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Book List: Can't Get Enough of Wolf Hall?

Since the Masterpiece Classic series, Wolf Hall, finished up this week on PBS, fans of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will surely be missing something while Mantel finishes part three of her dramatic series about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII.

Reading (and watching) Wolf Hall was such an engrossing experience that it sent me into a tailspin where I read anything I could get my hands on about England during the Renaissance era or earlier. Here’s a sampling of some of the best books—fiction and non—I found. Happy reading!

Princes in the Tower

The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir
After the abrupt death of King Edward VI in the year 1483, his two sons, age 12 and 9 were sent to the Tower of London to prepare for the coronation of the eldest son, Edward V. Instead of being crowned king, however, Edward and his younger brother are murdered in the tower. Was it their uncle, the notorious Richard III? Or someone else? Weir’s treatment of this spooky and tragic episode of English history is a riveting investigation that mystery lovers and history buffs alike will thoroughly enjoy.

Queen of Scots

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Dorothy Dunnett is a seriously underrated English writer with an amazing imagination and some really stunning writing chops. The Game of Kings is the first book in her Lymond Chronicles series—an engrossing set of books that take a look at the complex political climate in the Scottish aristocracy in the 1500s.

Queen of Scots by John Guy
If you loved Hilary Mantel’s characterization of Thomas Cromwell, you’re really going to like John Guy’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots. Like Cromwell, Mary earned herself a posthumous reputation as a cold, cruel, and calculating political mastermind. Guy’s work scales back that conception of Mary, and adds realistic layers of humanity and nuance to her character.

A Journey Through Tudor England

A Journey Through Tudor England by Suzannah Lipscomb
This history book takes a unique approach to English history, by giving readers an intimate glance into the halls, castles, and churches in which much of Tudor intrigue and drama took place. Perfect for the armchair traveler who wishes she could travel back in time!

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
If you’re like me, this bestseller has been on your reading list for ages. Fans of Wolf Hall will not be disappointed upon finally picking this one up! The plot is centered around a group of memorable characters working to build a massive Gothic cathedral in the 12th century. It features glistening details of art and architecture of the time, and an accurate portrayal of medieval life in England.


1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro
Here’s your chance: walk side-by-side with Shakespeare for a full year! In the final days of the sixteenth century the Bard writes some of his greatest plays (Hamlet, As You Like It, Julius Caesar), the famous Globe Theater is built in London, and England is embroiled in bloody wars with Spain and Ireland. This book is a really fun and unique glimpse into the economic, political, and creative climate of Shakespeare’s time.

The Sixth Wife

The Sixth Wife by Jean Plaidy
Anne Boleyn tends to overshadow Henry VIII’s other five wives in our dramatic and literary imagination, but all six women certainly led fascinating lives. Part of Plaidy’s Tudor Saga, The Sixth Wife is Katherine Parr’s chance to shine. We learn all about her love life before the King (spoiler: she married three times and had a thing for Thomas Seymour, the King’s former brother-in-law), her love for writing and literature, and her scandalous religious affiliations.

Foundation by Peter Ackroyd
Did you know that prior to the Norman Invasion of 1066, English nobles had face tattoos and dyed their hair green, blue, and orange? Or that Many of the roads in England today are the very same ones used by the Romans in the first centuries of the first millennium A.D.? Foundations is Ackroyd’s first book in his sweeping history of England, and it’s brimming with mind-blowing facts about England and the many people who have lived there through the ages—all expressed in a most entertaining way. Check out his history of the Tudors, too!


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Adding to the list

I very much enjoyed Mary S. Lovell's biography of Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth). Four husbands, one of Mary Stuarts 'keepers,' friend to the Princess and future Queen Elizabeth - a fantastic view of the nobility of Tudor England.

"Dissolution," by CJ Samson,

"Dissolution," by CJ Samson, the first of a series, is also a good Tudor mystery read!

Another great Allison Weir Title

Great post! The Pillars of the Earth is an all-time favorite of mine. I would add Allison Weir's The Life of Elizabeth I to your list.

I just put a hold on

I just put a hold on "Foundation!"

Hooray for Dorothy Dunnett!

Thanks for a great list, Nancy! I'm definitely putting Peter Ackroyd's 'Foundation' on my TBR list. I was happy to see The Lymond Chonicles on the list. I spent a winter and spring spellbound by Dorothy Dunnett a few years ago (by Lymond - 16th c & Niccolo - 15th c) and I recommend the experience for lovers of dense and descriptive yet exciting historical fiction.

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