Assassination Vacation

( 111 )

Overview

New York Times bestselling author of The Word 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.

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author of The Word 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.
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

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

  • ISBN-13: 9780743260046
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 183,371
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell is a contributing editor for public radio's This American Life and has written for Time, Esquire, GQ, Spin, Salon, McSweeneys, The Village Voice, and the Los Angeles Times. She is the author of Radio On, Take the Cannoli, and The Partly Cloudy Patriot. She lives in New York City.

Biography

Sarah Vowell has turned her gimlet eye -- and razor-sharp tongue -- toward everything from her father's homemade (and life-size) cannon and her obsession with the Godfather films, to the New Hampshire primary and her Cherokee ancestors' forced march on the Trail of Tears. Vowell is best known for her monologues and documentaries for public radio's This American Life. A contributing editor for the program since 1996, she has been a staple of TAL's popular live shows around the country, for which The New York Times has commended her "funny querulous voice and shrewd comic delivery." Thanks to her first book, Radio On: A Listener's Diary, Newsweek named her its "Rookie of the Year" for nonfiction in 1997, calling her "a cranky stylist with talent to burn." Reviewing her second book, the essay collection Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World, People magazine said, "Wise, witty and refreshingly warm-hearted, Vowell's essays on American history, pop culture and her own family reveal the bonds holding together a great, if occasionally weird, nation." Her third book, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, was a national bestseller and was recently released on audio CD, featuring the voices of Norman Lear, Paul Begala, and Conan O'Brien. Sarah Vowell's forthcoming book, titled Assassination Vacation and due to be published Spring 2005, is about tourism and presidential murder.

As a critic and reporter, Sarah Vowell has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines, including Esquire, GQ, Artforum, The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Spin, and McSweeney's. As a columnist, she has covered education for Time, American culture for the online magazine Salon.com, and pop music for San Francisco Weekly, for which she won a 1996 Music Journalism Award. She contributed the liner notes to the CD anthology Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants. Sarah Vowell is a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. Vowell was recently cast as the voice of the teenage daughter in The Incredibles director Brad Bird's forthcoming film about a family of superheroes from Pixar Animation Studios.

Sarah Vowell has performed her work at the Aspen Comedy Festival, Amsterdam's Crossing Borders Festival, and Seattle's Foolproof Festival. She has appeared on Late Show with David Letterman, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Nightline, and is a regular on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Author biography courtesy of the Steven Barclay Agency.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 27, 1969
    2. Place of Birth:
      Muskogee, Oklahoma
    1. Education:
      B.A., Montana State University, 1993; M.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1996

Read an Excerpt

Copyright © 2005 by Sarah Vowell

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 111 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(58)

4 Star

(32)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 111 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2007

    Funny, Fascinating, Fast Reading

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2009

    Read, but with caution

    A well researched book that is entertaining. However the author's far leftist political views pop constantly throughout every chapter thus making this book more of a vehicle for her agenda than a interesting and provocative read. I suggest this book, however be forewarned of the political nonsense that is interwoven in what is otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable book.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2006

    Best Book I've 'Heard' in Years

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2006

    Another hilarious selection from Sarah Vowell

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2005

    good stuff

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2010

    Great read!

    Fun, entertaining, educational, and very well written. Love books that make me laugh outloud!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    Sarah scores again

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2009

    I did not finish this book!

    We picked this book in our Book Club because it sounded like an interesting read. Her liberal politics and confusing writing style got in the way of, what could have been, a very interesting topic.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Learned a Lot!

    This is on my list of favorites. It is funny, and I learned so much. I have added some other books related to this one to my B&N wishlist. I never thought of Abe Lincoln as "interesting" however I do now.
    This book would have been uselful when I was in school, and American History was as fun as a trip to the dentist! I'm giving it to my daughter to use as a reference for school.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2006

    A Definite Must-Read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2006

    slightly morbid travel log and excellent history

    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

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2005

    Great book, even for the non-History expert

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2005

    Very good!

    This is a very good book -- plenty of actual history, with great wit and style to really make things interesting. I really enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2005

    A Read to Die For

    I highly recommend this book, as a former Thanatology student and American History buff I found this book very intersesting and extremely witty. (Although I disagree with Ms. Vowell's politics) Sarah concentrated on three Republican Presidential assassinations which has me a bit curious. You will definitely enjoy this book !

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    Garfield who?

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2005

    Not 'Cannoli,' but...

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2013

    Not for me

    could not get thru 30 pages

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  • Posted December 27, 2013

    Funny History

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Interesting, Informative & Amusing

    Good writer, interesting info. An easy read.

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