Homer's Travels: Book: Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Book: Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation

I have also listened to her many times on NPR's This American Life (TAL). I have always found her stories funny and her delivery spot-on. After seeing her at the live TAL taping I decided to try one of her books and purchased "Assassination Vacation". The book is about Sarah Vowell's investigations, during vacations, of the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. I expected her book would have the same deadpan style that I'd heard, and loved, before and I was not disappointed. After reading this book, I have come to realize that Sarah Vowell's idea of a vacation destination is very strange, almost as strange as our roadtrips.

I really enjoyed this book which, considering the subject, was a surprise. I think if anyone else wrote this book I would have been bored to tears and most like I would not have read it in the first place. Vowell fills the pages with humor and anecdotes that maintain the reader's interest. I even found myself learning something about American history. Some of the anecdotes do stray a little from the main theme but they were in most cases funny so the meandering was excusable. I find my reaction to the side stories odd since similar side stories just irritated me while I read
Bill Bryson's "A Walk In The Woods".

The one thing missing from this book is Kennedy. Vowell stays away from our most recent, and controversial, presidential assassination. I would be interested in her point of view.

One thing to mention. There are parts in the book where Vowell lets her political views shine through. It turns out that I tend to agree with most of her views, especially her view of the current President, but I know some people who may be turned off by this. Even agreeing with her, I would have preferred that she had kept those political feeling to herself. This is only a minor criticism of a very engaging and fun read.

I enjoyed this book enough that I am planning to check out her other books sometime.

If you're interested in a second opinion on "Assassination Vacation", you can read the Godson's review at


  1. I loved "Assassination Vacation", as well as "The Partly Cloudy Patriot". Oddly her expressing her political views didn't really bug me as I didn't really think of the book as a straightforward work of non-fiction, but a blend of history and personal memoir.

    And, of course, who couldn't love her voice work in "The Incredibles"?

  2. GH: I wasn't against her political views but I know a few people who would be turned off by them.

    I liked "The Incredibles" too. I like listening to her on "This American Life" not only because of her humor but also for her voice.