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The Partly Cloudy Patriot

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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  26,778 ratings  ·  1,489 reviews
Sarah Vowell travels through the American past and, in doing so, investigates the dusty, bumpy roads of her own life. In this insightful and funny collection of personal stories Vowell—widely hailed for her inimitable stories on public radio's This American Life—ponders a number of curious questions: Why is she happiest when visiting the sites of bloody struggles like ...more
Paperback, 197 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Simon Schuster (first published August 27th 2002)
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Kim
Aug 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love Sarah Vowell. I can't say that enough. She re-affirms my belief that someone out there gets 'it'. That... it's not crazy to have these thoughts. (well, some of them, anyway). I'm not even sure that 're-affirms' is the word I'm looking for. I don't know... I'm just extremely grateful...

I'll admit that I”m not one to eagerly debate American politics, the economy or foreign policy, I'm just not articu-literary enough in that way. As you can see, I like to make up words and then people don't
...more
Ciara
May 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: racile demoratic partisans, the intellectually dishonest, apologists for the founders
Shelves: read-in-2009
straight up, i am really not a fan of sarah vowell's love affair with american exceptionalism & naked liberal partisanship. there were parts of this book that made me throw it down in disgust. like the piece about sarah & her nerdy politco internet buddies going to george w. bushe's first inauguration, to "witness" the fact that not every american just stood around & did nothing while the election was stolen, blah blah blah, yeah, standing on the mall & crying your eyes out sure ...more
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
Definitely reading more Sarah Vowell after this. And for as much as I cringed from time to time listening to her read (because it didn't sound very natural), I have to recommend the audio for the supporting cast of Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien, Seth Green, et al.
Mike
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
The title of this book derives from Thomas Paine's pamphlet The Crisis:
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
While the content of the book is by no means as heavy or serious as Mr. Paine's writing, this book was released during an interesting time in America's history. Namely the aftermath of 9/11 and
...more
Rebecca
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
(3.5) Essays on politics, culture and personal life from an unabashed U.S. history nerd. I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Assassination Vacation, and once again the material feels a little bit dated, but this is still valuable commentary on the nauseating surge of faux patriotism after 9/11 (the title piece), the suspicion of intelligence and passionate interests that ultimately explains Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 election (“The Nerd Voice,” the centerpiece of the book), ...more
simon
Sep 13, 2008 rated it liked it
ok. i almost gave this book 2 stars because it was cheesy in an NPR/This American Life/The Onion/Obama sort of way. its a book about patriotism and skepticism and being american and thinking about what that means. and really really liking america. i mean, with a conscious and all, but really liking them red white and blue things. so that's the part that made it difficult to swallow.

but sort of stuck in there are really moments of insight and good writing that warranted another perspective. her
...more
shellyindallas
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Aside from herself, Conan O'Brien, Seth Green, Stephen Colbert, and David Cross read on the audio version. That right there is enough to make the content not even matter. But it does. This is my introduction to Sarah Vowell and my favorite of her work.
I especially remember the story about Concord High School in New Hampshire inviting all the 2000 presidential candidates to speak. Half accepted, including Al Gore. This was 1999, the same year as Columbine, and the candidates were asked to speak
...more
Michelle
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Well, I have to admit I was partly cloudy as to what essentially this book was supposed to be about. Is it an exploration of a history nerd's civic pride? Her dabbles in Americana? Memoir? Random thoughts about cultural what-not? Social commentary on the state of government and politics in this country? Yes to all of the above! And this is why I remain fuzzy with regards to whether or not I truly enjoyed reading this book.

Sarah Vowell's novel of essays gets off to a great start with a piece
...more
Kristy Miller
I first read The Partly Cloudy Patriot about 10 or 11 years ago, during the W era. Since it was only about 5 years old at the time, it hadn't aged badly at all. Reading it now, in the Era of Trump, it all seems so tame and naive. Who knew that I would one day long for the willful befuddlement of George W. Bush? I love Sarah's writing, but this collection of essays isn't as strong as her books with a singular subject. Still a solid read.
John
Apr 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nerds
This book was very entertaining. I was surprised by some of the author's dead-on observations and ability to step back and examine her own zealotry.

