Beach Reads: The Millionaire & The Bard

The Millionaire and the BardWhat’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.

31 Responses to “Beach Reads: The Millionaire & The Bard”
  1. Heather Swanson says:

    I like that time period in history

  2. Lindsey says:

    I am always looking for a new read!

  3. intensev5 says:

    I need a new book to read. Thanks for the chance to win.

  4. Joan G. says:

    I prefer to read non-fiction and always looking interesting reads.

  5. Sheelagh Russell-Brown says:

    As an English teacher, I’m always interested in stories of literary sleuthing!

  6. Debra says:

    Love books and reading, and I’m always on the lookout for good stories, fiction or non! I’d love to read this book.

  7. Elizabeth Vlug says:

    Quite simply I love to read. And your review has me wanting to read this one. I’m also a big Shakespeare fan too.

  8. redlizzy1 says:


  9. Susan says:

    It sounds like a great read and I would love to add this to my library!

  10. kiraali says:

    Given that I’ve read other books about Shakespeare and the research etc. around them this would be a great read!

  11. I love theater and everything to do with Shakespeare!

  12. Mary warner says:

    Stories of obsession are always fasinating.

  13. Anne Derkat says:

    It’s not the sort of book I would normally choose and that is why I would probably find it very interesting.

  14. Theresa C. says:

    I’d love to read this because I love Shakespeare! 😉

  15. Julia H says:

    I’m already a subscriber. I want to read this because, well, basically I’m read-aholic who can never read enough, but, also, the plot sounds really interesting…I like the idea of the “first folio”. Thanks!

  16. Rhonda B. says:

    I am a Shakespeare fan. I have read about this book. It sounds interesting. Something I would want to read.

  17. katydidit21 says:

    It sounds interesting and not your usual beach read. That is why I would like to read it.

  18. KELLY E says:

    I love Shakespeare and I always have my nose in a book

  19. cookie3 says:

    I love reading Shakespeare so this book would be right up my alley.

  20. aly3360 says:

    I’d love to read it because I love to read, period! It’s not a book I’d normally pick up and that makes it even more worth the read if that makes sense. I’ve been reading whatever falls into my lap lately and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by many of the books I might not have chosen myself!

  21. Jessica Lord says:

    big Shakespeare fan

  22. intensev5 says:

    I could really use a new book to read on vacation

  23. CLC says:

    I don’t usually choose non fiction so this would be a good starter for me.

  24. Ann Birdgenaw says:

    I’m going to the beach and I need a good beach read! Pick me! Pick me!

  25. Annie says:

    I love nonfiction and Shakespeare so this book sounds fascinating to me. Would love to win.

  26. Annie says:

  27. truckerofbc says:

    Always looking for new reading material.

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