Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid

Book Review: The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid (A Memoir) by Bill Bryson

I'm kind of a sucker for people's stories about their growing up years. Bill Bryson is a gifted writer so I thought "Why not?" The book is an extremely funny reflection of Bryson's growing up in Des Moines, Iowa during the 1950s and early 1960s. For those who enjoyed Bryson's "A Walk In The Woods" and "Neither Here Nor There: Travels In Europe," Byrson fills in the back story on his famous friend Stephen Katz. More then just a memoir, the author describes and comments on American life in humorous detail. And the strange title? It comes from an imaginary alter-ego Bryson invented for himself in his childhood, who has the ability to "vaporise people." (Personally I had no such strange ideas myself although I did have serious plans on how I was going to take over the world and rule it benevolently. Luckily I dropped those plans shortly after having children - just not enough time.)

I laughed hard reading this book yet it is also filled with enough thoughtful commentary on the good things and bad things of American history to make it thought provoking as well. Bryson's genius is the artful way in which he blends words and ideas. He truly is a great writer and I'd say this is one of his better books. A little crude at times, this doesn't always come across well when he is speaking the thoughts of a 7 year old boy. Definitely an entertaining read and his story about accidentally sharing a drink with an old man made me laugh out loud and then snicker occasionally as I remembered the story for the next week. I give it 4 ninja stars out of 5.


Marc said...

It's hard to go wrong with Bryson. I've read every book he's published--in linguistics, travel, science, and history. I've loved every one of them, save two. And those two weren't bad books either, just below Bryson standards.

Mark said...

Wow, you do enjoy Bryson! Which books of his are the ones that you haven't loved? Just curious!

Marc said...

I was disappointed in his book on Shakespeare (here's my review from a couple of years ago). The other was his African diary, but that mostly because it was so short (42 pages). I realize all proceeds went to charity, but $19 for almost nothing was disappointing.

Having said that, they weren't bad books, per se, just not Bryson on top of his game.