Audiobook Review: The Wordy Shipmates

by Kim on December 1, 2009 · 20 comments

wordy shipmatesTitle: The Wordy Shipmates
Author: Sarah Vowell
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Audiobook
Year: 2008
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★½☆

Summary: A bunch of important Puritans came to America in 1630 to start the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Things weren’t all fine and dandy, however. The Puritans of this colony didn’t get along very well with the previous colonists, the Puritans of the Plymouth colony. The differences at first seem small, but their fundamental disagreements threatened to pull them apart and can still be seen today.

Book Review: This book isn’t a hardcore and serious look at U.S. history. It’s more a pop history, but a pop history that’s full of smart and interesting ideas about how small historical differences were actually a much bigger deal than we think.

What I liked most about the book was that Vowell seems to have an affectionate amusement and admiration for the Puritans. While she knows they weren’t perfect, but she gives them credit for being innovative and interesting and not as one-sided as they tend to be viewed. Purtian values and norms are a huge part of the American culture, which I think Vowell effectively shows in the book.

Her analysis of literature, especially Puritan diaries and speechwriting, is fascinating. She does quite a few chapters on John Winthrop’s sermon “A Modell of Christian Charity,” the speech where we get the idea of being “a city upon a hill,” that made me think about those concepts in a whole different way. I don’t think there’s been a more entertaining look at Puritan writing and scholarship than this book, even if it’s pretty light overall.

Audio Review: If I hadn’t been very into the book, the audio might have turned me off a little bit. Basically, there were no chapter markers or “place in the book” indications in the entire audio. There was some random music, but nothing that clearly indicated when the book was switching chapters or topics. It was confusing! That said, I liked the book enough to keep listening, so I guess it couldn’t have been that bad.

Updated to Add: I forgot to mention that Sarah Vowell narrates the book herself. Her voice is a little, odd, I guess, but I didn’t find it annoying enough to stop listening to the book. She was on Jon Stewart in October talking about the book, so check out part of the interview to hear her take on her book and the Puritans.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Sarah Vowell
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Other Reviews: S. Krishna’s Books; Fyrefly’s Book Blog; Reader for Life; Muse Book Reviews; Necromancy Never Pays;

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!

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