So I finally finished The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World by Paul Collins. I mentioned that another Collins book, Sixpence House, is one of my very favorites. I had high hopes for this Shakespeare book and people, Collins did not disappoint. Now, before I get started, some preface. Lean a little closer because what I'm about to admit is SACRILEGE for an English major. I'm not a huge Shakespeare person. I know, I know. Don't tell my father. I recognize that the venerable Bard is an important literary figure, and a genius, and worthy of most all the attention he receives. I know. But, I prefer more contemporary literature, and American literature at that. So, it was with hesitation that I approached this book. The only reason I considered it at all was because I like Collins so much. The book was brilliant. Collins' style has developed a bit more since Sixpence House, which was written in 2003. He reminds me of the affable Bill Bryson, another of my most favorite authors. He is very pleasant to read.
The book is about Shakespeare's First Folio, literally. Collins traces the First Folio from its first printing up through the ages to where these books now reside (one is in the Newberry Library, holla). He talks about the history of printing the book, how it was edited, and how the second, third, and fourth were printed and changed as well (quite drastically, in some cases, as it turns out). As a fellow bibliophile, I found it fascinating. And remember, I'm not even terribly fond of Shakespeare. The research alone must have been staggering but it was so well laid-out and presented that he never came off as lecturing or pedantic. You really come to understand that he loves books. And I love books. And this mutual love has rendered me unable to write anything but a glowing recommendation for this book. One warning, if you're not into book history like I'm into book history, this might not be as fascinating to you. But, I think you should read it anyway. Collins is a great storyteller and he makes the history of the book into a story, one that is as compelling and interesting as any of the plays contained within a Shakespeare Folio.
Next up: I'm going to stay on the other side of the pond and make myself read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I realize that a lot of the books I've read lately have been by women, and fluff at that, so I'm excited to read Dickens. It just might take me a little longer.