Title: Shakespeare: The World As Stage
Author: Bill Bryson
Count for Year: 6
This is part of the Eminent Lives series, which includes Christopher Hitchens writing on Thomas Jefferson, Karen Armstrong on Mohammed and Michael Korda on Ulsysses S. Grant. In that, it is somewhat of a departure for Bryson, whose more popular books, A Walk in the Woods and A Short History of Nearly Everything, were completely different from this. When I first started reading this, I thought that maybe that was made Bryson such a good writer: that he could branch out beyond a memoir of walking the Appalachian Trail to encompass everything and then back to focus on Shakespeare. For example, after reading the first four chapters, among the more interesting things I learned was that Shakespeare never wrote his name as “Shakespeare” in all of the signatures of his that remain, and there’s a lot that we don’t know about him as a man.
One of my favorite paragraphs was at the end of Chapter Two: The Early Years: 1564-1585 and before Chapter Three: The Lost Years, 1585-1592:
Shakespeare’s early life is really little more than a series of occasional sightings. So when we note that he was now about to embark on what was popularly known as his lost years, they are very lost indeed.
Yet as the book continued, I began to weary of all that wasn’t known by Shakespeare and the asides Bryson took into other writers’ lives. And I’ll be the honest, by the end, I began to weary of the book itself and wish I were reading one of other Bryson’s better books. Not that this book didn’t have its moments, but somehow something was missing, and so:
Final Analysis: 6/10, because while above average in biographies, it was below average for Bryson, in my opinion, and probably not worth the read.