Assassination Vacation
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Assassination Vacation

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  26,139 ratings  ·  2,674 reviews
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.

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Paperback, 258 pages
Published February 6th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kim
Aug 01, 2008 Kim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone... this means YOU
Recommended to Kim by: I stole it from one of you goodreader's lists
Okay, I’m totally going to ruin this book for you---major spoiler alert coming up, folks. pssst… All the Presidents mentioned in the book, DIE. I know, right? You’re saying ‘Aww, cheese and rice! Kim! What’s the point in reading this book then?'

Well, lemme tell you….

This book has been quite an educational journey for me. In both that, I’ve learned all this great stuff about the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, but also in that I’ve learned that people think I’m a freak.

I’ve been...more
Matt
A reminiscence: Years ago, I persuaded/forced my then-girlfriend to take a trip with me to the Little Big Horn battlefield near Hardin, Montana. It was at the Little Big Horn that Lt. Col. George Custer came to grief, forever making his name a synonym for "bad decision." It was quite a trek to make in a single weekend: Omaha to Montana. So we got to the battlefield after 20 straight hours of driving; slept outside the Ranger station waiting for it to open; then took in the battlefield, unwashed...more
Eric_W
This is a book my wife and I listened to as we drive to doctor appointments, visited children, etc., so it took us a while to get through it completely. That is not to denigrate the book, which is wonderfully entertaining and educational. Ben (GR) and I have exchanged emails recently about whether listening to an audiobook can be considered "reading." This is a case where I think the book is actually better listened to since it's read by the author who has such a gravely and droll way of reading...more
Kim
Oct 05, 2007 Kim rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs with an edge
Sarah Vowell has written a hilarious take on heritage tourism, visiting many of the sites related to our poor assassinated presidents. She manages to sneak in a lot of history alongside her wry, sly, sarcastic witticisms, as well as her biting commentary on our current administration, which was great fun to read. But she is also clearly very full of herself, and that gets in the way of the story. Several times in the book, she would stop the "action" to write something along the lines of, "I'm j...more
Bryan
I picked this book up as a recommendation from Strand in Manhattan. Not knowing what to expect, I was all at once pleasantly surprised and supremely disappointed. To me, the biggest thing that jumps out about this author's style is that she is the Chuck Klosterman of political history. The plot follows the author through road trips and vacations to various spots of historical significance and her stories are advanced through a combination of her interactions with the everyday people there and he...more
Jacob
William Dean Howells once described seeing the [casts of Lincoln's] hands at a party in a New York home. One partygoer in particular seemed drawn to them. He picked them up, held the hands in his own, and asked the host to whom they belonged. And when he heard that they were the hands of Abraham Lincoln, the man, Edwin Booth [brother of John Wilkes], silently placed them back upon the shelf.
(Assassination Vacation, p. 116)
Abraham Lincoln's son Robert Todd was present at three separate President...more
Shannon
Ugh! Sarah Vowell, you annoy the hell out of me, on This American Life and in this book. I always think, "that would be totally funny if that happened to me" but her writing is never sufficient enough to translate it to the page. She's just not a good storyteller--she wants to be David Sedaris but she can't seem to pull it off.

I also can't stand when people go on about how so-called nerdy they are when you know they secretly relish being weird and quirky.

I have a friend that confuses her with...more
Grace
Dec 05, 2007 Grace rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: U.S. history buffs!
Shelves: 2007
Sarah Vowell, will you marry me?

I liked The Partly Cloud Patriot, but I loved Assassination Vacation. Vowell's pilgrimage to sites associated with the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley struck so many cords with me it is hard to know where to begin. First, I learned a ton. I knew a lot of what she mentioned about the Lincoln assassination (though by no means all of it), but really, does anybody know much about Garfield or McKinley? I knew McKinley's assassin was somehow...more
Erin
Just a quick survey to pick your brains out there. This is in no way real or based on actual events.

Let's say that a good neighbor, friend and fellow book junkie lends you a paperback book. Let's say it is called... oh I don't know... Assassination Vacation. Suppose the book got very mild water damage on it, just enough to look like you read it on the sea shore of Bermuda. This was in fact no fault of your own, probably water splashed on it when you were washing black grease off of baby ducks wh...more
Lena
The only high school class I've ever fallen asleep in was American History. I've long suspected that this had a lot more to do with the quality of the teacher than the subject itself. My suspicions were confirmed by reading this book - if Sarah Vowell had been my teacher, I would have been WIDE awake.

