Born in Iowa in 1951, young Bill Bryson grew up with a superhero fantasy life. He describes himself as running around his neighborhood with a thunderbolt on his shirt and a towel for a cape. Bryson describes it as a magical time to grow up: TV was the new technology and we didn’t yet know that cigarettes could kill us, although it was possible that the atomic bomb might. For Bryson it was a time of outrageous pranks with friends, aided and abetted by the benign neglect of quirky parents. That Bryson has never lost that childlike fantasy life, nor his fully developed sense of the outrageous, is clear to anyone who has read his many books. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is a delightful memoir that is a skillful blend of nostalgia and irreverence.
Young Dr. Beach Conger knows that he’s something of a mail order groom when he’s hired, sight unseen, to be the new doctor at a small hospital in rural Vermont. Conger has visions of himself as the kind and revered country doctor, even as he admits that arrogance is an essential trait for physicians. His patients, a motley crew held together by the bag balm and duct tape of the title, know that their task is to break Conger in. Conger’s tales are full of characters (most of them patients) who could only appear in a book by the doctor who coined the phrase, “Half a bubble off plumb…” That he’s as quirky as they are makes for hilarious, and heartwarming reading.
Did you ever wonder what would happen if a ragtag group of Libertarians and wannabes decided to take over a small New Hampshire town? And what if, at the same time, that town was overtaken by bears? Sounds unlikely, I know, but that’s exactly what happened in Grafton, NH only a few years ago. Journalist Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling, who was once a staff writer for the VALLEY NEWS, tells this stranger-than fiction story with a large dose of humor and a fair amount of sympathy for the bears.