Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Summer Reading Recommendations: Teacher to Teacher

Now that summer is here, we’re rounding up some summer reading recommendations–from English teachers, for English teachers. Let us know in the comments what you’re reading this summer and what you recommend.

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Here are four recommendations from Jill Burdick-Zupancic, who is in her sixth year of teaching and currently teaches Honors English and AP Art History at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA. She is a Teaching Shakespeare Institute (TSI) alumna from 2012.

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

“I’m a fan of Kingsolver’s other works, specifically The Poisonwood Bible, and Flight Behavior follows the Kingsolver pattern of powerfully beautiful prose and engaging storytelling. However, this book also takes a unique look at global warming and the environmental consequences. I loved this not only because it was an engaging read, but because I read it six month ago and still think about it – both in terms of the story and the context.”

Shakespeare in America, edited by James Shapiro

“I heard James Shapiro speak at the Folger about a month ago and knew I had to pick up this book. Although I’m not the entire way through, I’m already thinking about how to use it in the classroom. The book itself is a compilation of essays, letters, poems, etc…in which Americans, from the founding of our nation to current, make Shakespeare their own. The only aspect of teaching American Literature I don’t like is that Shakespeare isn’t involved; James Shapiro changed that with this book!”

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

“A quick, easy read that really makes you wonder: how connected is too connected? I read this a few months ago and knew I had to have my students check it out in our 21st century novel study as it’s so relevant to our immersion in social media. I gave students two weeks for the reading/discussion of the text and most kids finished this book in a single night because they couldn’t put it down. I was one of those ‘students’ too!”

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

“This will be one that I reread this summer. This book is a combination of entrancing prose, unique characters and some solid art history lessons. I really enjoyed the story, but I know I left much behind. Not a quick and/or easy read, I’m looking forward to my second read of this after the essay grading and lesson planning is behind me for a few weeks.”


We’ll share some more recommendations on Thursday! Check back on the blog, and don’t forget to share your own book choices in the comments.


  • Other must-reads for Brit Lit aficionados are Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Great context for many of Shakespeare’s works!

  • Highly recommend “We are all completely beside ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler. Fowler is generally excellent, but in this book involving the poignancy of human-animal relationships, she achieves something sublime.

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