The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

  • by Bill Bryson
  • Narrated by Bill Bryson
  • 7 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century, 1951, in the middle of the United States, Des Moines, Iowa, in the middle of the largest generation in American history, the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, his is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood in an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons) in his head as "The Thunderbolt Kid". Using this persona as a springboard, Bryson recreates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality, at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. Warm and laugh-out-loud funny, and full of his inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is as wondrous an audiobook as Bill Bryson has ever recorded. It will enchant anyone who has ever been young.

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What the Critics Say

"This affectionate portrait wistfully recalls the bygone days of Burns and Allen and downtown department stores, but with a good-natured elbow poke to the ribs." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

entertaining, but not Bryson's best

This memoir of Bryson's youth in the Midwest is interesting and entertaining. Occasionally Bryson destroys the mood by injecting political comentary that has nothing to do with the plot.
I am still trying to figure out how a rant against political intrigue in Central America fits in this book. Equally hard to comprehend, is the fact Bryson seems unable to understand that nationalizing private businesses and distributing their assests to the masses, is in fact, communism. It doesn't matter whether one agrees or disagrees with this policy. It is what it is. Bryson seems to feel this is more democratic than communistic. Come on Bill, you are smarter than that!
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- Chris

Fun, but not for squeamish

Off and on while listening to "The Thunderbolt Kid" you realize that no one's memory of childhood could be that good, and that Bryson has invented and embroidered throughout. But it doesn't matter: his Midwest 1950s is recreated in such careful detail that you're more reliving his story than listening to it. This is somewhat less than wonderful when he is describing with gusto, about once every five minutes, various encounters with boogers, dog poo, partially masticated food, and--but you get the idea. (On the other hand, if you're a conoisseur of the gross you'll be delighted.)

Bryson has a huge audience and most of his readers are not Americans of his generation, so he's justified in his historical excursions into the sociology and highly problematic American political culture of the 1950s. His boyhood in Des Moines was lived in a sort of happy bubble, something he's acutely aware of as an adult.

His reading doesn't have the range or verve of some professional readers, but it's clear and careful and has a quiet intimacy that grew on me as the reading went on.
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- David

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-28-2006
  • Publisher: Random House Audio