The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid

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

Subject: Memoirs
The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson

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.

Available Formats

  • Paperback
    $24.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9780552772549
    Published: 01/08/2007
    Imprint: Black Swan
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9781409095781
    Published: 01/05/2010
    Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • CD
    $35.00 RRP
    ISBN: 9780552153652
    Published: 01/09/2006
    Imprint: Corgi Audio
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"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

"Always witty and sometimes hilarious...wonderfully funny and touching." - Literary Review

'Hugely funny (not snigger-snigger funny, but great-big-belly-laugh-till-you-cry funny)" - Daily Telegraph

"Not only hilarious but also insightful and informative" - Independent on Sunday

"Seriously funny" - Sunday Times

"Hilarious . . . not your typical travel writer" - Sunday Telegraph

"Funny, wise, learned and compulsive" - GQ

"Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts" - The Times

"Praise for THUNDERBOLT:
* '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

Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson's bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Neither Here Nor There and Notes From A Small Island, which in a national poll was voted the book that best represents Britain. His acclaimed book on the history of science, A Short History Of Nearly Everything, won the Royal Society's Aventis Prize as well as the Descartes Prize, the European Union's highest literary award.
Bryson has written books on language, on Shakespeare, and on his own childhood in the hilarious memoir The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid. His last critically lauded bestsellers were on history - At Home: a Short History of Private Life, and One Summer: America 1927.
Another travel book, A Walk in the Woods, has now become a major film starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. Bryson's new book is The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island..
Bill Bryson was born in the American Mid-West, and is now living back in the UK. A former Chancellor of Durham University, he was President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England for five years, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.