Alright Bryson, strike two. I was so excited to read A Walk in the Woods, about Bryson's attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, and found it amazing, until he stopped walking halfway through the book. Then I was wowed and lost my socks over A Short History of Nearly Everything which made me so excited to get Shakespeare, because it's history and Shakespeare, so it can't be boring.
Swing and a miss.
The mantra of this book is: "There's not a lot we do know about Shakespeare." And the other mantra is: "And London at this time was going through the nth cycle of the plague, so it had this implication and that implication and sleep, sleep."
So, there's not a lot we do know about Shakespeare, but rest assured, every fact and statistic are brought up by Bryson. How many times he uses which word, how many known signatures there are of his name, and even twice he discusses how the bust above his grave was cleaned off and later repainted, leaving us with little idea of what Shakespeare actually looked like. Most of the book is spent (other than talking about the plague) bringing up what others have written about Shakespeare and then dispelling it as false with these words: but probably not.
I'm glad it was so short. It was a tough one to get through. You've got one more chance Bryson. Use it well...