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What Is Novelist Mark Haddon Reading?


From one man's extraordinary journey to another's extraordinary year. This summer, we've been asked friends of the show - authors, musicians, people passing through - what they're reading.

MARK HADDON: "1599" by James Shapiro.

WERTHEIMER: And novelist Mark Haddon is reading a book about the most famous poet in the English language.


HADDON: It's a book about Shakespeare and Elizabethan London told by describing the work that he did in a single year. It's a year in which he wrote "Henry V," "As You Like It," "Julius Caesar" and the first draft of "Hamlet," which is an extraordinary body of work for one year.


HADDON: And it was also an extraordinary year for English history. The British campaign in Ireland was collapsing and the Earl of Essex was about to fall out of favor. So, in one sense, it was the death of the old courtly world of English knights. And it was the same year in which the East India Company as founded in London. So, it's the beginning of sort of middle-class tradesmen creating the empire. There was an invisible armada threatening London and people were sort of putting out all their nights at light so that they'd be ready to attack the Spaniards in the street. I don't think I've ever read a book that just opened up such a huge world by looking through such a small keyhole.


WERTHEIMER: That's novelist Mark Haddon. He's talking about the book "1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare" by James Shapiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.