The Wordy Shipmates – Sarah Vowell

Title: The Wordy Shipmates
Author: Sarah Vowell
ISBN: 9781594489990
Pages: 272
Release Date: October 7, 2008
Publisher: Riverhead
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

The Wordy Shipmates is Sarah Vowell’s unique look at the Puritans, the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  She explores what it means to be a “Puritan” nation and what their history and culture means for the present-day United States with witty insights and her sharp sense of humor.

Review:

The Wordy Shipmates isn’t like any history book you’ve read before.  Instead of a dry, long-winded book about the history of the Puritans and their settling of Massachusetts, this is a funny and insightful look at a period in history which doesn’t get a lot of attention.  Vowell is clearly enthusiastic about the Puritans; she’s fascinated by them, and that emotion is passed along to the reader. 

Vowell uses the Puritans as a metaphor for today’s society.  She connects modern day society to the Puritans to help the reader see this impressive and often misunderstood group of people.  Additionally, she helps the reader understand more about what’s going on today through her discussion of the Puritans.  It’s clear that Sarah Vowell did a lot of research in order to write this book – there are a lot of facts within its pages, which she spruces up through pop-culture references.

Though The Wordy Shipmates is on one single topic, it’s best to treat each of the chapters as individual essays.  Vowell has a tendency to repeat herself, and that can get frustrating if you are reading the book cover to cover.  Additionally, each of the chapters is on a different period of Puritan history or culture, so it works much better as a group of essays with a common theme.

The most interesting part of The Wordy Shipmates is when Vowell addresses John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech.  She traces the numerous times the speech has been used in American history and details how it has been re-interpreted, so that the current meaning is different than the original.  It’s a very interesting discussion.

I enjoyed The Wordy Shipmates and will definitely be looking out for Sarah Vowell’s other books.  This was my first Sarah Vowell book, and I’ve heard that her other books are even funnier, so I can’t wait to pick them up!

Comments

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, but I’m not sure it’s for me.

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, but I’m not sure it’s for me.

  3. I’ve read quite a lot of nonfiction about early America and the colonization of the New World. I bet I’d love this.

  4. I’ve read quite a lot of nonfiction about early America and the colonization of the New World. I bet I’d love this.

  5. I’m a big fan of Sarah Vowell. Great review!

  6. I’m a big fan of Sarah Vowell. Great review!

  7. So glad to hear this! I’ve always loved the crazy Puritan writings (my favorite is the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon), and someone suggested Vowell’s audio books for my new drive time. Will have to check it out!

  8. So glad to hear this! I’ve always loved the crazy Puritan writings (my favorite is the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon), and someone suggested Vowell’s audio books for my new drive time. Will have to check it out!

  9. I’m from the Boston area so I’ve read almost every book on the subject by force or by pleasure but this one sounds like the most entertaining. :O)

  10. I’m from the Boston area so I’ve read almost every book on the subject by force or by pleasure but this one sounds like the most entertaining. :O)

  11. I read Vowell’s Assassination Vacation and really enjoyed it. But I couldn’t get into The Wordy Shipmates… for some reason it felt a too preachy to me. As if she was using it as a platform for her own, personal agenda.

    I like your suggestion that it should be read as a series of essays rather than a continuous narrative. It could be better to go back and take it in small bits. I’ll have to go back and give it another try.

  12. I read Vowell’s Assassination Vacation and really enjoyed it. But I couldn’t get into The Wordy Shipmates… for some reason it felt a too preachy to me. As if she was using it as a platform for her own, personal agenda.

    I like your suggestion that it should be read as a series of essays rather than a continuous narrative. It could be better to go back and take it in small bits. I’ll have to go back and give it another try.

  13. This sounds like one I would enjoy very much.

  14. This sounds like one I would enjoy very much.

  15. I gave this to my husband to read, and he was frustrated by the repetition. When it’s my turn to read it, I’ll look at each chapter as an individual essay (probably weave it in with other books I’m reading) … thanks for the tip.

  16. I gave this to my husband to read, and he was frustrated by the repetition. When it’s my turn to read it, I’ll look at each chapter as an individual essay (probably weave it in with other books I’m reading) … thanks for the tip.

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy:  I welcome comments and read each one I receive. If your comment needs a response, I will provide it in a timely manner, as I read every comment I receive. Please keep your comments civil and polite! I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude or inappropriate. Because of spam, I have to moderate comments on old posts. Please be patient - I will approve your comment quickly.

Before the tag in the Genesis footer: !-- Quantcast Tag -->