Assassination Vacation
  • Assassination Vacation
  • Assassination Vacation

Assassination Vacation

4.1 120
by Sarah Vowell

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New York Times bestselling author of The Wordy Shipmates and contributor to NPR’s "This American Life" Sarah Vowell embarks on a road trip to sites of political violence, from Washington DC to Alaska, to better understand our nation’s ever-evolving political system and history.

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American

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New York Times bestselling author of The Wordy Shipmates and contributor to NPR’s "This American Life" Sarah Vowell embarks on a road trip to sites of political violence, from Washington DC to Alaska, to better understand our nation’s ever-evolving political system and history.

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other -- a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue -- it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and -- the author's favorite -- historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A learned, engagingly discursive, funny, sometimes even jolly ramble -- literally -- through the landscape of American presidential assassinations...Vowell makes an excellent traveling companion, what with her rare combination of erudition and cheek." -- Bruce Handy, The New York Times Book Review

"[Vowell's] gift is one of cosmic inclusion -- allowing the natural collision of intellect and personality, rigorous research, and generational quirks." -- Joan Anderman, The Boston Globe
Bestselling essayist and NPR contributor Sarah Vowell applies her charming, contrarian wit to an unlikely subject, as she leads us on a quirky tour of sites across the country associated with the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Along the way, she examines the landscape of American violence and unearths surprising connections between tourism and political murder.
Bruce Handy
Having made the commercially courageous decision to avoid the catnip that is the Kennedy name, Vowell restricts her gaze to America's first three presidential murders: those of Abraham Lincoln, Garfield and William McKinley. Mixing travelogue, history, personal essay and social criticism, she follows the loose formula perfected in two previous collections of magazine pieces and adapted versions of her appearances on public radio's ''This American Life,'' where she is a regular.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
Vowell visits assassination sites throughout the country to consider how political violence gets manipulated. With a 13-city tour including some of the stops along her way? Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Vowell has a perspective on American history that is definitely funny. She visits museums, historic sites, statues, libraries, anything remotely relevant to successful presidential assassins, and a few of those not so successful. This is an amusing way to learn history, but it is also an unusual look at the interconnectedness of things. Robert Todd Lincoln, "a.k.a. Jinxy McDeath," was present, or nearly so, at three assassinations-his father's, Garfield's, and McKinley's. To understand Garfield's assassin, the author spends time at the Oneida Colony in upstate New York, a religious commune that preached a combination of free love and the second coming, and connects it with Jonathan Edwards. She tracks the Lincoln conspirators through the process of plot and escape to hanging and imprisonment, even describing Dr. Mudd's enormous contribution when the plague hit the prison island of Dry Tortuga. Garfield's assassin was deeply involved in the redirection of the Republican Party after the Civil War, and McKinley's was an anarchist following, he thought, the tenets of Emma Goldman. There are family anecdotes and real scholarship in this quirky road trip. Teens will get an interesting view of one aspect of American history while picking up odd bits of information about a whole lot more. There is much to enjoy in this discursive yet somehow cohesive book.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

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Copyright © 2005 by Sarah Vowell

