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Iowa History Daily: December 8 - Bill Bryson, Thunderbolt Kid

Iowa History Daily: On December 8, 1951, journalist and author Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines. A critically-acclaimed writer of a range of works, in 2006 Bryson recounted his Iowa childhood in the book “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: Travels Through my Childhood.”

Raised in Des Moines by Agnes Mary and Bill Bryson Sr., the younger Bill grew up surrounded by writing. Bill Sr., a native of Winfield, Iowa, spent his career primarily as a sportswriter for the Des Moines Register, working at the paper from 1937-1978. Going to school at Callanan Middle School and Des Moines Roosevelt, Bryson went on to attend Drake for two years before dropping out in 1972 to backpack through Europe, before ultimately returning to finish his degree in the late-1970s. 

Bryson’s travels led him to Britain, where he ultimately settled into a remarkable writing career. Well known for book’s including “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” “Notes from a Small Island,” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” Bryson’s unique style resulted in a slew of positive critical and popular appraisal. In 2003, British readers deemed “Notes from a Small Island” the book which best summed up British identity and the state of the nation.

His work “A Walk in the Woods” chronicles his trip with a childhood friend hiking the Appalachian Trail was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. In 2009 and 2016, Bryson returned to Iowa to collect honorary Doctorates from Drake and the University of Iowa, respectively. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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