The Big Read: Shakespeare Saved My Life


It’s time once again for The Big Read, when libraries across the country, for a limited time, offer the same book to readers everywhere. It’s a great time to plan a book for your book club, because at least digitally, the library offers unlimited copies for this ten-day period. And this year’s selection is sure to stir up some heated debate about America’s prison system and the value of education. 

“Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary With the Bard” is a memoir written by Laura Bates, detailing her work in prisons in America, teaching Shakespeare to prisoners. For many of those years, she even works with prisoners in solitary confinement. One student, Larry Newton, hopes to get his Ph.D.  This book is about Bates’ work with Newton, Shakespeare, and dozens of other prisoners who at this point, know more about gang warfare between the Capulets and the Montagues than they do about rival Chicago street gangs.  I think this book will move you to think about poverty, crime, education, and rehabilitation in a way you never have before. 

Laura teaching her isolation “group”.



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