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Assassination Vacation 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 120 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books. It is a great story of history and the happen-chance meetings and situations that are woven into it. Many fascinating stories - especially enjoyable for those of us who enjoy trivia - written in a very lively, free-flowing style. Very enjoyable read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. If you are interested in presidential assassinations but don't feel like nodding off in between lines of dry, academic drivel...this is the book for you. It presents the facts in a well organized way with a little humor thrown in; I should emphasize 'a little humor' because some of the jokes just are not funny. However there is an O.C. reference which saved the day for me. I also took a walk around Chelsea and checked out some of the buildings and statues. It got me excited about leader-of-the-free-world death all over again.
historlila More than 1 year ago
So I do tend to identify with Sarah's polotics, but even beyond that...I'm obsessed with her. She is an amazing and witty writer. Reading one of her books is like having a little chat with a friend. In fact, sometimes I imagine the conversation I would have if I were at dinner with Sarah, David Sedaris, and Ira Glass. They love me; it's excellent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book on several levels: first, its content. I've always been interested in and have studied the Presidents, and the author did an amazing amount of research. Second, the writing itself: I'm crazy about how Ms. Vowell writes. It's wry and sly and just how I'd love to be able to write myself. And, a bonus with the audiobook is that it's read by the author herself. Her voice takes a few minutes to get used to, but once you do get used to it, you just can't imagine anyone else reading this book and doing it the proper justice. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sarah Vowell, famous for her unique '3rd grader' voice, is a history buff as well as a great writer. In 'Assassination Vacation' Sarah and sometimes her friends (she doesn't drive) travel along the country's famous and not-so-famous landmarks commemorating the assassination of 3 US Presidents. She goes every where from the Ford Theatre, to the Mudd House (now a museum) to the jail where they sent Dr. Mudd on a little island. This book is a hilarious, fast paced read sure to keep your attention!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun, entertaining, educational, and very well written. Love books that make me laugh outloud!
Malibu_Stacy More than 1 year ago
This was a great, quick read. There were a lot of laugh outloud moments and neat little factoids. I love how Sarah Vowell makes you feel like you're right there with her, along for the all the excitement in the discovery of our shared past.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that I could easily read more than once (and actually, I have). Like all of Sarah Vowell's other books, it is well written and engaging. If only all history books were this interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Can't put Assassination Vacation down! Sarah's prose takes the reader into her world of history and makes it come alive! Would be an excellent book for a teenager disinterested in History Book history. It might have been nice had she and the publisher included books for further reading and/or source notes. Otherwise its huge fun and you can learn lots too!! Such a bargan
Guest More than 1 year ago
The latest offering from Sarah Vowell fails to dissapoint. It is an amazing book, that is 100% history, but 100% of Sarah's unique writing and humor. I highly recommend it to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book -- plenty of actual history, with great wit and style to really make things interesting. I really enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I saw her interview on the Daily Show on Comedy Central, and I thought it interesting that there was a book written by such a young woman about the assassination of one very well-known president, Lincoln, and two less-known presidents, Garfield and McKinley. Her dedicated interest in the subject peaked mine...and I could relate to her eloquent nerdiness. The book is a great narrative that weaves in and out of modern and historical politics, and draws intriguing lines of coincidence and not-so-coincidental stories between each assassination. Being a reader who mostly enjoys fiction, this book was able to keep me entertained throughout - I even laughed out loud once or twice on the train during my morning commute. Her enthusiasm and fascination with these events made the book that much more fun for me to read because as I was following along on her pilgrimmage, I was taking notes on what I would do on mine when I go to visit my sister in DC this July. Good stuff!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even at her most disjointed, Sarah Vowell never ceases to make a reader laugh out loud or think. 'Assassination Vacation' is not the best thing she has ever written, not by a longshot, but this tour through some of our country's more unknown (and sometimes morbid) historical sites is a long, meandering wander through Ms. Vowell's psyche as well. It's worth the trip. Oh, and you'll never utter the phrase 'Seward Plaque,' without thinking of her and you will utter it, trust me.
Anonymous 18 days ago
The audio version is 5 stars as it has her delightful voice added to it. It does have really interesting information about political life in the 19th century. It also has a large amount of left of center commentary, but that's Ms. Vowell. One has to like that or learn to get by it to enjoy her work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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SecondRunReviews More than 1 year ago
Entertaining Look at History I had the opportunity to see Sarah Vowell in Cedar Rapids as a part of the Outloud! Author Series sponsored by the Metro Library Network. I was familiar with Ms. Vowell from her appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. After her reading and Q & A session with the attendees, I purchased two of her books, Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes. I decided to tackle Assassination Vacation first as I have had some weird fixation with both the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations since 10th grade. Ms. Vowell has a unique style of writing American History. For Assassination Vacation, she travels around the country visiting well-known and not so well-known locales connected with the assassinations of 3 early U.S. presidents, Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. She doesn’t just visit site connected to the presidents, but also those connected to the men that fired the gun. This approach provides a unique, somewhat well-rounded picture of the victim and perpetrator. I say “somewhat well-rounded” because Ms. Vowell is well-known for her commentary on current American politics which she deftly weaves into the narrative of the book. Some might say this taints the overall neutral perspective that some might be seeking in a non-fiction novel. Personally, history cannot be viewed in a vacuum and connecting historical events to current events, for me, brings old dusty stories back to life. Overall, I give Assassination Vacation a thumbs up. If you like your American History with a touch of well-known and obscure facts with a side of satire and sarcasm, then you should check it out.
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"HOW AM I AN IDIOT?!?" He twirled around, his bow drawn.
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vyne1 More than 1 year ago
Sarah Vowell has staked out a unique niche. She writes about subjects that would interest a historian but writes in the arch style of a Mencken-like satirist. Visiting the sites associated with the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley is loopy and obsessive idea, but she gets away with it, and her tidbit on Robert Todd Lincoln--- that he was in some way connected to each--- is a real historical coincidence, certainly more real and creepy than, for example, the number of letters in the names of Lincoln and Kennedy which some pseudo-conspiracy buffs seem to get off on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago