Book Lists, On This Day

On This Day January 9th: The First Modern Circus is Staged

Circus: On This Day

First things first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!! I’m officially 31, and although many people would be sad to be in their 30s, I’m okay with it. 30s are the new 20s! Next, Happy Release Day to The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor, The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates, and The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin! These four books have been highly anticipated for awhile, and I’ve seen them all over Bookstagram and the blogosphere. I’ve already gotten the amazing opportunity to read both The Chalk Man and The Wife Between Us, but I would absolutely love to read Grist Mill Road and The Immortalists at some point this year!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you click a link and make a purchase. While this requires no cost from you, this allows me to keep this site up and running. Thank you for your support!


On This Day January 9th: The First Modern Circus is Staged

London, England. 1768. Philip Astley was an English equestrian and the father of the modern circus. All of the familiar components that make up what we know as the circus today have been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until they were brought together under a single event that the circus was officially born.

Astley created what is known as a “circus ring” on January 9, 1768 and invited the public to watch him ride around on his horse performing daring tricks while holding a sword. Eventually Astley hired clowns, musicians and other performers to attract more of the public to his event. In 1770 he officially built Astley’s Amphitheater, the structure where he commonly held his circus performances.

Despite being the father of the modern circus, his London competitor came up with the name “circus” after the circular Roman theaters where one could watch chariot races. Ashley eventually died in 1814, but only after performing at Versailles for King Louis XV and establishing 18 other circus venues throughout Europe.


A Book List

Circus Pin

Circuses have become a unique form of entertainment for people all over the world. It’s no surprise that circuses have made their way into modern literature. There is something other-worldly and romantic about the circus, and it translates well into books. Here are a few novels that center around circuses:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen

I read this book many years ago, probably even before the movie came out, and I instantly fell in love with it. Water for Elephants follows a young orphan named Jacob who jumps on a train in 1932 and travels with a circus. He eventually becomes the veterinary doctor since he “almost” graduated vet school, and he meets Marlena, the beautiful yet tormented star of the equestrian act who is married to the animal trainer and may not be the nicest of men. He also meets a young elephant named Rosie, who has never been able to be trained. Jacob manages to get through to both Marlena and Rosie and save them in more ways than one. Since this one, I’ve read a few other Sara Gruen books, but none of them ever really came close to the magic that this one created for me.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is one book on this list that I haven’t read yet, but it’s not from lack of trying. I’ve had this book on my shelf for months now, but just haven’t found the time to actually read it! The Night Circus centers on two young magicians and a dangerous competition. During this game, the two magicians eventually fall in love and are left unaware that one of them will not be left alive. I’ve seen so many amazing reviews for The Night Circus, and everyone says it’s a great winter read, so I’m really looking forward to actually starting it soon!

If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss

If I Ran the Circus

If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss

Okay, so this one may be a bit of a stretch, but it absolutely counts! I’m a huge Dr. Seuss fan, especially since I work in a preschool, and I love that every one of his stories has some sort of hidden meaning behind them. Whether it’s educational or historical, they each have something to offer a young child. If I Ran the Circus gives children the idea that they can achieve anything, even if it’s just while using their imaginations.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

I read The Museum of Extraordinary Things last summer, and I knew I would love it. Alice Hoffman has this way of really getting to me that I can’t explain. It features two characters from different worlds: Coralie, who lives with her father in a Museum of Curiosities, and Eddie, who left his family to pursue his dream of being a photographer. They grow and come together against the backdrop of early 1900s Manhattan. The amount of growth these characters experience is awesome, despite what they have lived through. So this one isn’t exactly about the Circus, but a Museum of strange people is pretty damn close.

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan Train

The Orphan’s Tale: A Novel by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan’s Tale just came to my attention in the last month, despite being published last February. I’ve already added it to my library list to read! It follows a young German woman, Noa, who was cast out after she became pregnant by a Nazi and now works in a rail station. She comes across a train car full of Jewish babies, steals one, and then runs away to join the Circus. This one just SCREAMS to me, since it’s WWII historical fiction. The added Circus aspect makes it even more attractive to me!


I love the Circus! The last time I went was probably as a young child, but I can still remember the atmosphere. There’s something sort of romantic and historic about the idea of the Circus, which is why it probably makes its way into these intriguing tales. Although the Circus has died down a lot in recent years, you can still enjoy the entertainment in these stories. Happy Reading!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

22 thoughts on “On This Day January 9th: The First Modern Circus is Staged

      1. I’ve never been one to even pay attention to my age. When I realized that I was going to be 30 I was like I can’t believe I’m not going to be in my 20s anymore but that was the extent of it lol.

  1. Happy Birthday fellow Capricorn! :] This was an awesome little post! I will have to add that Alice Hoffman to my TBR… I still haven’t picked up one of her books yet but they all sound amazing!

Leave a Reply