The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

  • by Bill Bryson
  • Narrated by Bill Bryson
  • 7 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Shortlisted for Audible's Listen of the Year, 2006. Bill Bryson's hilarious memoir of growing up in middle America in the Fifties, complete, unabridged, and read by the author.
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 24 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.


What the Critics Say

"The way he tells it, to be a child in 1950s Middle America was very heaven... His own happy scrapes and triumphs (mostly scrapes) contain a good few laugh-out-loud moments, but with trademark modesty he conjures an entire era, ' the ancient lost world of the mid-20th-century.'" ( The Sunday Times, Audio book of the week)
"[Bryson's] rendering of what has been widely billed as an indulgent nostalgic revisiting of his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, brings out the extent to which it is much more subtle. Bryson's voice veers from childish enthusiasm for stripping off to inspect the orifices of five-year-old chums in the "kiddy corral" or nicking liquorice "nigger babies" from sweet shops to deadpan summaries of such news stories as picnics to watch the atomic bomb tests or rampant McCarthyism exerting its vendettas against Jewish intellectuals.
A child splitting account of teenage beer heists turns sombre in the final chapter, when we hear that the boy who took the rap for the group because his parents were too highminded and poor to get him off took 25 years to recover from drink and drugs problems induced by two years in the state penitentiary.
Laugh-aloud funny as little Bill is, this is a tart reminder that the never-had-it-so-good decade of the 1950s laid the ground for the ills of modern America." (Christina Hardyment, The Times)
"Considerable added value as it is read unabridged by its author, Bill Byson." ( The Times)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Stupid grin on my face

I've just spent several happy hours with a stupid grin on my face, not to mention laughing out loud (and I'm not the sort of person to laugh out loud), listening to this genuinely funny narration. Bill Bryson has a wonderful way with words - both the way he's written this and the way he's narrated it - and you don't have to be a child of the fifties to enjoy this story about childhood and 'why grown-ups are not to be trusted'. This is quite the best thing I've listened to so far in my 16 months of membership and I just didn't want it to end, so now I'm off to download some more Bryson titles...
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- chris

A nostalgic view of childhood

Bryson narrates his own novel like a much loved uncle retelling stories of his youth. The book covers his childhood during the 50's and 60's in rural America. It gives an insight into the hope that filled a nation and how this changed as pivotal moments in American history unravel. These are captured from a child's eye with great wonder. Part of the beauty of the book is it captures the human condition at childhood. There's also some great moments of humour that made me chuckle. I wouldn't normally read a biography, but found this an entertaining read.
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- Lee

Book Details

  • Release Date: 30-08-2006
  • Publisher: Audible Studios