The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

Unabridged Audiobook

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Book Rating (134)

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Written By: Bill Bryson

Narrated By: Bill Bryson

Date: October 2006

Duration: 7 hours 30 minutes


BONUS FEATURE: Exclusive interview with the author.

From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language, a vivid, nostalgic and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the middle of the United States in the middle of the last century. A book that delivers on the promise that it is “laugh-out-loud funny.”

Some say that the first hints that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came from 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 this hilarious new memoir, he travels back to explore the kid he once was and the weird and wonderful world of 1950s America. He modestly claims that this is a book about not very much: about being small and getting much larger slowly. But for the rest of us, it is a laugh-out-loud book that will speak volumes – especially to anyone who has ever been young.


  • Anonymous

    Great book. One of my favorites by Bryson. Love the way he narrates too!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Kirsten R

    Classics Bryson with the charm of childhood . Funny, warm and informational

  • Ken S.

    It's as good as Bryson is going to get. His subject is himself as a child growing up in Des Moines in the fifties.

  • Anonymous

    Love it !! Bill Bryson has a wonderful sense of humor, dry wit & sarcastic fun! I'm from Iowa & enjoyed the memories.

  • Heleeene

    I also laughed out loud driving around in my car. Although I am female, I had to share some of the pranks and tales with my nephews who, at 5 and 7 years old, heartily enjoyed them! Some of the stories were just too gross, but I loved the story about his mother's toidy jars! I liked the epilogue which put everything in perspective. Bill Bryson is one of my favorite writers! Interesting to listen to him tell the stories with his slight British-accented vowels.

  • Munroe

    If you were a child in the era that he writes about you will be reminded of so many things that you probably have not thought about in years. I found myself laughing out loud in my car listening to his recollections. Makes you miss the simplicity of life the way it used to be.

  • Missy

    Absolutely hysterical! I can't say how many times I laughed out loud. I'm sure people in other cars thought I was crazy.

  • lorin

    Too much rambling and no story line. Disappointed. Read Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories by Shepherd instead. That has some kind of plot.

  • Michael Cala

    The young Thunderbolt Kid could have been a buddy of Beaver Cleaver's in a Fifties-colored, mythically happy past created by the author (that reminds me a lot of the film, Pleasantville). Bryson's done a good job of conveying how we can fool our own memories, often removing most of the darkness that tries to intrude. With that said, this is a fun book, particularly for those of use who grew up in the 50's-60's, albeit in much darker contexts. The author describes games and candies, food, clothing and social activities of the era that I'd long forgotten, but that brought back pleasant memories. I agree, however, with another reviewer, who lamented the too-few appearances of The Kid. After all, revenge fantasies are such a part of childhood!

  • Marshel - Pa

    I loved the story and related to many of the games and things that were happening in his life... the electric football game was part of my life too. But when he went into the episodes of political commentary my interest in listen waned.

  • Derek Dean

    This book is a long drawn out account of growing up, and offers enough insight to make you smile and push the little rewind button more than once. As he grows older he tries to make a relevant point out of everything, which works but is not needed. Sometimes the best stories have absolutly no point.

  • Steve Y

    "Thunderbolt Kid" has all the elements we have grown to expect from Bill Bryson. His wit, wisdom, and sarcasm are as comfortable as the community suppers and the pie after the movies of his childhood. Even more expected is Bryson's liberal slant of history, past and present, and his disdain for George Bush. Bleeding heart notwithstanding, it's still worth the read and has enough laughs to overcome his rose colored views.

  • Anonymous

    I was surprised at how many memories this book brought to me. I am a child of the fifties too. Lots of information about the socio- economic of this time that as I child I had no clue about. A fun read

  • Anonymous

    Another great book by Bill Bryson - but this one is a bit more history and introspective. A great reminder of that decade and a wonderful slice of life in the 50s and 60s. While the style of book is more of a 'musing' than a true story, it is as humorous as any of the other Bryson books, and even poignent in spots. Hearing the exploits of Bill's young neighbors, and his view of things as a child reminded me of how I felt growing up -- and some of the humor results from an appreciation of how we all feel growing up. I continue to find Bill's narration a plus (although I know some listeners find his voice irritation) -- he is a consummate storyteller.

  • Loreen Ferguson

    I was agreeably surprised by this book. The title had put me off listening to it, but this is classic Bill Bryson - that amazing blend of humour, wisdom, insight and whimsy. In places the book is laugh out loud funny, garnering me some peculiar looks as I tried to stifle many snorts of laughter while on a long international flight. I only wish I had listened to this book sooner; once again proving the truth of the old adage "don't judge a book by it's title"! Having the book read by Bill Bryson is a huge plus and adds immesurably to the enjoyment.

  • Kathleen Telles

    I listen to these in my car on my commute to and from work and I really should have pulled over a few times to compose myself. A "Boomer" myself, this book brought back all kinds of memories. Bill's timing and wording are hysterical(in a good way). Good for you laughter, just dont' try to read it and drink liquids at the same time, you could hurt yourself.

  • Writeguy99

    Another excellent book for Bill Bryson. Loved the book, and really enjoyed the way he told his story. I'm a big fan of his style of humor, especially as he reminisced about how life was “way back when” in Middle America.

  • Lore Hiney

    Not my cup to tea I'm afraid. There was so much rich potential in his title, but it fell flat. I would have love more of the Kid in the book.

  • Anonymous

    A very enjoyable listen. Lighthearted and yet with some serious notes.

  • Blake Chapin

    I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this one. I suppose when you like an author, you like anything they do. Well Bryson had me hooked awhile ago. I especially like the result of him doing the narration. He brings such levity to each situation no matter how ordinary, or perhaps because they are mundane. Highly recommended.

  • Anonymous

    Very humorous and delightful book. The author brought you into the era and reminded you of the good and the bad and the forgetful. Anyone who lived during that time will remember much of what Bryson talks about and will smile at the recollections.

  • Cyndie Browning

    Bill Bryson was born a year after me and in the midwest (I was born in Ohio), and his memoir brought back a lot of my own memories of growing up innocent in the 50's. I admit that I didn't have to live with parents like Bryson's, but I'm pretty sure my sisters and I were taken to the same dentist!!!!! Bryson as a kid was a lot more imaginative than I was---or maybe it just sounds that way because as an adult, he remembers his own childhood with more tolerance and forgiveness than it really was. And finally, "laugh out loud" doesn't begin to explain the wry humor in this book; I remember sitting in the drive-up lane at Taco Bell one evening, listening to the book while I waited, and laughing until I nearly cried! I highly recommend this book and Bryson's reading of it.

  • Tonytoga

    I had just finished several hardcore history books & was waiting for my next audiobook selection when I dropped by my local 'Big Box Book Store' where my gaze fell on The Thunderbolt Kid. This is vintage Bryson at his very best (& for those who listened to his unfortunate first book "The Lost Continent" from 1990, nothing at all like that book). Here, Mr. Bryson gives us a warm, nostalgic & laugh-out-loud funny look at his early years growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. We discover his mother was a beauty queen, his father, an award winning sports writer & we're taken on a wonderful 50's tour of life in mid-America. We meet little Billy's friends & extended family. We watch movies with him, play with his toys and share his youthful and unrequited lust for girls. The "T-bolt Kid" story is not quite as developed as the title suggests, nevertheless, this is easily Bryson's most entertaining offering since "In a Sunburned Country." Beat the rush, get this book now!

Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

by Bill Bryson

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Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, Bill Bryson
Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, Bill Bryson
This title is due for release on October 17, 2006.

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