Wyatt’s World: Parallel Reading for Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of the Night

As Shadow of the Night‚ the long-awaited sequel to Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches‚ hits the shelves, you might find your readers asking for books by, and references to, some pretty interesting figures, including Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman, Lord Northumberland, Thomas Harriot, and Sir Walter Raleigh. Each is a part of the shadowy group known as the School of Night. Here are a few parallel reading suggestions for Harkness fans who get hooked:

  • The School of Night by Louis Bayard (Holt): This thriller smartly navigates among the players of the School of Night and a modern-day scholar on the hunt for their secrets.
  • Chapman’s Homer: The Iliad by Homer, translated by George Chapman (Princeton Univ.): This is the verse translation that made Chapman famous and so thrilled Keats that he wrote On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” If you own a copy of Chapman’s poem Shadow of Night, Harkness fans might be thrilled to know it is dedicated to Matthew Roydon (you can see a version here).
  • The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution by Deborah Harkness (Yale Univ.): Now would be a good time to buy Harkness’s scholarly but accessible investigation into the ways science was woven into the society of Elizabethan London. Readers who loved the sections of Shadow of the Night featuring Mary Sidney’s experiments will find much to enjoy.
  • Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays by Christopher Marlowe (Penguin): This edition reprints both versions of Doctor Faustus, the play Marlowe struggles with during his time with Matthew and Diana. If you still have a copy of Anthony Burgess’s Dead Man in Deptford or David Riggs’s The World of Christopher Marlowe, suggest those as well.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams (Continuum): This is a fine biography to start exploring the life of a man often made up of more legend than fact. For readers tantalized by the vague references that Harkness makes to Raleigh’s lost colony suggest A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke by James Horn (Basic).
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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net


  1. Sarah says:

    So, how is a “parallel read” different from a “read-alike” or a “read-around”?

    • Neal says:

      Hi Sarah,

      The way I define the terms is this:

      A read-alike is a title that shares a number of appeal characteristics with the starting title.

      A read-around is a title that follows up on subjects in the starting book in which readers might become interested.

      Parallel reading is not really a term used in readers’ advisory work very much (maybe not at all). I use it to gather a wide range of suggestions that run along side the main book. Parallel readings are not read-alikes and are more loosely connected to the starting book than I would hope read-arounds to be. None of the books listed above are read-alikes for Harkness and I did not want to suggest they were. Not all of the titles in this piece are read-arounds either. So to gather a list of books that readers might be interested in that are a mix of things that are not really (or not at all) standard RA suggestions, I used the term parallel reading. Having already offered read-alikes and read-arounds for A Discovery of Witches, I did not want to suggest that I thought this list for Harkness’s second book was accomplishing the same ends.