(pictured: audio CD version)
The Wordy Shipmates
By Sarah Vowell
paperback, 256 pages. Riverhead. $10.88
For those of us who love U.S. History, this is like getting extra cupcakes at a birthday party. If Sarah Vowell had been your teacher in school, she would have been the cool one. The one whose class you couldn't wait to get to because she was smart (and by smart I mean seriously intelligent) and funny and dorky/hip and you actually remembered what she was teaching because it didn't feel like history.
In The Wordy Shipmates, Vowell takes us through the colonization of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (which, in case you aren't familiar, is basically the beginning of the United States of America). By the end of the book the reader feels like John Winthrop, Roger Williams, and Anne Hutchinson are as familiar as people who live down the street. She mixes current day musings with links to our past and often shines a humorous light on some of the antiquated trends in our current society by explicitly revealing where they came from.
Note to reader, you must be interested in this topic already, or else, I fear you will not enjoy it as much as I did; laughing out loud to myself in the car and rolling up my windows at stoplights so people didn't think I was jarringly quirky (do you realize how weird our history sounds when it's blaring out one's windows?). While I would give this book four stars if every reader were interested in what I am, I have to take into account that this book is not only in a particular genre, but also of a certain political view, which is not even close to being neutral. That said, I can think of several of my right leaning friends who, even if they loved history, would not love Sarah Vowell. But for the rest of us, she is a sweet treat and I can't wait to read more of her work!
*** Per recommendation of the friend who introduced me to Vowell, I listened to this book instead of reading it (it is read by the author) and I can't emphasize enough how much that added to the experience. Vowell's unique voice and inflection are priceless.
Rating: Three Stars