October 25, 2011

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

I've mentioned before how much I love Bill Bryson. His books are erudite, interesting, and sometimes laugh out loud funny. A few years ago I read his memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a story of growing up in 1950s Des Moines, Iowa. A couple of days ago I spotted the audiobook version at the library; and since audiobooks are my new best friend (because I can "read" while housecleaning and cooking!), and this version was read by Bryson himself, I decided to give it a repeat.

I'm glad I did, because hearing it in his own words makes a good book even better. Bryson was born in Iowa in 1951, and his story is one of an idyllic childhood in a world where comic books reigned supreme, all mothers cooked mysterious casseroles, much of every day was spent outdoors playing, and every boy's ultimate goal was to see a girl naked. He details personal moments from his own childhood: becoming a superhero known as the Thunderbolt Kid, his Dad's tightwad notions, his mom's ineptitude in the kitchen, his brief career as a drivers' license counterfeiter; while also telling a larger story of the United States in that earlier era.

It's a delightful and nostalgic look back at an America that no longer exists. An America where everyone knew their neighbors, things like refrigerators were new and exciting, and strip malls didn't exist.

I'd recommend both the book and audiobook versions, and I think people who actually lived through the 1950s might enjoy this even more than I did. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is not a heavy read, but rather a light enjoyable memoir, something to be read while sipping a milkshake or listening to some oldies.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Possibly, as long as she's not offended by boys wanting to see neighborhood girls naked.

What's the best memoir you've read recently? 
Have you read other Bill Bryson books?


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