Selected list of books about or by Edgar A. Poe:
Silverman bio

Silverman, Kenneth. 1991. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Collins.

Of the many books I’ve read on Poe, in my opinion this is the best biography: complete and comprehensive, with a profound love and understanding of the subject. That love for Poe doesn’t diminish Silverman’s scholarly objectivity. At B&N an Amazon.

Poe a life cut short

Ackroyd, Peter. Poe: A Life Cut Short. Ackroyd’s Brief Lives. New York: Doubleday.

An excellent brief introduction to Poe’s life, for those who just want a high level overview. Despite its brevity, Ackroyd isn’t afraid to voice his opinion. By and large I agree with him. Recommended for the casual Poe advocate. At B&N and Amazon.

Mightnight Dreary

Walsh, John Evangelist. Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. 1998. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.  

I include this as an example of some of the spurious and questionable “factual” books out there about Poe’s life. This one purports to explain the circumstances behind Poe’s mysterious death. Yes, still in print. At B&N and Amazon.

Poe modern library


Poe, Edgar Allan. The Complete Tales and Poems. [c. 1827 – 1850] 1938. Introduction by Hervey Allen. New York: The Modern Library.

These are, of course, all in the public domain, and available from innumerable publishers in whatever kind of format you desire. This happens to be the volume I read, re-read, annotated and dog-eared. Some of my favorite of his classic tales include ‘The Black Cat’, ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and ‘A Descent into the Maelstrom.’  At B&N and Amazon.  

Poe essays reviews


Poe, Edgar Allan. Essays and Reviews. [c. 1836 – 1850] 1984. New York: The Library of America.

If Poe begins to really interest you, do yourself a favor and drum a copy of some of his literary criticism, available in a variety of editions from many publishers (all in the public domain). Poe’s criticism is scathing, and he wasn’t afraid to savage his contemporaries.  At B&N and Amazon.  

Selected list of books about or by William Shakespeare:

It’s an impossible task to list (let alone read) every great book about Shakespeare. I’ve read more than I list here, and I have an even longer list of books yet to read. I tried to pare down the string of straight-forward biographies, and include really only two comprehensive bios. The rest of the books here focus on different aspects of the Shakespearean universe. This list is certain to grow in the future.


Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. [c. 1592 – 1612] 1974. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Innumerable complete collections of Shakespeare abound. But you want one with scholarly integrity.   The Riverside is one of the best, and the reason I chose this one over any of the other premiere ones is because my college Shakespeare professor used this one to teach. You can’t go wrong. Full of essays, background histories and gorgeous color plates, it’s a volume to be proud of, and it will serve you your whole life. At B&N and Amazon.

Shakespeare's words

Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare’s Words: a Glossary & Language Companion.   2002. New York. Penguin Books.

My favorite reference book. Not for casual devotees of Shakespeare. But if you’re going to be writing about the Bard or, like me, trying to recreate his character n fiction, this book is indispensable. The authors call it a ‘glossary’, but it’s really a comprehensive encyclopedia of every word Shakespeare ever used in his plays and poems. It’s a Shakespearean Rosetta stone. And more than dictionary, it includes charts, tables and sections categorized by topic. Shakespearean exclamations! Shakespearean curses! Shakespearean herbs?  Yes.   Seemingly endless. At B&N and Amazon.

Ackroyd bio

Ackroyd, Peter. Shakespeare, the Biography. 2005. New York. Anchor Books.

A solid, in depth biography, very accessible. Extremely readable. At B&N and Amazon.


McDonald, Russ. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: an Introduction with Documents. 2nd Edition. 2001. Boston. Bedford/St. Martin’s.

An academic approach to Shakespeare, his life, his works and Elizabethan life in general. And it contains one of the best arguments I’ve seen debunking the conspiracy theorists who refuse to believe that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. For many reasons an indispensible book. At B&N and Amazon.


Bryson, Bill. Shakespeare: the World as a Stage. 2007. London. HarperPress.  

A lovely brief book about Shakespeare. A great introduction to those who just want to learn a little bit. At B&N and Amazon.

will of the world

Greenblatt, Stephen. Will of the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. 2004. New York. W.W. Norton & Company.

A fabulous recreation of what life was like in Elizabethan England, and great, comprehensive exploration of how Shakespeare could’ve became the greatest writer in Western Literature. The conspiracy theorists would do well to read this book. At B&N and Amazon.


Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: the Invention of the Human. 1998. New York. Riverhead Books.

Not a biography, and not about Elizabethan life. This is Bloom’s personal explorations and ruminations on every play. Don’t be put off by the author’s name; I find this book remarkably accessible. Bloom writes lovely essays about every play, providing a seemingly endless string of observations, opinions and criticism. His overriding theme is that Shakespeare ushered us into modern art: that he invented many of the conventions we take for granted today. At B&N and Amazon.

Liz's london

Picard, Liza. Elizabeth’s London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London. 2003. New York. St. Martin’s.

Not specifically about Shakespeare, but a wonderfully approachable introduction to what Elizabethan life must’ve been like. For anyone doing any serious research or writing about Shakespeare, this is an essential introduction.  At B&N and Amazon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s