A good example is her essay on the kerfuffle over Al Gore mentioning Love Canal while speaking at a high school. AG was misquoted and "discovered Love Canal" was added to the list of undeserved credits claimed by AG. The author was able to take a step back from her obvious boner for AG and reflect on the irrelevance of a misquote if the result
...more
Ben
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
2002 was a simpler time.

George W. Bush had just stolen the presidency, terrorists had attacked on American soil, and we were launching ourselves into an illegal war -- ah, those were the days.

The twelve years of endless combat, financial collapse, and increasing national division that have intervened now make that 2002 America, portrayed in this book, seem like a Normal Rockwell painting.

So, if you're interested in a trip down Memory Lane to those halcyon days when you felt freshly outraged and
...more
Melissa
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike some of Sarah Vowell's books, this one was a collection of essays, stories, and letters and not focused on just one historical area....that being said her huge amount of historical knowledge paired with her wry wit and humor was, as always, a joy for me to listen to, even if some of the stories were a bit dated (it was published in 2002) I still enjoyed laughs and heartbreak about the 2000 election FBAR, the new surge of Patriotism after 9/11, her letter to the outgoing POTUS about how to ...more
Katherine Addison
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21st-century
Collection of short pieces: essays and reviews on a variety of subjects, but as the title suggests, America--both the idea and the reality--remains central throughout. Vowell is sharp and funny and has a gift for seeing things from odd angles. She has a great essay, for instance, on Tom Cruise, "Tom Cruise Makes Me Nervous," where she says, "Tom Cruise is the most talented actor of all time at keeping his distance" (128) which I think is a beautiful summation.

Because her writing seems always to
...more
Maggie
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, especially history buffs
This was great both as a work of literature and as an audiobook. Sarah Vowell is funny, articulate, and wise; there's something to be said for writing so good that it makes you actually want to visit boring historical sites (Gettysburg and Salem, specifically). Part memoir and part history lesson, this was in every way fun to listen to. As an added bonus, Conan O'Brien performs as Lincoln, Stephen Colbert does Al Gore (brilliantly), and David Cross reads TR's lines.
I liked this book so much
...more
Anika
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
After reading the first essay in this compliation I wanted to like this book. I looked forward to more of the same genuine feeling and witty sentiment in which Sarah ensconces her experiences at Gettysburg, Salem, the 2000 inaguration, and the Carlsbad Caverns. Unfortunately these humorus and profound pieces are punctuated with seemingly irrelevant, meandering musings thematically tangental to the patriotic tone set by the title, the cover, and the opening piece. And while I understand the value ...more
Barbara
Hillarious. I have to read more of Vowell. Teaching future teachers how to teach social studies like I do can be serious business but Vowell will help me keep it all in perspective. She's outlandish, and sill, and just really funny. I am not sure how much sense this book would make for people outside of the US unless they are students of American culture and history. I especially love her take on Canadians, the nicest people on the planet. She manages to poke fun at them but in a very nice way. ...more
Margie
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: collections
This was my introduction to Sarah Vowell, and I now like her very much. I know, I'm a loser for not listening to NPR more frequently, but I can't pay attention to anything else when it's on (seriously - even wash dishes), so I don't.

She's funny and smart and insightful and definitely a patriot in a way that makes me proud to know that she's a fellow countryman (countrywoman?). A patriot in the "I love my country and am willing to stand up to the groupthink that leads us astray" mold. And also a
...more
Ashley
I absolutely ate this book up.

I love how much Sarah Vowell loves Abraham Lincoln, how she argues for the preservation of an underground lunchroom in the Carlsbad Caverns because at the end of the day we Americans are just "a bunch of fun-loving dopes," and how she thinks more people would have liked Al Gore if he had "nerd voice" down, which would possibly have involved Joss Whedon writing all his campaign speeches.

Plus, I have this nifty autographed first edition, so, you know. Suck it and
...more
Jill Kleis
May 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2015
Some parts were funny and interesting, some parts were rant-y and irritating, some parts were just boring. A mixed bag that averages out on the unlikeable side.
Elizabeth  Higginbotham
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sarah Vowell is amazing. She has a great sense of history and what it means at different historical moments. As she moved about the world, she thinks about what has happened in this place, what was made in this place, who made it, and so forth. While many people cannot contemplate history, she is a true force and can make others pay attention. Her reverence for Lincoln is a real tribute, but she also appreciates Al Gore, the nerd, and the complexities of other political figures. Reading about ...more
Ann
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Kind of a mixed bag of interesting things I didn’t know, boring facts I didn’t care about, and snark. Some snark was funny—as Sarah Vowell is—other times, it just seemed constant. I’m a fan of sarcasm. Too much back-to-back can be...I don’t know the right word ....irritating? I was reminded of the tv show show Two Broke Girls that I dislike for the same reason: snark overload.
I like her passion for history and her ability to parallel and compare historical mind-set to more contemporary issues
...more
Paul Pessolano
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
“The Partly Cloudy Patriot” by Sarah Vowell, published by Simon & Schuster.

