by Allie Esiri Published
by Macmillan

This is one of the best, most uplifting non-fiction books I’ve seen for many months. Following the format of her earlier A Poem for Every Day of the Year and A Poem for Every Night of the Year, Allie Esiri provides an extract of Shakespeare, preceded by a succinct, upbeat introduction designed to be read across 365 days. Where possible she finds a link between the time of year and the extract. Thus she links the Gunpowder Plot with Macbeth for November 5 and Henry IV’s death on 20 March 1413 with an extract from Henry IV part 2 for the same date.

For a child as yet pretty new to Shakespeare, it’s a magnificent starting point – any parent or teacher could find five minutes to do this with young charges each day. For someone older who might have read or seen more Shakespeare, it’s a gloriously eclectic mix of the very familiar and the appealingly less so. I’m pretty well versed in Shakespeare, but there are passages in this book I have never come across before because Esiri’s choices are often far from obvious.

Yes, “To be or not to be” is in (January 30) along with “The Barge she sat in, like a burnished throne” (June 13) and “Now is the winter of our discontent” (October 2), but alongside that, less well known sonnets, extracts from Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, Troilus and Cressida and lots of history plays make for very refreshing mixture. I suppose it owes a tiny debt to the 2009 book The Shakespeare Almanac (by Gregory Doran, Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company) which also offered relevant, related reading and information for every day of the year. Throughout 2010 I read Doran’s book daily as it’s intended to be used. A decade later I am happily doing the same this year with Esiri’s. It deserves to be in every classroom and every home – the Shakespearean answer to the Bible.