Ms. Vowell is, to be sure, something of an unusual person. I don't know a lot of folks who have much of an interest the subject of presidential assassination, let alone in the assassinations of such...more
K.D. Absolutely
Published in 2005, Assassination Vacation is part-travelogue, part-history book and part-essay by Sarah Vowell, an American author, essayist, journalist and social commentator. I copied those descriptions from Wiki because they are very relevant and apparent in this book's overall feel. In the beginning of the story, Vowell says that she is afraid that someday when she is old and gray and her niece opens her photo album, she will see that all those pictures were taken from memorials, historical...more
Lisa Vegan
I love the author’s irreverence, wit, and humorous outlook. I find her hilarious when she’s speaking, such as when I’ve seen her on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. This book is funny, but her writing is not nearly as hilarious as she is when speaking. I think this book would be great as an audio book if read by the author. Even her voice and inflections are funny, and while I laugh out loud when listening to her, including when she talked about this book, reading this book elicited some smiles fro...more
Andrew
In every creative writing program, an insanely big deal is made of Voice—discovering a Voice, having a Voice, having a unique Voice, maintaining your unique Voice, I can’t follow the story but oh that Voice, yes it’s misogyny but what a Voice!

The concept of voice is another in the long list of writing program sillynesses (others: science fiction isn’t legitimate writing, it’s not O.K. to admit influence from well-known writers, and the word poignant means something). But there is no doubt that h...more
Dollie
This was a fine book! Sarah Vowell is a cross between Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Stewart and Wednesday Addams. Her knowledge AND love of her topic are clear. I started wondering if she would just make each stop on her bizarre journey a punch line but found something quite different: a fine discussion of events surrounding the people and places involved in the assassination of three presidents: Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. And did I learn stuff... Such rich information framed by her odd obsessi...more
Ryan Lawson
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Since Sarah Vowell is a regular radio personality on NPR, I had the good fortune of having her cute voice replace mine in my head as I read through this genuinely interesting and witty discourse of American history.

I am always captivated by history books that give away little unknown details of the past, and Sarah Vowell really excells in this arena. For example, did you know that the 1922 revealing of the Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C. was segregated? Also,...more
Nicholas Karpuk
Mar 17, 2009 Nicholas Karpuk rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Lovers, Vowell Lovers, You
It is difficult to defend against a single lunatic.

After Lincoln got shot, almost every presidential assassination attempt, successful or failed, was carried out by a loner with dubious motives.

The reasoning, at least to me, is that it's easier to form information leaks among a group, and a group draws more attention to itseld, it generates communication, and communication is always susceptible to interception.

I studied this idea on Wikipedia recently, mulling it over out of a weird fear durin...more
Chris
I first saw Sarah Vowell on The Daily Show and I was intrigued by her. This slight, dry, kind of sleepy-looking woman was not who you might expect when you run the words "presidential historian" through your mind (in my mind, "presidential historian" is usually an older man of leisure who's managed to be lucky enough to turn a passion into a job), but there she was. The fact that she was also really funny impressed me even further. And so, since I have a long-running fascination with presidentia...more
Jesse Keenan
Last summer Sarah Vowell and David Sedaris did a reading in my town (I did not attend as I'd seen him twice before and the tickets were three times as expensive) but a friend of mine alerted us to where they were dining after the reading. My friend Kaitlin had thrown a party for her boyfriend Josh that afternoon to celebrate the completion of his second masters degree -- so we had been drinking steadily since about 4pm. We made it to the restaurant around midnight with the hope that we would loo...more
Lucy
history never repeats:
"In 2003 and 2004, as I was traveling around in the footsteps of McKinley, thinking about his interventionist wars in Cuba and the Philippines, the United States started up an interventionist war in Iraq. It was to be a 'preemptive war' whose purpose was to disarm Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, weapons which, as I write this, have yet to be found, and which, like the nonexistent evidence of wrongdoing on the Maine, most likely never will be. At the outset of the war, Pr...more
Matt
Funny + learning = awesome.

Let's put it this way. I read most of this book during weekday work breaks, so it had to be light and airy enough to make it feel like my brain was resting. On the other hand, Vowell spends a lot of time writing about the likes of politics in the days of Presidents Garfield and Arthur, which is only riveting to the geekiest of the geeks. ("Just for fun, I decided to take a self-guided tour of Garfield's Washington D.C. ...") So I think I pay it high compliment in sayin...more
rachel
Like the three stars I gave to Looking for Alaska, this is another three stars that represents an averaging of passionate feelings in both directions, rather than the simple "it was good enough and I didn't mind reading it all" that three stars usually means in my head.

Let's start with the good passion. Sarah Vowell's enthusiasm for US history and in particular, presidential history, is really contagious. It doesn't matter that she is by nature the type of person who gets excited to see histori...more
Danny
So, this review comes after my 3rd attempt to get through this book. I LOVE This American Life, and I am a fan of most of the contributors to that show when I have split off to get their solo works. Furthermore, I keep getting drawn back into giving this book another shot because I run across references to Sarah Vowell in so many of the other books that I read. I just know that I must be missing something terribly delightful about her insight or approach?

