The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Bill Bryson 2006
Read: 2023

My dad recommended this book to me – he may have even given me a copy of the book to read. It sat on my desk for a few years, but after I posted my summer reading blog post, he recommended it again. So I finally read it. Bill Bryson is author most famous for A Short History of Nearly Everything, one of my all time favorites. If you’ve read that, you know he’s a smart dude. But if you read this book, you wonder how that intelligence ever happened. It certainly wasn’t due to school!

Bryson tells the story of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, and calls it the greatest time ever to be alive. I feel pretty lucky in my one-decade-later childhood, but he may be right. But what I love about the book is that so many of his experiences of growing up in Des Moines were crazily similar to my childhood in Little Rock.

  • The crazy candies we ate
  • The magic of TV
  • Kids being left to play for hours unsupervised outdoors
  • Summer vacations, some boring, some spectacular
  • Nuclear war drills in held in schools
  • The wonders of electric football (maybe the worst game ever), along with the Slinky, Silly Putty, and other toys that ads convinced us to ask our parents for.
  • And memories you wish you could live through again. One of my favorite lines, after recounting visiting the Des Moines Register, where both of his parents worked, “I’d give anything – really almost anything at all – to pass through that gate and see all the guys in the Sports Department and beyond them my dear old mom at her desk typing away.” Isn’t that the way it is? You look at old photos and can’t believe how young you were, how young your parents were, and how young your kids were. It all goes so fast.

Writing it down in a book certainly makes it memorable, and I loved the journey. It’s very funny, informative, and for those of us raised as baby boomers, a wonderful trip pack in time.

You can purchase the book here.

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