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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir

by

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir Cover

ISBN13: 9780767919364
ISBN10: 076791936x
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Staff Pick

Bill Bryson has tackled the Appalachian Trail, troublesome words, Captain James Cook, and repatriation. After the entertaining (and just slightly ambitious) Short History of Nearly Everything, he turns the spotlight back on himself. "This is a book about not very much," Bryson assures readers. It's "about being small and getting larger slowly." Right: it's about life. And as you'd expect, hardly a page goes by without serving up a laugh or one of the author's trademark, go-tell-somebody details. Fans will not be disappointed, and plenty more just might jump on the bandwagon for the ride.
Recommended by Dave, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"Bill Bryson is such a funny and evocative writer that he can transform the least promising material into something memorably hilarious....Bryson's sardonic wit and absurdist sense of fun fuel every 'uneventful' page, bringing to life a schizophrenic decade of wild optimism mixed with rampant fear." Chuck Leddy, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language, a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the 1950s.

Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century — 1951 — in the middle of the United States — Des Moines, Iowa — in the middle of the largest generation in American history — the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons) — in his head — as "The Thunderbolt Kid."

Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality — a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and of his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. The many readers of Bill Bryson's earlier classic, A Walk in the Woods, will greet the reappearance in these pages of the immortal Stephen Katz, seen hijacking literally boxcar loads of beer. He is joined in the Bryson gallery of immortal characters by the demonically clever Willoughby brothers, who apply their scientific skills and can-do attitude to gleefully destructive ends.

Warm and laugh-out-loud funny, and full of his inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is as wondrous a book as Bill Bryson has ever written. It will enchant anyone who has ever been young.

Review:

"Though billed as memoir, Bryson's follow-up to A Short History of Nearly Everything can only be considered one in the broadest sense. Sure, it's filled with Bryson's recollections of his Des Moines, Iowa, childhood. But it's also a clear foray into Jean Shepherd territory, where nostalgia for one's youth is suffused with comic hyperbole: 'All sneakers in the 1950s had over seven dozen lace holes,' we're told; though all the toys were crummy, it didn't matter because boys had plenty of fun throwing lit matches at each other; and mimeograph paper smelled wonderful. The titular Thunderbolt Kid is little more than a recurring gag, a self-image Bryson invokes to lash out at the 'morons' that plague every child's existence. At other times, he offers a glib pop history of the decade, which works fine when discussing teen culture or the Cold War but falls flat when trying to rope in the Civil Rights movement. And sometimes he just wants to reminisce about his favorite TV shows or the Dick and Jane books. The book is held together by sheer force of personality — but when you've got a personality as big as Bryson's, sometimes that's enough." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Bryson has produced a book so outlandishly and improbably entertaining, you begin to doubt its veracity....As a humorist, Bryson falls somewhere between the one-liner genius of Dave Barry and the narrative brilliance of David Sedaris." Jay Jennings, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"A charming, funny recounting of growing up in Des Moines during the sleepy 1950s.... A great, fun read, especially for Baby Boomers nostalgic for the good old days." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Bryson pokes fun at the place and the era, but he also makes fun of himself — and conveys his nostalgia and compassion for his hometown and childhood." Providence Journal

Review:

"This affectionate portrait wistfully recalls the bygone days of 'Burns and Allen' and downtown department stores but with a good-natured elbow poke to the ribs." Booklist

Review:

"Students of the decade's popular culture will marvel at the insular innocence described, even as the world moved toward nuclear weapons and civil unrest." School Library Journal

Review:

"Bill Bryson's laugh-out-loud pilgrimage through his Fifties childhood in heartland America is a national treasure. It's full of insights, wit, and wicked adolescent fantasies." Tom Brokaw

Synopsis:

From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language comes a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the middle of the United States in the middle of the last century.

About the Author

Bill Bryson's bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and A Short of History of Nearly Everything, which earned him the 2004 Aventis Prize. Bryson lives in England with his wife and children.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 10 comments:

Tara Adams, August 26, 2012 (view all comments by Tara Adams)
I have read reviews from the twenty-something crowd who complains about "not getting it". Perhaps, they have something to complain about. However, at the time of this review I am twenty eight years old and I thought this book was drop dead, couldn't stop laughing out loud funny. Granted, I was raised by my grandparents and I am also a history teacher, so between these two things I felt I was perhaps a little more prepared for the book than some. My husband is twenty-six-years old and was also raised by "older-than-most" parents, so he too picked up on references that maybe some our age wouldn't.

I got this book on audio and the author narrates his own craft. His dry voice and matter-of-fact tone only makes this more hilarious. My husband and I listened to this on the road while on vacation. I had to pull over and make my husband drive because it was not safe to laugh that hard and drive at the same time. Really. Truly. Not kidding. I was glad we were in an enclosed car, because my husband was guffawing so hard that it would have been embarrassing had the general public witnessed it. Being raised the way we were, we are normally a quiet and serious couple. The best you could usually get out of us is a small smirk or a surprise giggle.

