CAUTION - THERE ARE MANY EDITIONS OF ACKROYD'S "SHAKESPEARE"
Amazon's software allows only one review per product; "Shakeapeare" by Peter Ackroyd (to the software) is "one book" but it comes in many shapes (rectangular and circular) and sizes. Reviews for individual editons will appear on all books/CDs with this title. (Not a criticism on great software, just an observation. Look at the product details carefully)
"Shakespeare - the Biography" by Peter Ackroyd, 550 pages, Vintage Press 2006, paperback format, cheap paper
Two more suited companions would be hard to find (except Ackroyd and Dickens); Ackroyd is London's biographer (literally) and writing on a playwright who made his life and fortune in London and, in doing so, made London more famous, is to be expected. Having had so many biographies written on him, to entitle his " ... the Biography", Peter Ackroyd may be making too great a claim for himself; however, with its wealth of information, detail and apt quotations and observations, I am prepared to consider the claim.
Stepping into the world of Shakespeare with its dirth of material on the subject, claim and counter-claim about his very existence and apparently excellent scholarship supporting each claim is brave; Ackroyd carries it off with typical panache.
PS I also recommend the partnership of Ackroyd and Simon Callow. Great CDs - well-researched material and that great voice.