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Exploring The Pleasures And Dangers Of Nostalgia With Bill Bryson's “The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid”

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

The 1950s were a heady time in the United States. With newfound prosperity, a television in every living room, an obsession with Atomic bombs and jello salads. This is the back drop for “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson.

In the book Bryson, gets in touch with his inner child and recreates the city of Des Moines, and culture he remembers from his youth by mixing anecdotes with historical information. Expert readers Jan Kaiser of Beaverdale Books, IPR's Ben Kieffer, and author Chuy Renteria discuss Bryson’s wit, style, his deep dive into nostalgia and the mythology it can perpetuate.


  • Jan Kaiser, former librarian, Beaverdale Books
  • Ben Kieffer, host of River to River, IPR
  • Chuy Renteria, author, "We Heard It When We Were Young," forthcoming from University of Iowa Press
Talk of Iowa Talk of Iowa Book ClubBooks & Reading
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa