Finding Christmas gifts for high school literature teachers can be tricky – after all, the world is full books – but which ones to choose?! If you are a parent, a colleague, or a family member and you want something special to show your appreciation for a British Literature loving teacher this Christmas, then this gift guide is for you. Below are 10 wonderful books that any Brit Lit loving teacher will adore. I own and have read each one, so these are my personal recommendations. This post does contain affiliate links (and I do receive a small commission from any purchases made using these links) – but I love and use these books myself!
I love this book by Jonathan Bate. He has an easy style but as a Shakespeare scholar – he knows his stuff. This biography digs into the possible motivations for Shakespeare’s many works. It charts his life, education, and adult life – the influence of the politics of the day and how his success changed him. A must-have for any Shakespeare teacher!
James Shapiro’s book ‘1606 The Year of Lear’ is actually his second account of Shakespeare’s history. This book focussing on 1606 is the sequel to the hugely popular 1599. 1606 was the year that King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony & Cleopatra were first performed – arguably three of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
I was lucky enough to attend Shapiro’s book launch at the Globe Theatre last year and in about an hour he summarized a thousand minute histories that helped shaped Shakespeare in this year of power. He explores the significance of the shift in politics and power. The gossip about Shakespeare’s family. The struggles in Europe and across the globe. I cannot recommend this account of the history of Shakespeare enough.
Rex Gibson’s book Teaching Shakespeare is a staple in English classrooms in the UK. It is on the reading list of nearly every teacher training institution for English teachers and this is no coincidence.
He has a wonderful way of explaining Shakespeare’s ideas and contexts, as well as giving 100s practical and ready-to-go classroom activities to get students involved in studying, enjoying, performing, and analyzing Shakespeare plays.
I first read this book about 5 years ago when I was teaching Great Expectations and I was trying to understand the shift in Dickens’ narrative style away from social commentary and onto relationships.
Tomalin answered every question I have ever asked about Dickens and many I have not. She sets out his traumatic childhood, his sensational public appearances and acclaim, and the affair that nearly destroyed him. Her writing is joyful and sympathetic and full of wonderful factual detail.
For me, the title: ;The Bronte’s Wild Genius on the Moors’ says it all. Juliet Barker’s book is a swiping text that fully details their tragically repressed home life and the story of each talented sister. Emily is truly wild, beautiful, strangely unrepressed. Romantic without being a true Romantic. Anne – rejected, alone, unrequited. Then Charlotte, a melancholic teacher, who dreamed of living in her imagined worlds.
If you are looking for a book that celebrates woman in world that could not and would not celebrate them, then The Brontes is for you.
My second choice from Claire Tomalin is her definitive history of Jane Austen. I always wanted to know why a woman who never married could write with such accuracy about relationships and marriage.
There are so many rumours about Austen (she was engaged for just one evening). Tomalin perfectly captures Austen’s wit, social criticisms, intelligence, and her insight.
Of course, the lives of Wollstonecraft and Shelley are great fodder for Charlotte Gordon, but her exploration of their truth, their realities, and their impact is extraordinary. The triumphs and heartbreaks of these two women are beautiful articulated – mother and daughter are completely united – in this struggle to find their place in the world.
Theory and Reference!
I can’t seem to leave those Romantics alone! My first reference book is a cross-over history and literature text. Richard Holmes is an expert historian and biographer and in this book he digs into the Romantic era and finds the science, explorations, and inventions that shaped the Romantic imagination.
The full title is ‘The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science’ and it helps us to see the Romantic sublime experience of the technology of the day.
For any fan of the Romantics or even the Gothic this text is an exceptional grounding in history.
Jonathan Bate makes a reappearance with this amazing introduction to English Literature. If you haven’t seen these “Very Short Introduction” books, they are excellent: short, precise, clear. Enough but not too much!
If you are studying or teaching English Literature for the first time, then this book is for you. If you are a veteran, this this book will refresh and renew your love of all this Brit Lit.
If like me you love gorgeous visuals and pithy summaries then The Literature Book is for you. A beautiful chronological journey through literature (not just British!) this wonderful book gives a great overview of each literary era and then zooms in on seminal or canonic works.
This book has pride of place in my classroom it is my go-to resource to give historical context, detail, or greater reference to anything we are studying.
I hope you enjoyed my gift guide of books for British Literature loving teachers. I would love to hear about any other books that you would recommend – just drop me a comment below.
Thanks for visiting!