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Bill Bryson Author PhotoIowa native Bill Bryson grew up fantasizing himself as a superhero. He ran around his house and his Des Moines neighborhood wearing an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel around his neck that served as his cape, vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons) as “The Thunderbolt Kid.” In his memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (2006), Bryson uses that persona to humorously recreate his family life and his native city in all their 1950s glory. He even writes about baseball road trips to Sioux City with his father, who was a sports writer for the Des Moines Register.

Bryson first traveled to Europe on a backpacking trip in the early 1970s and pretty much never left, until he and his family moved to the United States in 1995. Before returning to the States, Bill Bryson took a trip around Britain. This adventure inspired his much beloved work, Notes From a Small Island (1995).

I’m a Stranger Here Myself (1999) is filled with hysterical scenes of Bryson’s bewildering reunion with the land of his birth when his family moved to New Hampshire. This collection of essays is, at times, a bemused love letter to the homeland he returned to after twenty years away. “We moved back to the States for what was supposed to be five years; we’ve now stayed eight,” Bryson explained when his family returned to England in 2003.

In 2015, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (1998) became a major motion picture starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Emma Thompson. At the age of forty-four, in the company of his friend Stephen Katz, Bryson set off to hike the almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness. Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime’s ambition – not to die outdoors.

Bill Bryson’s recent bestsellers are on history – At Home: a Short History of Private Life (2010), and our One Book One Siouxland title, published in 2013, One Summer: America, 1927.

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