Even though the narrative bogs down in the middle under the figurative weight of bibliomania, overall, this is an enchanting...



A Shakespeare scholar takes on the “biggest enigma in literature.”

Shortly after William Shakespeare died in 1616, friends and scholars began looking for his books, figuring that he must have had many. Shakespeare was notorious for borrowing plots and characters from histories and literary works. Where were these source books? Shakespeare’s brief will makes no mention of them. This is the premise of historian and award-winning author Kells’ (The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders, 2018, etc.) look “through the lens of the searchers themselves,” a search that “bears upon fundamental principles of art, history, meaning and truth.” It’s an engaging and provocative contribution to the unending world of Shakesperiana. On his wide-ranging journey, Kells discovered many intriguing clues, but the mystery of the missing library remains unsolved. The author notes that besides a missing library, there were no manuscripts, letters, or diaries. This leads to his insightful discussion of the “ ‘Shakespeare Authorship Question’—how he worked, what he wrote and, most controversially, whether he wrote at all.” Kells takes on the detractors with gusto, especially those promoting Shakespeare’s contemporary, the diplomat Sir Henry Neville. Along the way, the author entertains us with a fascinating publishing history of the plays and stories of famous book collectors. “To reach something like the truth,” he writes, “we must walk through noxious territory, consort with cranks and rogues.” Kells also provides a revealing assessment of the famous 1623 First Folio, the first collection of the plays. Authoritative? It’s an “unreliable source,” Kells writes. “Posthumous, incomplete, error-ridden; produced by piratical publishers and hidden editors.” He concludes with the tantalizing Littlewood Letter, “arguably the most important Shakespeare letter in the world today—provided, of course, it is genuine.” On the whole, Kells delivers reams of arcane bibliographical information with humor and wit.

Even though the narrative bogs down in the middle under the figurative weight of bibliomania, overall, this is an enchanting work that bibliophiles will savor and Shakespeare fans adore.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64009-183-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?