genre: nonfiction, historical
William Shakespeare is, truly, a household name. Whether you appreciate his works or not, it's hard to avoid him either because you are forced to read his plays in your English class or because you use his own phrases in your daily language. In this book, Bill Bryson has attempted to consolidate all that we actually know about William Shakespeare and his time period. While there are probably millions of actual pages written about the man and his history and his literature, this is more of a giant overview, a look not at theories but at actual evidence - what does the historical record actually say and how does that compare to the "common knowledge" that has been thrown around about him for centuries?What are the controversies surrounding the Bard and how can we take a side using as much factual information as is available?
If you are not already a fan of Shakespeare, then this probably is not the book for you. It is not a particularly humorous book (although he's so good that there is still some), a departure from other of Bryson's more popular works. However, it is incredibly interesting and well-researched. I feel like I not only learned a lot but also unlearned some things that I have heard that are not actually true. It's full of historical names that I stopped worrying about keeping straight but don't let that deter you if you are a fan - it's super readable (well, I listened because I love his narrative voice, it's a quick listen). I wish I'd read it before my visit to the recreated Globe last fall but at least it's all in my brain now.