Professor Emma Smith, author of 'Portable Magic: A History of Books and Their Readers' - Academic discusses commercial non-fiction, who Shakespeare really was, and why we can't throw books away

Professor Emma Smith teaches Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford. She has published some academic non-fiction works before, but this is her first work of real commercial non-fiction. 'Portable Magic: A History of Books and Their Readers', looks at why books are so importantly culturally - why can't we throw them away? What is it about a physical copy that means more than a digital file? What is the history of this phenomenon?


We discuss the idea for the book, how she began to research it, and what inspired her when thinking commercially. You can hear why she labours over the introduction, making it perfect, also how much a non-fiction author knows before starting to write, and the questions she asks herself to get the tone right.


As Emma is a professor of Shakespeare Studies, we discuss why his work is still relevant 400 years after it was first written, whether he could have written it all alone, and why scepticism of its authorship could be classist. 


This week's episode is sponsored by 'Who is the Cheese Wire Killer?', a brand new true-crime podcast you can listen to wherever you get your shows.


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