J’s Medieval Bookshelf

Avert your eyes childrenI own over 200 books about the middle ages. (My bio says 194 but I might have to give up counting.) They all live together on two crappy pressboard bookshelves in the hallway outside my bathroom, because that’s the only place there’s room for them.  I’m apparently in need of taller shelves because the books are spilling onto the tops. (Please ignore the lawn-mower manual and car-wash towels propped in front.)

They range from the ridiculously scholarly

Lewis - Closed

to the just plain ridiculous.

I hope you’ll indulge me geeking out over one of the latter: Rulers of Britain by Plantagenet Somerset Fry.


Age I first read it: upon acquisition

Acquired: 2002, at a library book sale at the Burlington Public Library (Burlington, NJ) for $1

Best things: cheesy watercolor pictures, brightly-colored heraldic endpapers, apocryphal yet humanizing stories (Alfred and the cakes! Edward I’s toilet humor!), dual-column page structure, the fact that it was written by a guy whose actual legal name seems to be Plantagenet Somerset Fry


Drawbacks: not scholarly in the slightest, more-than-slightly inaccurate and/or oversimplified interpretations of medieval society

The materials on the medieval bookshelf aren’t all intended for research purposes, though. Some of them, like this one, are interesting because they give me a sense of how the middle ages are presented to a popular audience.

Edward is yelling something

When I’m writing, I have to take into account what my audience knows (or thinks it knows) about the middle ages. I need to meet readers where they live if I want to get them to see the past more as it really was.

Plus, it was a buck. Whoo hoo!


About J. Anderson Coats

J. Anderson Coats writes historical fiction for young adults chockful of name-calling and petty violence. THE WICKED AND THE JUST (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) is about teenagers behaving badly in thirteenth-century Wales.

8 thoughts on “J’s Medieval Bookshelf

  1. You are the QUEEN of Medieval information!!!

  2. I’m sorry. Where does he get off with a name like “Plantagenet Somerset Fry”?

  3. And you make me want to buy you a new book shelf.

  4. I think I need to change my name. And go to the library book sale tomorrow!

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