Bill Bryson, author of the hilarious A Walk in the Woods, moved to England and in 2007 penned a highly-readable biography of William Shakespeare for the "Eminent Lives" series. As he says:
... this book was written not so much because the world needs another book on Shakespeare as because this series does. The idea is a simple one: to see how much of Shakespeare we can know, really know, from the record.
Which is one reason, of course, it's so slender.
That's one of the relatively few funny bits in Shakespeare: The World as Stage. Bryson describes, in skeptical and honest detail, how scanty the historical record is with respect to Shakespeare. Besides the plays and poems themselves there are only a handful of legal documents that mention the Bard, only a few references to him in contemporary writings. On this tiny rock was built the massive edifice of speculation about the man's life. Bryson does an excellent job of dissecting what's plausible from historical context and what's pure handwaving on the part of later authors. He's thorough and entertaining, particularly in knocking down the claims of those who fantasize that somebody other than Shakespeare wrote his works. Fun, fast, worth reading.