Title: Assassination Vacation
Author: Sarah Vowell
Release Date: January 31, 2006
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Print)/Simon & Schuster Audio (Audio)
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5
In this book, Sarah Vowell indulges her fascination with assassination by visiting sites of presidential assassinations. From Abraham Lincoln, to the lesser known assassinations of Presidents Garfield and McKinley, Vowell shares interesting tidbits and helps the reader learn something about American history.
I enjoyed Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates, but my one regret is that I didn’t listen to it on audio (something I am determined to go back and do at some point). I didn’t love it, but I feel like I would have if I had listened to Vowell narrate the story, rather than reading it in print. As a result, I knew I wanted to go back and listen to all of Vowell’s previous works on audio. I chose to start with Assassination Vacation.
I absolutely loved Assassination Vacation. I really enjoyed how much Vowell geeked out over presidential assassinations – it made me excited when she shared the information she learned. I find history fascinating, so it was great to find it presented in such an entertaining form, and to find someone who seems to enjoy it as much as (if not more than) I do. Her assassination pilgrimages are macabre, yet completely enthralling, and I relished in reading about her travels and found her commentary extremely entertaining.
Vowell starts with President Lincoln’s assassination, tying in the current events of the time, the studliness of John Wilkes Booth and the other conspirators, the gravitas of the Lincoln Memorial, the creepiness of Robert Todd Lincoln, whom Vowell nicknames “Jinxy McDeath” because of his proximity to all three presidential assassinations described in this book, and much more. She treats each of the presidents with this loving detail, and it’s clear how much she cares about each of their stories. I also appreciated that Vowell chose to highlight Garfield and McKinley, as these are the assassinations many Americans know very little about, and as a result, there is a lot to learn in this book.
Listening to Assassination Vacation was an amazing amount of fun. I absolutely loved the information I learned, and am eager to go back and read the book in print to see what I may have missed. The audio production is abridged (unfortunately), though it does run a respectable 7 1/2 hours. Sarah Vowell herself is the narrator, and though her unique voice does take some getting used to, it is perfect for the narrative. Her enthusiasm and love for the subject shines through in her voice, and I absolutely love how much she relished her own nerdiness. Additionally, her sense of humor is pitch perfect and she deadpans amazingly well.
Assassination Vacation was a wonderful read. Sarah Vowell is witty and smart, and her macabre sense of humor provides a lot of laughs during the course of this book. She does wear her politics on her sleeve, but she is never preachy about what she believes. I enjoyed this book so much that I immediately wanted to turn around and listen to it again, to pick up what I might have tuned out during the listen. I’ll definitely be reading it in print sometime soon, but in the meantime, I’m eager to listen to the rest of her books.