But I believe I have given this book a fa...more
Christina Wilder
Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation is an informative and amusing book about the author's pilgrimage to sites related to the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. I myself am not a history expert, but this book described the relationships between the presidents and their wives and friends, as well as facts about the assassins themselves.

Through her sharp sense of humor, Vowell explains the odd circumstances after Lincoln's death involving his son Robert Todd Lincoln (she refers t...more
Mark Desrosiers
Nov 03, 2007 Mark Desrosiers rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Permanent residents, tourists, anti-imperialists, Robert Lincoln haters
Shelves: history
This was often a bit too NPR for my tastes, but the subject matter (obscure politicos and assassins) is dear to my heart. If you're a history nerd, you already know all this stuff, but you'll enjoy her enthusiasm and relentless stream of smirky asides. I especially loved her framing of James Garfield's assassination with the polyamorous Oneida community which barely tolerated Charles Guiteau's presence for five long years. (Guiteau is definitely the lamest assassin ever, not least because he sho...more
Gregory Baird
"Being part of history is rarely a good idea."

Man, I really wish I had crossed this one off of my to-read list sooner. You see, I enjoy history, but I have a hard time getting into nonfiction books. Most of them are bone dry and deadly dull, in my experience. Wading through the options to find a good one was always excruciating to me.

I always preferred taking a history class with an instructor who had a lot of personality. One of my high school history teachers got so into tales of medieval may...more
christa
One time someone told me in a really convincing and authoritative voice that as an English major, it is really bad form that I claimed no interest in history. “All literature is history,” or maybe “All history is literature,” this person said and I shrugged and imagined maps and capitols and dates that wars ended and began and bad guys, borders and good guys, red buttons and paperwork and blah blah blah. This has all sort of recently changed for me. I’m getting better at understanding the defini...more
K
This was my first encounter with Sarah Vowell, and it was interesting to read reviews from friends who felt Sarah is funnier heard than read. Since this was an audiobook read by Sarah, one could argue that I had the best of both worlds. But maybe Sarah is funnier off-the-cuff than she is in a planned delivery.

From listening to Sarah's voice and to her content (when I was able to stay tuned, which was unfortunately not as often as I would have liked), she sounded like a quirky person I would enjo...more
Margie
Apr 12, 2013 Margie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American history buffs, fans of Sarah Vowell
Shelves: nonfiction-other
If you enjoy Sarah Vowell's stream-of-consciousness, phobic, obsessive voice, you'll love this book.

Vowell is wacky, and I say that in the nicest way. She writes very honestly and openly, which I enjoy because she is so wacky - absolutely obsessed with the assassinated presidents, which kind of freaks her friends out. I loved reading about their reactions, and her inability to curb her enthusiasm.

But her enthusiasm is not just a wacky quirk. She's very well-informed. And that makes this book not...more
Nora
Jul 02, 2008 Nora rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: US History geeks/ Vowell fans
I did not finish this book. I suppose I could have, it was somewhat interesting and at times quite clever. However, its due date came up at the library and I could not renew it because there was a hold on it. If it were a more compelling read, i would have just suffered the late fees, after all, I did read the first two sections, and I rarely put down a book when I have invested my time in consuming 2/3 of it. Yet Vowell's tendency for convoluted sentences and incoherent messages or points made...more
Molly
It's OK to admit that I now have a crush on Sarah Vowell, right?

She has so much passion about history that I now want to devour all kinds of history books. History books on Presidents! What is happening to me!

(I'll just stick with another Sarah Vowell for now: next up, Wordy Shipmates!)

A few highlights that captured my interest:

"a Dark Ages peasant blistering his feet trudging to a church displaying the Virgin Mary’s dried-up breast milk"

"In 1869, Seward took a trip to Alaska to see what he had...more
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Kansas City Publi...: Assassination Vacation (Feb 2014) 3 19 Feb 25, 2014 06:59AM  
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Sarah Jane Vowell is an American author, journalist, humorist, and commentator. Often referred to as a "social observer," Vowell has authored several books and is a regular contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International. She was also the voice of Violet in the animated film The Incredibles and a short documentary, VOWELLET - An Essay by SARAH VOWELL in the "Behin...more
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“Like Lincoln, I would like to believe the ballot is stronger than the bullet. Then again, he said that before he got shot.” 57 likes
“Except for the people who were there that one day they discovered the polio vaccine, being part of history is rarely a good idea. History is one war after another with a bunch of murders and natural disasters in between.” 27 likes
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