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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: (Complete and Unabridged) (BBC Audio) [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Bill Bryson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Sep 2006 BBC Audio
This is Bill Bryson's hilarious memoir of growing up in middle America in the Fifties. Born in 1951 in the middle of the United States - Des Moines, Iowa - Bill Bryson is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for twenty-four carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generation, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around the house wearing a jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel round his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing evildoers (in his head) as The Thunderbolt Kid. Using his old fantasy life as a springboard, Bill Bryson recreates the life of his family in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality. In a period that saw the inexorable rise of television, the opening of Disneyland, the testing of the atomic bomb and the explosion of choice in everything from food to cars, Bill Bryson's days followed in reassuringly cosy succession, enlivened by modest triumphs and disasters. Warm and laugh-out-loud funny, "The Thunderbolt Kid" is full of Bill Bryson's inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, and this unabridged recording contains every single amusing anecdote and amazing fact. Nothing is left out, so you can enjoy the whole book in its entirety, read by Bill Bryson himself.

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 8 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd (4 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846071070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846071072
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 14.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 682,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years ,but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. 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 the decade in the UK.

Photography © Julian J

Product Description


"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) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Bill Bryson on his most personal journey yet: into his own childhood in America's Mid-West. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epically funny and thoroughly enjoyable 28 Aug 2006
I have read every Bill Bryson book ever penned. I have enjoyed every last one of them without exception, even the rubbish ones. I'm pleased to report however that his latest book is far from that. I enjoyed 'A Short History' but it was never anything I could quite read cover to cover continuously. Thunderbolt Kid is a return to the Bill we've come to know and love. Although I'm only eighteen and British myself and one would think that I would have no common frame of reference with which to appreciate an exploration of life in 1950s America, the fantastic thing about this book is that you don't need to have been born in the fifties or even in the states to enjoy it. I think the blurb puts it very eloquently when it says that all you need to have been is young once. That said, where it does get technical, Bill goes to some lengths to explain it in a way that allows those of us not of colonial extraction to continue to snort with laughter. Be warned, this is not a book to be read in public or while eating or drinking. As with each of Bill's books, it really is laugh-out-loud funny. Well done Bill, you've not lost it and you remain one of my favourite authors, even if you do insist on insulting my home town.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson on top form 5 Sep 2006
There is an inexplicable `something' about Bill Bryson books that make them feel like familiar old friends as soon as you start reading them, and `The Life & Times Thunderbolt Kid' continues this. In essence, the book chronicles Bryson's early years and the changing face of America during the 1950's. I was aware that a `memoir' style effort from Bryson could be a victim of simply retracing old ground, since his earlier travel books packed in so much of his life story, but it feels as fresh and new as ever.

Although the stories contained in the book are interesting in their own right, it seems that a certain emphasis has been placed on the comedy aspects, although this never feels like it is forced. Tales of the `toity jar', a Grandmother's public confusion over liquorice baby sweets and Bryson's one-of-a-kind father had me absolutely howling with laughter.

`The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid' is an appealing slice of Americana, and a timely reminder that the USA was once a pretty fascinating and charming place. Highly recommended.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson just gets better and better 31 Aug 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a superb book, full of warmth, wit and wonderful anecdotes from the author's life. As well as being excellent social commentary on middle class America Bill Bryson also includes a plethora of insights and statistics about his home country that are eye popping and give you pause. I could not commend this book to you highly enough - a brilliant amusing and thoroughly engaging read.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRYSON'S ON FIRE 8 Jun 2007
Bill Bryson is without question the funniest travel writer on this planet. His books about criss crossing the world and experiencing different cultures are hilarious, inspiring and even occasionally, touching. And droll. Very droll. Bryson is also perhaps our drollest author.

In this new book, however, he deals with his upbringing in the Central U.S. in Iowa. Bryson proves himself to be a renaissance man, writing about growing up and his strained relationship with his father. Everybody who's experienced this, which is many, can relate.

Bryson is at his FUNNIEST, WRYEST, and MOST TOUCHING in this book. It'll make you laugh and maybe even cry. If you're the sensitive sort.

This is one of three books in the past few months that made me laugh out loud. Repeatedly. The others are "Dave Barry's Money Secrets" a send up of investment books and Martha Bolton's "Maybe Life's Just Not That Into You" an EXTRAORDINARILY FUNNY spoof of self help books.

I hope Bryson writes more books centering on his youth. Although I cannot relate in the least to growing up in this place called Iowa (I always thought it was "Ioway") he's a marvelous writer and made me feel like I was born in Ioway. Er, Iowa.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something of a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 20 Feb 2007
Reading other customer reviews I think its possible that Bill Bryson is misinterpreted by some of our reviewers. Yes, some of his book is written by his research, yes some of his stories are exaggerated and some is fantasy. But tell me, which books of his aren't?

Bill Bryson is the master of the jovial, chuckling and mischeiveous sideways glance.

For me this was a great book on a couple of levels.

First, the warmth. America in the 50's is a really god backdrop. The theatres, the baseball, the apple pie, the early days of television and hilarious stories of missed female flesh in the treehouse.

Secondly though, its the really powerful and delicately done stories of America's dark side; the Anti-Communist obsession, racism, failings on the space race, nuclear testing, the exploitation of countries by Corporate America. He never laboured the points or tackled them in an obvious way.

This book could easily be bedtime reading for the Anti-American, Anti-Globalisation and Anti-Everything briggade.

Overall its a sad book. Fond recollections of an era gone by.

I feel the same myself.

Until he writes another book.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant from start to finish 29 Sep 2006
By Danny C
I have read all of Bryson's books and found this one as funny and interesting as all those that came before. In this book he has managed to capture in words those things that all of us felt at sometime during our childhood. Add into the mix a small dose of American history and you have a book that is both funny, insightful, and somewhat educational. I recommed this to all--it is vintage Bryson. Also, his old friend Katz makes an appearance. What can be better than that?!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Usual brilliant Bryson standard
Published 28 days ago by Martin Pegler
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very funny book as always.
Published 28 days ago by Mr. P. Freeman
5.0 out of 5 stars laugh out loud funny
'The Kid' hits the mark here. I laughed until tears came on several occasions. A warm friendly read, perfect for those I need of a re-visit to their childhood, regardless of if... Read more
Published 1 month ago by manxmort
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson writes like a dream
What can one say? Bill Bryson writes like a dream. Not allowed to read this in bed as I laughed so much made the bed shake. Buy it.
Published 1 month ago by selective reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great A++++++++++++++
Published 2 months ago by Charlie Stopford Sackville
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting insight to growing up in 50s America.
Published 3 months ago by HP DV9705ea
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
I love this book! It is a wonderful account of "Billy's" childhood, and very funny. I've already read it as a paperback a few years ago, and am thoroughly enjoying... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Marcy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by gibson
4.0 out of 5 stars not his best
I adore Bill Bryson but was a little disappointed in this book. I ordered it in spite of variable reviews because I am such a fan and it was the only one of his books I didnt... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Alexia Ballance
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual autobiography
An autobiography by Bill Bryson, rather tongue-in-cheek since he admits to having had a pretty ordinary childhood, on the whole. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sue
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