Category – Politics Publication Date – 2002

Although this book is dated the material is still fresh and relevant. The category I picked for this book is Politics but I could just have picked Humor or History.

Sarah Vowell takes us on her personal journey through the political world as she grows up. It is hard to imagine but she was fascinated by government since she was a young girl.

Her journey goes from a Thanksgiving
...more
Dawn Fontaine
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sarah Vowell is almost the exact same age I am. I ready this book many years after it was initially published but I could very much relate to the topics since I was there at the same time she was. This book is so witty and funny yet I learned so much about my favorite topic: history. I enjoy Sarah on This American Life and look forward to reading more of her books.
Abby
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this essay collection and the laughs it provided. Sarah Vowell is a national treasure.
Judy
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sarah Vowell is a natural storyteller and her talent is immediately apparent in this collection of radio segments from NPRs "This American Life" and from magazine contributions. Vowell has a unique perspective which I totally embrace. She muses, for example, that while many people think of Abraham Lincoln as the American Jesus, she notices that he has a little Mayor Daley mixed into his DNA. Vowell doesn't hide her political beliefs, but she retains a sense of reality and balance. In discussing ...more
Jim
Jul 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a person who has never quite felt comfortable living in my own country (or anywhere else, really), I loved this collection of essays, in which Sarah Vowell examines the quirks of American society, the highs and lows of American history, and her own neurotic, barely-functional inner life. While she feels like American history is part of her DNA, she doesn't feel entirely comfortable, either.

As a fellow history geek, I loved the way Vowell engages with history. She's not so interested in the
...more
Dennis Fischman
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Sarah Vowell has a unique voice, and I'm not just talking about the high-pitched tone we hear when she reads her essays on NPR's This American Life. Her voice as a writer is distinctive. No one else I know can make Montana and Oklahoma seem like foreign countries and "American" seem exotic.

Most of the essays in this 2002 book are about America: the idea of America vs. its reality, and American history as she has read it and lived it. Her essays will infuriate simple-minded flag-wavers because
...more
Jason Lamb
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I want to believe that a Sarah Vowell still dwells in me, that I could be more childlike, more hopeful, more unabashed. I admire her perspective, though it feels naive at times, but I do hold that the world is a far better place with a few True Believers still telling the old stories and visiting National Parks with Purpose.

Some have criticized this collection of essays as meandering, and I suppose that is one way to read it. I had a different understanding. The space between the essays is
...more
Cormacjosh
Jun 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
The third of three books given to me as a Christmas gift in 2012.

This book consists of a collection of essays, Ms. Vowell's opinions filtered through Government schools, and an overbearing "I am NPR, therefore I am smarter than you." attitude.
I am sorry that I read these books at the time in my life that I did; I think if I had read them earlier when my opinion of NPR was better than it is today, I might have enjoyed them better. As it is, in all three cases Ms. Vowell just comes across as an
...more
Elizabeth
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jenny Benevento, Sonya Green, Shane Beers
Recommended to Elizabeth by: This American Life
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this one up from BookMooch after hearing one of the stories on This American Life last fall (or maybe earlier this year?). I can't ever decide if I find Sarah Vowell's voice charming or grating, so perhaps reading her prose was the best way to discover that I really, truly do love her.

One of the things I've always appreciated about some of my pen-friends is that the letters they write me could very well be a voice mail message because their way of writing is so true to the way they
...more
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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 ...more
“Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know.” 2405 likes
“Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know. For me, the spark that turns an acquaintance into a friend has usually been kindled by some shared enthusiasm . . . At fifteen, I couldn't say two words about the weather or how I was doing, but I could come up with a paragraph or two about the album Charlie Parker with Strings. In high school, I made the first real friends I ever had because one of them came up to me at lunch and started talking about the Cure.” 75 likes
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