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  • Published: 4 September 2006
  • ISBN: 9781407031521
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: Audio Download
  • Length: 6 hr 24 min
  • Narrator: Bill Bryson

The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid

Travels Through my Childhood

Bill Bryson on his most personal journey yet: into his own childhood in America's Mid-West.

Some say that the first hint that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came when his mother sent him to school in lime-green Capri pants. Others think it all started with his discovery, at the age of six, of a woollen jersey of rare fineness. Across the moth-holed chest was a golden thunderbolt. It may have looked like an old college football sweater, but young Bryson knew better. It was obviously the Sacred Jersey of Zap, and proved that he had been placed with this innocuous family in the middle of America to fly, become invisible, shoot guns out of people's hands from a distance, and wear his underpants over his jeans in the manner of Superman.

Bill Bryson's first travel book opened with the immortal line, 'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.' In his deeply funny new memoir, he travels back in time to explore the ordinary kid he once was, and the curious world of 1950s America. It was a happy time, when almost everything was good for you, including DDT, cigarettes and nuclear fallout. This is a book about growing up in a specific time and place. But in Bryson's hands, it becomes everyone's story, one that will speak volumes - especially to anyone who has ever been young.

  • Published: 4 September 2006
  • ISBN: 9781407031521
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: Audio Download
  • Length: 6 hr 24 min
  • Narrator: Bill Bryson

About the author

Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. His bestselling books include The Road to Little Dribbling, Notes from a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods, One Summer and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. In a national poll, Notes from a Small Island was voted the book that best represents Britain. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of its decade in the UK. His new book The Body: A Guide for Occupants is an extraordinary exploration of the human body which will have you marvelling at the form you occupy.
Bill Bryson was Chancellor of Durham University 2005–2011. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society. He lives in England.

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Praise for The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid

A wittily incisive book about innocence, and its limits, but in no sense an innocent book...Like Alan Bennett, another ironist posing as a sentimentalist, Bryson can play the teddy-bear and then deliver a sudden, grizzly-style swipe...might tell us as much about the oddities of the American way as a dozen think-tanks.

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

Always witty and sometimes hilarious...wonderfully funny and touching.

Literary Review

A funny, effortlessly readable, quietly enchanted memoir...Bryson also provides a quirky social history of America...he always manages to slam on the brakes with a good joke just when things might get sentimental.

Daily Mail

Takes us on yet another amiable ramble through terrain viewed with his characteristic mixture of bemused wit, acerbic astonishment and sweet benevolence...we come closest to the real Bryson in this, his first true memoir...encompasses so much of human experience that you want to smile and sob at once...Bryson's evocation of an era is near perfect: tender, hilarious and true.

The Times

He can capture the flavour of the past with the lightest of touches...marvellous set pieces...As a chronicler of the foibles and absurdities of daily life, Bryson has few peers.

Sunday Telegraph

Is this the most cheerful book I've ever read, or the saddest?...hilarious...a lovely, happy book.

Evening Standard

Bryson [writes] with a whiff of irony and a stronger perfume of affection, but never the stink of sentimentality. Darting between his life and the trajectory of America, he slips in a few key contextualising details, which he deploys with the same deft ease that made his A Short History of Nearly Everything so sneakily edifying...very few [memoirs] contain a well of happiness this deep, or this complexly rendered.

Scotland on Sunday

The beautifully realised elegiac tone of his childhood memoir invites readers to go tumbling down the rabbit hole of memory into the best days of their lives...by turns playful affectionate, gently mocking, laugh-out-loud funny and even wistfully sad. His greatest gift is as a humorist, however, so it is the snickers, the guffaws and the undignified belly laughs he delivers on almost every page that make it worth buying...probably the funniest book you'll read this year. No, dammit. It is the funniest book you'll find anytime soon.

Sydney Morning Herald

Makes you wish that you could emigrate, become a child, get a flat-top haircut and some longlaced baseball boots, and sneak in and take up residence unnoticed with little Billy Bryson in his parents' household...he doesn't so much tell jokes as let his sentences stretch out and relax into feet-up, contented good humour...you can laugh along with Bryson, rather than at him.


Happy childhood memoirs are every bit as fascinating to read as anguished ones if they are well written, and Bryson's prose flows like maple syrup...has an exquisite comic turn of phrase.


Bryson at his best: deftly handling laugh-out-loud exaggeration of language and incident; telling rollicking good stories laced with a savagery that his nice-guy voice makes both funny and affectionate.


Outlandishly and improbably entertaining...inevitably [I] would be reduced to body-racking, tear-inducing, de-couching laughter.

New York Times

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