Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson was born in 1951 in Des Moines Iowa. He has written many best selling books, including A Walk In The Woods, I'm A Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, and, A Short History of Nearly Everything. When he was 21 he decided to drop out of college and backpack his way through Europe for four months. He later returned to Europe and ended up staying in England for most of his professional career. Bryson's books cover travel, the English language, and scientific and historic subjects. But Bryson's autobiographical memoir is not about his successful present day life. It is about growing up in the 1950s, in the rapidly changing town of Des Moines.

"My kid days were pretty good ones on the whole. My parents were patient and kind and approximately normal. They didn't chain me in the cellar. They didn't call me 'It'."
Although Bryson tells many funny and interesting stories about his childhood throughout the book, he still considers his upbringing to have been relatively normal. This passage also exemplifies the kind of humor Bryson brings into his book.

"I don't know how they managed it, but the people responsible for the 1950s made a world in which pretty much everything was good for you."
In a chapter of his book, Bryson describes the world' s ignorance on the health issues associated with drinking and smoking. It was also a time in which saftey precautions were rare, and seatbelts, helmets, and other protective devices were almost unheard of.
Pleasurable as it was to watch nuclear blasts and take on a warm glow of radioactivity, the real joy of the decade-- better than flattops, rocket mail, spray-on mayonnaise, and the atomic bomb combined-- was television.
In this excerpt, Bryson mentions many of the technological advancements of the 1950s. The most monumental advancement was the television, and in the rest of the chapter he explains how Americans started centering their lives around the TV.
"Back then most things in Des Moines in the 1950s were the best of their types."
Bryson describes some of the stores in Des Moines and how they were different in the 1950s. One of his examples is the "Kiddie Corral", a pit full of comic books that kids were allowed to play in. Another is the supermarket that had the underground conveyor belt that took bagged groceries to the parking lot for customers.
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"As the thunderbolt kid I read comic books the way doctors read The New England Journal of Medicine-- to stay abreast of developments in the field."
This passage from The Thunderbolt Kid portrays Bryson's childhood fantasy that he was a super-hero. This fantasy is a central theme for the book and often seemingly legitimate stories are concluded with Bryson zapping annoying people with his laser beam eyes.

"Of course much of the Des Moines I grew up in is no longer there. It was already changing by the time I reached adolescence."
By the time Bryson is nearly finished telling his tale, Des Moines is almost unrecognizable. His favorite stores and movie theaters are no longer there, and chain restaurants and hotels take their place.

Works Cited
Bryson, Bill. The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid. New York: Broadway Books, 2006. Print.
"Bill Bryson" Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. November 20.
"The Thunderbolt Kid" 17 November. Web.
"Bill Bryson" 17 November. Web.
"Bill Bryson on the Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid". 15 November.