Dr Chris Laoutaris’ recent book, Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe (Penguin), has been selected as one of the Observer’s Books of the Year. Amma Asante, the multi-award-winning writer and director of the recent film Belle, was among the distinguished writers, directors and critics who presented their “favourite reads of 2014”.

Asante chose Laoutaris’ book as her top pick of the year, in a list which included Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (Jonathan Cape; winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize), Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests (Virago), A.N. Wilson’s Victoria: A Life (Atlantic Books), and Colm Tόibín’s Nora Webster (Penguin Viking).

“I’m in love with the brilliant research on display in Shakespeare and the Countess”, wrote Asante in the Observer, “and how it brings to light Lady Elizabeth Russell, a force to be reckoned with and a trailblazing early feminist.”

This accolade follows the recent listing of Shakespeare and the Countess as one of the Telegraph’s ‘Best Books of 2014’, Sunday Telegraph ‘Book of the Week’, Marylebone Journal ‘Book of the Week’, and Living Literature Society ‘Book of the Month’.

Learn more:  the Observer’s Books of the Year