If you’re looking for a great book recommendation, you could certainly do worse than Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates. Strike that, the book was amazing, who am I kidding? I guess I feel like kind of a book nerd admitting this, but Vowell makes history fun. Exciting. Hilarious! I know, I couldn’t believe it either. But there you have it.
Not that I’m a dunce or anything (well, yes and no). Anyone who follows along even passively knows what an avid reader I am. But this is not my usual genre. Who wants to read about pilgrims and founding fathers and Plymouth Rock and Anne Hutchinson? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz…. BO-RING! But it’s not. Not with Vowell, anyway.
She takes these trips and she writes about her adventures. She makes the old new, and makes fun of the new, and has such a clear love for the past that it becomes contagious. Her enthusiasm is intoxicating and catching. She clearly loves what she does and loves what she’s learning. And she’s super sarcastic. For those who love snide remarks and sarcasm, there may be no better example in contemporary writing.
I have a friend from Boston, and he’s proud to be Boston, and I don’t think I really got it until now. There is such a rich history in Massachusetts, how could you not be proud? Especially as an American. That’s kind of where it all started, the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Don’t just take my word for it. I was listening to this particular book in the car, which I really could not recommend more highly. If you haven’t listened to one of Vowell’s books on audio, you haven’t lived. She has a great voice, magnetic inflections, and a remarkably talented and famous collection of guest voices. It’s awesome! But I digress.
Anyway, I had it on in my car, and my 11-year-old son got in because I was taking him to Boy Scouts. The CD started playing, and I went to turn it off, but he stopped me. He had already heard something about John Winthrop and his “city upon a hill” speech, and that piqued his interest. He is studying this very same period in Social Studies, and he was hooked. We listened the whole way there and the whole way back. Every time we get in the car now, he asks to listen to “that Incredibles lady.” So it’s not just me who likes her voice. Who knew anyone could make learning about the Puritans exciting?
It was violent back then. Fanatical. Crazy. And Vowell loves every second of it. She made me (and my son) love it too. I liked it so much, I immediately started listening to Assassination Vacation. So far it’s the funniest of her books yet.
If you’ve never read or heard anything by Sarah Vowell, fix that. The time is now. She’s great! I don’t know if she’s quite ready for the dunce academy, but we’re more than ready for her. I’m reading her stuff as quickly as I can get my hands on it. If she ever makes it to the Kansas City area, I will be there. Don’t try and stop me!