As well as the comedic value...this book provides a very good glimpse at the 50's that could only be seen through someone who has lived through it. So, if you are a twenty-something-year old...don't write this book off. Look up the things that this guy is talking about, because this time period is really quite amazing. Consider this book historical education as well as a good laugh.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Tara Adams, August 26, 2012 (view all comments by Tara Adams)
I have read reviews from the twenty-something crowd who complains about "not getting it". Perhaps, they have something to complain about. However, at the time of this review I am twenty eight years old and I thought this book was drop dead, couldn't stop laughing out loud funny. Granted, I was raised by my grandparents and I am also a history teacher, so between these two things I felt I was perhaps a little more prepared for the book than some. My husband is twenty-six-years old and was also raised by "older-than-most" parents, so he too picked up on references that maybe some our age wouldn't.

I got this book on audio and the author narrates his own craft. His dry voice and matter-of-fact tone only makes this more hilarious. My husband and I listened to this on the road while on vacation. I had to pull over and make my husband drive because it was not safe to laugh that hard and drive at the same time. Really. Truly. Not kidding. I was glad we were in an enclosed car, because my husband was guffawing so hard that it would have been embarrassing had the general public witnessed it. Being raised the way we were, we are normally a quiet and serious couple. The best you could usually get out of us is a small smirk or a surprise giggle.

As well as the comedic value...this book provides a very good glimpse at the 50's that could only be seen through someone who has lived through it. So, if you are a twenty-something-year old...don't write this book off. Look up the things that this guy is talking about, because this time period is really quite amazing. Consider this book historical education as well as a good laugh.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
smiley reader, August 5, 2012 (view all comments by smiley reader)
Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors and this book is one of the reasons. Born the same year I was, and growing up in the Midwest (he in Iowa, I in Indiana), Mr. Bryson hits a chord of recognition that brought my childhood back to me. Along with his understated, humorous style, his story makes me want to read it again and again.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 10 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780767919364
Author:
Bryson, Bill
Publisher:
Broadway Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
United states
Subject:
Regional Subjects - Midwest
Subject:
Childhood Memoir
Subject:
Bryson, Bill
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Travel writers - United States
Subject:
Biography-Literary
Copyright:
Publication Date:
October 2006
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
9.38x6.40x1.02 in. 1.17 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » Anthologies
Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Biography » Literary
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Americana » General

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Broadway Books - English 9780767919364 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Bill Bryson has tackled the Appalachian Trail, troublesome words, Captain James Cook, and repatriation. After the entertaining (and just slightly ambitious) Short History of Nearly Everything, he turns the spotlight back on himself. "This is a book about not very much," Bryson assures readers. It's "about being small and getting larger slowly." Right: it's about life. And as you'd expect, hardly a page goes by without serving up a laugh or one of the author's trademark, go-tell-somebody details. Fans will not be disappointed, and plenty more just might jump on the bandwagon for the ride.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Though billed as memoir, Bryson's follow-up to A Short History of Nearly Everything can only be considered one in the broadest sense. Sure, it's filled with Bryson's recollections of his Des Moines, Iowa, childhood. But it's also a clear foray into Jean Shepherd territory, where nostalgia for one's youth is suffused with comic hyperbole: 'All sneakers in the 1950s had over seven dozen lace holes,' we're told; though all the toys were crummy, it didn't matter because boys had plenty of fun throwing lit matches at each other; and mimeograph paper smelled wonderful. The titular Thunderbolt Kid is little more than a recurring gag, a self-image Bryson invokes to lash out at the 'morons' that plague every child's existence. At other times, he offers a glib pop history of the decade, which works fine when discussing teen culture or the Cold War but falls flat when trying to rope in the Civil Rights movement. And sometimes he just wants to reminisce about his favorite TV shows or the Dick and Jane books. The book is held together by sheer force of personality — but when you've got a personality as big as Bryson's, sometimes that's enough." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Bill Bryson is such a funny and evocative writer that he can transform the least promising material into something memorably hilarious....Bryson's sardonic wit and absurdist sense of fun fuel every 'uneventful' page, bringing to life a schizophrenic decade of wild optimism mixed with rampant fear." (read the entire CSM review)
"Review" by , "Bryson has produced a book so outlandishly and improbably entertaining, you begin to doubt its veracity....As a humorist, Bryson falls somewhere between the one-liner genius of Dave Barry and the narrative brilliance of David Sedaris."
"Review" by , "A charming, funny recounting of growing up in Des Moines during the sleepy 1950s.... A great, fun read, especially for Baby Boomers nostalgic for the good old days."
"Review" by , "Bryson pokes fun at the place and the era, but he also makes fun of himself — and conveys his nostalgia and compassion for his hometown and childhood."
"Review" by , "This affectionate portrait wistfully recalls the bygone days of 'Burns and Allen' and downtown department stores but with a good-natured elbow poke to the ribs."
"Review" by , "Students of the decade's popular culture will marvel at the insular innocence described, even as the world moved toward nuclear weapons and civil unrest."
"Review" by , "Bill Bryson's laugh-out-loud pilgrimage through his Fifties childhood in heartland America is a national treasure. It's full of insights, wit, and wicked adolescent fantasies."
"Synopsis" by , From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language comes a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the middle of the United States in the middle of the last century.
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