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76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epically funny and thoroughly enjoyable
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...
Published on 28 Aug. 2006 by Michael O'Neill

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg of a book
Thunderbolt Kid is largely typical Bryson writing but the actual book production is a terrible example of British book planning, design and execution. Pictures without captions: they are hidden away as an appendix at the back of the book, family pictures devoid of any caption other than an all-embracing 'Photos from the Bryson family collection' so that one has to...
Published on 2 Dec. 2009 by Tankman


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5.0 out of 5 stars One of his best, 18 Feb. 2013
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T. Wagg (Wales UK) - See all my reviews
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Reminds me of my 'growing pains'
I love Bryson, so I am biased, but I would urge anyone to read this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read, 23 Mar. 2014
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Had me laughing and gave me a good insight to the America Bill grew up in. Worth taking on holiday.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Bryson and (possibly) a less complicated era?, 19 Jan. 2007
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Richard K. Fullbrook (Bedfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid (Hardcover)
Just finished this latest from Bill Bryson, what a delight. Have always favoured his travel writing over other outings but this just struck a chord and I became a bane to my wife whilst reading it, frequently lapsing into long wheezing moments whilst trying to contain the laughter that simply hits you many times. I defy anyone not to chuckle, let alone laugh-out-loud, at passages concerning the Riverview amusement park and the end-of-term confetti bomb. Wonderful recollections of what appears to have been a happy childhood in an altogether simpler world, albeit one that was becoming less so even as Bill grew up.

A really enjoyable read, with much poignancy at the end.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Brief History of Bill Bryson, 26 Jun. 2007
I've read most of Bill Bryson's other titles - even the slightly dull ones on language - and felt he was outstaying his welcome to a degree with the travel stuff. So A Short History of Nearly Everything was very welcome and refreshing. Sadly his memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid seemed to me a return to what he does ... not best, but most.

It's subtitled Travels Through My Childhood and flits between memories of Bryson as a boy and a whistle-stop account of American life in the 1950s. The latter sections I found far superior, with Bryson bringing his light and accessible - and probably simplistic, for all I know - touch to themes of racism, Commie fever and H-bomb madness. It's been done before but Bryson does make it very readable.

"Writers working on [TV] shows sponsored by Camel cigarettes were forbidden to show villains smoking cigarettes, to make any mention in any context of fires or arson or anything bad to do with smoke and flames, or to have anyone cough for any reason. When a competitor on the game show Do You Trust Your Wife? replied that his wife's astrological sign was Cancer ... `the tobacco company sponsoring the show ordered it to be refilmed and the wife's sign changed to Aries.' Even more memorably, for a broadcast of Judgment at Nuremberg on a series called Playhouse 90, the sponsor, the American Gas Association, managed to have all references to gas ovens and the gassing of Jews removed from the script."

The autobiographical stuff, by comparison, I found it hard to warm to. On the one hand, there are odd continuity problems, like Bryson claiming on page 239 that "I didn't like what was on TV very much" and then on page 254 listing twenty-one TV shows he particularly loved, "but really I would watch anything." There's also the notion of who the book is written for: there are UK-only references such as being told to be "proud" that one baseball player came from Glasgow, but then there is a page where he goes into detail about well-remembered toys like Slinky, Mr Potatohead and hula hoops, while giving no explanation of American phenomena like mimeograph paper and rutabaga.

But I think mostly I've just tired a little of Bryson's mock-wide-eyed, avuncular tone. Part of this is his tendency to conclude any anecdote he can't end properly with "I just love that sort of thing" or "I think life is rather splendid like that." His other way of jazzing up stories is to exaggerate wildly or pin an obvious bit of silly invention to the end of a tale, which tends to give the impression that he himself doesn't quite trust the material to stand up on its own. To be fair, he does warn us twice: "What follows isn't terribly eventful, I'm afraid" ... "This is a book about not very much." The exaggerations and inventions (one successful one, because unexpected, is the first appearance of the Thunderbolt Kid) sit oddly with the prim insistence on the copyright page of my edition that other than to "protect the privacy of others ... the author has stated to the publishers that the content of this book is true." Perhaps he doesn't want to be accused of doing a James Frey.

(Speaking of James Frey, I was rather alarmed to see that Bryson presents a string of antics by his friend `Stephen Katz' for our entertainment - I gather he also featured prominently in A Walk in the Woods - mostly involving how much alcohol he consumed as a under-age teenager. Only in the closing Where-Are-They-Now chapter does he reveal that this was the first stage in long-term adult alcoholism for Katz, who has only been dry for three years of his adult life. Hilarious!)

Having said all that, it did make me laugh out loud sometimes, and it's an effortless read. One predictable bugbear was the ridiculous wide spacing of the type - 28 lines on a page - and the appending of the first chapter of one of Bryson's other books, presumably so the paperback could wind up a fat 420 pages as opposed to the positively anorexic 320 pages of the hardback. The reason I hate this practice is because it makes books thicker and so you can't get as many of them on your shelves. The upside is that as The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid isn't a keeper, that doesn't really matter anyway.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 15 July 2014
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Very interesting insight to growing up in 50s America.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long live Thunder-Vision., 3 Feb. 2007
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Rd Smalley (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid (Hardcover)
As good a page-turner as you would hope for with a Bryson book... I chuckled, empathised and winced, especially with the cottage cheese anecdote and the sleepover at the prattish Milton Milton's home. The end of chapter ditties regarding the Thunderbolt Kid's destructive superpowers always put a huge smile on my face.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 Feb. 2015
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Great book and absolutely hilarious in many places..
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18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, 15 Sept. 2006
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Kindle Customer (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid (Hardcover)
I was eager to read another of Bryson's books but was very disappointed. When telling his personal experiences of family and friends there are the laugh-outloud quips that you anticipate. However, the bulk of historical/statistical information about the '50's filtered throughout the book affected him not at all - he was born in 1951. It has all been written before - he obviously has drawn the information from the books listed in his bibliography! It almost seems that he wrote the book because he had to publish another volume. I found it very disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read., 1 Mar. 2015
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Beautifully written well observed book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 Nov. 2014
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Great book, full of wit and humour.
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The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid
The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (Hardcover - 1 Sept. 2006)
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