Tag Archives: shakespeare

For Those Who Hate Shakespeare: A Variety of Works to Change the Mind of the Reluctant Reader about the Bard

6 Jul

Through the years as a librarian and an avid reader, I’ve often encountered others who despite also being fond of the written word confess that they hate Shakespeare (often in hushed tones as if their library card may be revoked due to this fact–it won’t be, I promise). Often their encounter with the Bard began and ended with a high school English class where they struggled to get through Shakespeare’s rich, but antiquated writing.  Some of what keeps people from Shakespeare is the language or the sense of not being able to connect with the time period; these works take away some of those barriers.  Hopefully they will inspire you to take a look at Shakespeare’s work again with new eyes.

The Hogarth Shakespeare Project: The Gap of Time and Vinegar Girl

The Hogarth Shakespeare Project which debuted in October of 2015 includes works by bestselling authors retelling the works of Shakespeare in novel form.  You can check out one of my favorite authors, Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, her take on The Winter’s Tale.  I’m looking forward to checking out the newly available Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler’s spin on my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Taming of the Shrew in which Kate, a preschool teacher who hates kids, agrees to marry her zany scientist father’s lab assistant so he can get a green card.  Fans of Margaret Atwood have her retelling of The Tempest to look forward to in October.

The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro

If you are fascinated by history, read this recent work by esteemed Shakespeare historian, James Shapiro, where he explores how the events of 1606 influenced Shakespeare to write three of his great tragedies King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.  Although there is a timelessness to Shakespeare’s work understanding the political climate and beliefs of the time adds another layer to the material.

Tales from Shakespeare

Written for teens and kids Tales from Shakespeare includes ten of Shakespeare’s popular works including Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet retold in prose format by Tina Packer.  Each story is stunningly brought to life by a different well known artist including P.J. Lynch and Barbara McClintock.

YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright (and William Shakespeare)

If your attitude toward Shakespeare is TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) then you may change your mind with this quirky retelling of Romeo and Juliet using text speak and emojis, part of the OMG Shakespeare! series.  The work is recommended for grades 8 and up.

Much Ado About Nothing

If you are a Joss Whedon fan like me, how can you resist his contemporary retelling of the classic romance starring Angel’s Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, and Firefly’s Nathan Fillion?

Throne of Blood

Think Shakespeare is boring?  This retelling of Macbeth set in feudal Japan featuring a samurai lord may change your mind.

Why Shakespeare?
If you still aren’t convinced about Shakespeare check out this documentary that answers the question of Why Shakespeare? Why Shakespeare? includes interviews with actors and celebrities like Christina Applegate along with inner city kids whose lives were transformed by Shakespeare and the world of live theater.

A Theatergoer’s Guide to Shakespeare by Robert Thomas Fallon

As with all plays the best way to enjoy Shakespeare is as live theater so check out Shakespeare in the Park or if it too hot out borrow a DVD of Macbeth or The Tempest to watch inside with the air conditioner turned up.  Fallon’s A Theatergoer’s Guide to Shakespeare gives you critical, historical, and plot details that will have you prepped to enjoy some of Shakespeare’s most frequently staged works without confusion due to the language or allusions that you are unfamiliar with.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Tasting History: Shakespeare’s Kitchen, Last Dinner on the Titanic, and Gastroanomalies

18 Nov

Food can be a strong reminder of one’s own past such as Marcel Proust’s madeleine, but it can also go beyond the personal to evoke historic moments in time as well. An amusing British series The Supersizers Go featured restaurant critic, Giles Coren, and comedian, Sue Perkins, eating through time including the Middle Ages, The French Revolution, and Ancient Rome. The title is inspired by the documentary Super Size Me. You can sample some of Sue and Giles’ zany antics on Hulu. Watching them made me want to dip my own spoon in the culinary broth of history and find recipes from the past. These three books all available at the Hoboken Public Library will give you a taste of some sweet and savory flashbacks.

Shakespeare’s Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook

shakespeares kitchen
Shakespeare’s Kitchen by Francine Segan with color photographs by Tim Turner collects recipes from the Renaissance period. The recipes have been updated for the modern stove top and given in the standard recipe format that we are used to (during the Renaissance ingredient lists, cooking times, and exact measurements were not included). A nice inclusion though is that original recipes are also provided in most cases as well. Additionally, sprinkled throughout are quotes from Shakespeare and historical tidbits. It is interesting to see what ingredients are included and excluded. Prunes and dates are used heavily in savory dishes, but tomatoes are missing. Although several dishes have edible flowers and rosewater featured in them, chocolate and vanilla are not found in a single dessert since they were unknown at the time in Shakespeare’s London. I do not think the majority of the recipes will be making a heavy rotation in most people’s diet today unless they are a heavily committed SCA member, but I would still recommend this book for its interesting historical value and an option for a unique dinner party; the book puts together sample menus, invitations, and decorating ideas for this purpose. Segan has three other cook books available from BCCLS libraries The Philosopher’s Kitchen, Opera Lover’s Cookbook, and Dolci.

Last Dinner on the Titanic

Last Dinner on the Titanic by Rick Archbold with recipes by Dana McCauley is richly illustrated and a treat for food lovers as well as those with an interest in history’s most famous ship. Several menus from the voyage survived (including two from the tragic evening of April 14, 1912) and dishes are recreated from ones that would have been used at the time in first, second, and third class. The book gives suggestions for everything you would need for throwing a Titanic themed dinner party including music likely to have been played on the ship, fashion suggestions, and even down to the proper way to fold the napkins. Beautiful illustrations and photographs of items and the interiors of the Titanic and her sister ship, the Olympic, are found throughout. Vivid descriptions on what it would have been like dining on the ship and short biographies of some of the passengers (amongst them Hoboken born silent film star and model Dorothy Gibson) that you may want to role play are also included. If you find having a dinner party recreating such a tragic moment in history lachrymose, you could instead use the book to create an Edwardian themed meal; the food is representative of the best of what was available at that time in the UK and America. Several other books Archbold has written or co-written are also available from BCCLS Libraries including two more books about the Titanic: The Discovery of the Titanic and Deep-Sea Explorer: The Story of Robert Ballard, Discoverer of the Titanic.


Gastroanomalies: Questionable Culinary Creations from the Golden Age of American Cookery by James Lieks takes a humorous look back at old ads, recipes, and photographs from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s. I was slightly disappointed in the book. Although I found some of Lieks quips about the pictures and other materials funny, some of his humor seemed to me to be channeling his inner ten year old boy and a few I found a bit off putting and crude. I was also somewhat disappointed that there were not more recipes to go with some of the images of food. In some case the reader is left wondering what an item might truly be beyond the lump of food in the grainy photograph. Perhaps, though this is for the best, as someone who once served both a turducken and a piecaken for Thanksgiving, my family and friends may have been saved from some jiggly jello abomination that I found amusing. The book is less well researched than the other two books and I would recommend it more for people who enjoy humorous takes on life than foodies or history buffs. If you enjoy this work, James Lieks also has written The Gallery of Regrettable Food and Mommy Knows Worst which are available from BCCLS Libraries.

-Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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