Beach Reads: The Millionaire & The Bard
What’s The Buzz?: While a nonfiction book about Shakespeare might not seem likely beach read material, I assure you, this enthralling book is quite the page-turner. After some high profile features on the like of NPR and the New York Times, The Millionaire & The Bard is quietly picking up steam as one of the most entertaining nonfiction titles to hit the shelves in awhile.
What’s The Plot?: Have you ever asked yourself why we study Shakespeare? Obviously it’s because his writing is fantastic. But more importantly, it’s because his plays were preserved, by two of his colleagues after his death, who went to great lengths in the early 1600s to publish what’s known as the ‘First Folio’, a near-complete collection of his key works. Fast forward a few hundred years and of the 750 copies thought to be originally printed, a scant couple hundred still exist. Henry Folger, working for Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company and on his rise to the top of the near-monopoly oil company, took up an interest in rare book collecting toward the end of the 1800s. Not just any book, however. Folger became almost singular in his hunt for copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio, acquiring over 80 in his lifetime as part of a dramatic hunt involving wheeling and dealing and incomprehensible amounts of storage space (all things Shakespeare were actually quite coveted by Folger). This book documents the creation of the First Folio, as well as details on how and why Folger became the dogged collector that he was, as well as the lasting legacy of both Shakespeare and Folger in today’s modern world.
How Is It Beachy?: Again, nonfiction tends not to be the most beach-friendly, but in this case I’d make an exception. Author Andrea Mays spins The Millionaire & The Bard in a way that is enlightening and engaging both in terms of Shakespeare and Folger’s stories. The heat really picks up once we get into the height of Folger’s collecting, between 1900 and 1927, as you read about the astounding prices he pays for single books and his desire to remain as private as possible. While admittedly there are a few chunks that can be a little dry – the concluding chapters on the construction of the Folger Shakespeare Library, for example – for the most part this is a very digestible book that can be read in small sections with ease.
Do I Have To Love Shakespeare?: This is an interesting question. I suspect people who are *massive* fans of Shakespeare might not find this all that enlightening, unless they never happened to read much into why the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. is named as such. For the most part, I’d say being a passing fan of Shakespeare – which is all I could really call myself – is enough to find The Millionaire & The Bard entertaining. I actually really loved the sections at the beginning that gave us some early insight into Shakespeare as a person and as a writer, as well as the painstaking process of crafting this book. But I’d say more than half of the book actually takes places during the industrial revolution, in Henry Folger’s money-making heyday, which provides some context for Folger’s rise to financial success (and how he fared during the 1929 stock market crash).
Who Should Read This Book?: If you’re planning a trip to D.C., you might find The Millionaire & The Bard a compelling incentive to visit the Folger Library. If you’re a Shakespeare or rare book fan of any measure, you’ll definitely enjoy. And if you just enjoy a good page-turner that isn’t made up, then give this one a whirl.
I’m of course, giving away a copy of this fab read! Want to win it? Here’s how to enter:
1) First & foremost: you must be a subscriber to the Canadian Gift Guide to enter this giveaway. It’s as simple as finding ‘The Gift of Gab’ box in the righthand column and dropping in your email or clicking follow. Then, tell me in the comments below by August 17, 2015 – why are you interested in reading The Millionaire & The Bard?
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around August 18, 2015 to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry: Follow Simon & Schuster Canada on Twitter, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a Tweet about why you want to read this enthralling book! Post a link to your Tweet below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.
5) Bonus Entry #2: Add this book to your to-read list on GoodReads, and leave a link back to the page it’s on below in a separate comment to earn yourself another bonus entry.