Audiobook Review: Assassination Vacation

by Kim on December 10, 2009 · 8 comments

assassination vacationTitle: Assassination Vacation
Author: Sarah Vowell
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Journalism
Year: 2005
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Summary: Sarah Vowell loves death and she loves U.S. history, so writing a book about presidential assassinations seems almost inevitable. To tell the story, Vowell travels with friends and family to see various landmarks and locations connected to the first three presidents who were shot — Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Along the way, she also helps explain the political nuances surrounding this period in history and how those stories still impact us today.

Book Review: It’s hard not to compare this book to The Wordy Shipmates since I listened to them more closely together. Content-wise, I liked The Wordy Shipmates better, but that’s just because I find Puritan’s more interesting than presidential assassinations. I don’t want anyone to take that difference and think that this audiobook was bad though — I enjoyed this one too!

One of the big differences between the two is the way Vowell goes about telling the story. In The Wordy Shipmates she spends more time actually writing about the Purtians. In Assassination Vacation (that’s the first time I’ve typed “assassination” correctly on my first try, go me!), Vowell goes to visit landmarks associated with the three presidents, then uses those landmarks to tell about their presidencies and legacies. It’s usually interesting, but sometimes seems slightly forced.

However, this book was still enjoyable. Vowell has a lovely sarcastic sense of humor as well as, what I consider, a proper mix of amusement and appreciation for the subjects she’s writing about. The whole spirit of the book really worked for me, so I’m glad I “read” it.

Audio Review: The audio for this book was a lot better than The Wordy Shipmates. Less weird music and more clear chapter definitions (I think), which helped a listener out. Vowell’s voice is still the same, so if it bugged you before it’ll bug you know. But, she does bring in a lot of guest readers to voice different characters which gives it some variety. Overall, good audio.

Other Reviews: A Book A Week;

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy December 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

The book sounds interesting, but I find it bizarre that the author loves death.

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Kim December 13, 2009 at 11:41 am

Kathy: It’s a little odd, but sort of endearing — I guess I’m morbid like that :)

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Jenny December 11, 2009 at 7:27 am

I like her covers so much – that’s what drew me to The Wordy Shipmates actually. They are cute! (Though of course assassination isn’t cute.) I’m surprised she didn’t bother with Kennedy – maybe she felt the details of Kennedy’s assassination were pretty much public knowledge already?

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Kim December 13, 2009 at 11:43 am

Jenny: They are cute covers! I like The Wordy Shipmates cover a bit better than this one. I think you’re right about why she skipped Kennedy — there’s so much about him, it wouldn’t have been as interesting as exploring the stories of presidents we don’t know as much about (aside from Lincoln, which is pretty common knowledge too, I suppose).

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A Bookshelf Monstrosity December 11, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for this review- I’ve only recently discovered Vowell and haven’t read either Wordy Shipmates or Assassination Vacation yet, though both are on my to-read list.

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Kim December 13, 2009 at 11:43 am

A Bookshelf Monstrosity: I hope you like them when you get a chance to read them!

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tolmsted (BookSexy) December 13, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I really enjoyed Assassination Vacation, but have been avoiding the Wordy Shipmates. For some reason the latter seemed a bit more preachy when I read the reviews (or maybe it’s just the Puritans were a more preachy bunch in general?). I’d be curious to hear if you felt the same way.

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Kim December 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm

tolmsted: The Puritans are pretty preachy, it’s hard to avoid that. I have a place in my heart for them because they were so nutty, but also so influential on the ways we think today. I didn’t find The Wordy Shipmates preachy in the sense that Vowell thinks we should do what the Puritans did or that we have to accept her interpretations of their writing. But yeah, there’s a lot of Purtian sermons and quotes, so the book wouldn’t be enjoyable if you can’t stand those :)

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