December 02, 2002 12:00 PM

by Tom Brokaw

As a cocky, chatty teenager growing up in Yankton, S.Dak., “Tommy” Brokaw hung out at a joint called Bud’s Snooker. The smoke-infested pool hall not only “provided lasting lessons in human nature and gambling,” the NBC News anchor writes in his new memoir, but also granted the young man a certain gastrointestinal enlightenment: “The bar served ten-cent glasses of beer (sometimes mixed with tomato juice), cold Polish sausages, and hardboiled eggs—a wicked prescription for nuclear flatulence.”

The book is a sweet and often very funny love letter to the peculiar people and places that enriched a “Tom Sawyer boyhood.” Brokaw, finally giving a rest to his windy Greatest Generation series, has a knack for delivering quirky observations on small-town life. When the newsman isn’t detailing his courtship of wary high school pal (and future Miss South Dakota) Meredith Auld, he’s sketching the triumphant tale of his gutsy forebears, who managed to turn a stretch of South Dakota prairie into a place called home. (Random House, $24.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Tom’s terrific

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