I have now read 3 of Sarah Vowell’s 4 books. This one, The Wordy Shipmates, comes out tomorrow, and I’m excited for her event at Barnes and Noble on Wednesday.
I enjoyed The Wordy Shipmates. It’s well written, and the Puritans are a fascinating subject. One of the things that makes Sarah Vowell so great is that she writes about areas of US History that usually get overlooked in most people’s education. In school we often learn about the “first thanksgiving” and then basically jump forward to the Boston Tea Party and The Declaration of Independence. In high school, there’s sometimes a brief stop in Salem. The Wordy Shipmates dives into the interesting lives of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and its key figures.
I feel obliged to point out that this is not Sarah Vowell’s most entertaining book. I still enjoyed it, very much. But it’s her weightiest work so far, which I think is a good thing. You don’t have to have read her other books to appreciate this one. But if you’re looking for her sharp, witty humor that makes the pages fly by, it comes out more in her other books. There are splashes of it in The Wordy Shipmates, and it adds sparkle to the book. I guess what I’m basically trying to say is that this book is not as funny as her others, but it’s still a very interesting book that’s worth reading. I also think it may be her most important work, because of some of the uncomfortable parallels to our own culture.
I think the main reason I found this book a little hard to get through is that there are no chapters. It was the second book without chapters that I read in September, and they really bogged down my reading speed. I thrive on chapters – having a goal of how far to read before stopping and as a natural stopping point in the book.
Sarah Vowell will be on Letterman tonight, and The Daily Show tomorrow night.
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