The detailed discussion of the folio’s publication offers enlightening glimpses into the history of the book trade, and the reproduction of full pages from such plays as The Tempest and The Merry Wives of Windsor will please fans who are unwilling to shell out almost four million dollars for the actual article.

Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies: How Doubting the Bard Became the Biggest Taboo in Literature by Elizabeth Winkler
The author has arrived at the academic tea with a full pail of milk with which to douse some of the biggest names in Shakespearean expertise. Just check out her interview with Sir Stanley Wells, Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who insists time and again that he can’t remember reading any of the references he has in the past described as ‘cryptic’ (referring to Shakespeare’s gender), to Shakespeare in the biographical literature that is supposedly his life’s work.

Shakespeare's Book: The Story Behind the First Folio and the Making of Shakespeare by Chris Laoutaris
This book charts, for the first time, the manufacture of the First Folio against a turbulent backdrop of seismic political events and international tensions which intersected with the lives of its creators and which left their indelible marks on this ambitious publication-project. This story uncovers the friendships, bonds, social ties, and professional networks that facilitated the production of Shakespeare's book--as well as the personal challenges, tragedies and dangers that threw obstacles in the path of its chief backers.

Stalking Shakespeare: a Memoir of Murder, Madness, and My Search for the Poet Beneath the Paint by Lee Durkee
Stalking Shakespeare is Durkee's fascinating memoir about a hobby gone awry, the 400-year-old myriad portraits attached to the famous playwright, and Durkee's own unrelenting search for a lost picture of the Bard painted from real life. As Durkee becomes better at beguiling curators into testing their paintings with X-ray and infrared technologies, we get a front-row seat to the captivating mysteries--and unsolved murders--surrounding the various portraits rumored to depict Shakespeare.

Star Crossed: A True Romeo and Juliet Story in Hitler's Paris by Heather Dune MacAdam
Drawn from never-before-published family letters, archival sources and exclusive interviews, this epic true story of love and resistance during WWII follows the romance between a Catholic resistance fighter and a Holocaust victim who met in a famous Paris cafe before war, prejudice and disapproving families set them on divergent and tragically inevitable paths.

Young adult titles
Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe.
This retelling of The Tempest follows Mae, an orphan who has spent her entire life on Prosper’s island, as she struggles to find her place in the world. Not being a true part of the family, she has no claim to the island once she comes of age. But all she’s ever wanted was to belong. And to learn magic. However, the Prospers hide dark secrets that Mae isn’t counting on. What happens when she begins to unravel the lies? Is all of the beauty and wealth worth it? 
Enter the Body by Joy McCullough.
Enter the Body gives voice to a cast of the young women who die in Shakespeare's most iconic plays. Focusing on the stories of Juliet, Ophelia, and Cordelia, bestselling author of Blood Water Paint Joy McCullough brilliantly weaves retellings of Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and King Lear into a larger story about how young women can support each other in the aftermath of trauma. 

Julieta and the Romeos by Maria E. Andreu
Julieta isn’t looking for her Romeo, but she is writing about love. When her summer writing teacher encourages the class to publish their work online, the last thing she’s expecting is to get a notification that her rom-com has a mysterious new contributor, Happily Ever Drafter. Julieta knows that happily ever afters aren’t real. (Case in point: her parents’ imploding marriage.) But then again, could this be her very own meet-cute?

Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons 
In this subversive retelling of Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy, readers are given the story from the point of view of Romeo’s dismissed and discarded lover Rosaline, and her experience weaves an altogether different kind of narrative. The result is a dark, powerful and thought-provoking novel that reimagines Shakespeare’s tragedy and gives its characters, their motivations and their actions a darker, more sinister new spin that’s both jarring and compelling, even if it’s not always for the reasons you’re expecting.

Roman + Jewel by Dana L. Davis.
Jerzie Jhames will do anything to land the lead role in Broadway’s hottest new show, Roman and Jewel, a Romeo and Juliet inspired hip-hopera featuring a diverse cast and modern twists on the play. But her hopes are crushed when she learns mega-star Cinny won the lead… and Jerzie is her understudy. Falling for male lead Zeppelin Reid is a terrible idea–especially once Jerzie learns Cinny wants him for herself. Star-crossed love always ends badly. But when a video of Jerzie and Zepp practicing goes viral and the entire world weighs in on who should play Jewel, Jerzie learns that while the price of fame is high, friendship, family, and love are priceless.
That Self-same Metal by Brittany N. Williams.
Sixteen-year-old Joan Sands is a gifted craftswoman who creates and upkeeps the stage blades for William Shakespeare’s acting company, The King’s Men. Joan’s skill with her blades comes from a magical ability to control metal–an ability gifted by her Head Orisha, Ogun. Because her whole family is Orisha-blessed, the Sands family have always kept tabs on the Fae presence in London. Usually that doesn’t involve much except noting the faint glow around a Fae’s body as they try to blend in with London society, but lately, there has been an uptick in brutal Fae attacks. After Joan wounds a powerful Fae and saves the son of a cruel Lord, she is drawn into political intrigue in the human and Fae worlds.

Teach the Torches to Burn: A Romeo and Juliet Remix by Caleb Roehrig
In the Remixed Classics series, authors from marginalized backgrounds reinterpret classic works through their own cultural lens to subvert the overwhelming cishet, white, and male canon. Queer star-crossed love amid a centuries-old feud takes center stage in this Romeo & Juliet remix that knows sometimes, the best way is to make it gay.

Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker
It’s the end of the world. Literally. Time travel is possible, but only forwards. And only a handful of families choose to remain in the ‘now’, living off the scraps that were left behind. Among these are eighteen-year-old Juliet and the love of her life, Romeo. But things are far from rosy for Jules. Romeo is in a coma and she’s estranged from her friends and family, dealing with the very real fallout of their wild romance. Then a handsome time traveller, Ellis, arrives with an important mission that makes Jules question everything she knows about life and love. Can Jules wake Romeo and rewrite her future?

Written by Dodie on