Bill Bryson has authored six or more books, including his outstanding A Short History of Almost Everything, for which he deserves endless kudos.
His instant book, Shakespeare, by comparison, is a hollow shell of trivia, much of which is given more to the author’s opinions than factually supported conclusions, and Bryson’s uninspiring opinions on point (however entertainingly phrased) add little, if anything, to the vast repository of books on the subject. (Example, he concedes that there are over 5,000 books on the question of Shakespeare’s “real” identity; Bryson insults us by disposing of it, with a lick and a promise, in two dozen pages.)
His fills some forty percent of his scant 250 pages with photos of paintings and other graphics, and offers whimsical (and ephemerally pleasing) text that is indented to use roughly half of each page. In sum, he gives us about 75 legitimate pages of text, then doubles that to 150 pages by over-indenting each and adds another 100 pages with tread worn graphics, and, presto, a 250 page book.
Yet, few topics “sell” as well and as easily as a book including the name Shakespeare on its cover, and, with Bryson as the author, it seems a sure big seller. Unfortunately for Bryson, he lost considerable credibility with it in the eyes of this reader, and, I’ll wager, in the eyes of many more, and his next offering will not likely be purchased by same absent careful examination of its content first.