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The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
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The Wordy Shipmates (2008)

by Sarah Vowell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
In this book, Sarah Vowell relays the history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This is not necessarily an area of history that I had any particular interest in learning more about, but Vowell writes history in a way that is incredibly compelling. For starters, she does a fabulous job of contextualizing this moment in history. She explains past events that help the reader to understand the motivations and backgrounds of the Puritan immigrants. Meanwhile, she also projects ahead to the present day to note what these early English settlers' contributions have wrought, whether for ill or for good. She really provides food for thought allowing the reader to see where things have changed - or not changed a great deal - from so many years ago.

A notable thing about Vowell's writing style is her humor, There's a fair amount of snarky or wisecracking asides sprinkled throughout her narrative that really makes the book enjoyable to read. She occasionally make references to personal experiences that tie into the book either geographically or thematically. (For example, she mentions a few times a trip to the Plymouth area that she takes with her sister and her nephew. She also references her family's Native American roots several times.) That all being said though, I never felt like Vowell was allowing the book to run amok in emotions or personal opinions, let alone that she was shoving a certain viewpoint down the reader's throat. She presented things clearly and with a great deal care in terms of providing multiple perspectives, having no qualms about painting portraits in gray scale rather than black and white villains and heroes. Vowell also makes abundant use of source documents, which I always appreciate in history books.

To sum up, I found this book to be a great example of how history should be done. The book is very readable; indeed, it could easily be finished in a matter of days. It is highly interesting, even if the topic isn't one that doesn't sound like something up your alley. I absolutely recommend it for those who are even mildly interesting in nonfiction books, especially ones dealing with historical events. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Nov 27, 2014 |
Sarah is a master of taking historical details (especially forgotten obscure ones) and relating them to modern world we live in. Her books should be required reading to all historical writers that history does not have to be dry and vapid. Wordy Shipmates is tackles the settlement of Massachusetts by the Puritans filled with enough snark to be a perfect coffee house read. My only quibble with this one is that there are times her cutesy vicissitudes on religion turn into vitriol leaving little room for other climates of the religious experience outside of the hypocritical, which is why it is downgraded to three stars.
Best quote: Protestantism's shedding away of authority inspires self reliance along with a dangerous disregard for expertise. So the impulse that leads to democracy can also be the downside of democracy, namely a suspicion of people that know what they are talking about. It's why in presidential elections the American people will elect a wise cracking, good ole boy who's fun in a malt shop instead of a serious thinker who know some of the pompous brainy stuff that might actually get fewer people laid off or killed.
in my opinion ..... No state resembles that remark than MS........ ( )
  revslick | Jul 1, 2014 |
Another funny yet illuminating history book by Sarah Vowell, this time focusing on the Puritans in New England after the pilgrims and before the Salem Witch Trials. I learned a lot, and she's a really entertaining author and reader. I really enjoy her deadpanning and her humor, and I'm glad I have Assassination Vacation on audio in the wings. ( )
  Tahleen | Feb 16, 2014 |
I'm not sure what to think of this one. It's a non-fiction book about one of the first Puritan separatist settlements in New England, mostly focusing on William Bradford, the semi-leader of the colony.

It's told with a witty narrative, sharp and easy to understand. It's made for a modern audience, but my question is, who in this modern audience would be interested in this subject matter? It pretty much goes through the history of the colony, focusing on the why and who. It begins with the departure from England and ends with the death of Bradford. There's no real thesis or point to prove, so I'm wondering why try and make a narrative out of this? The story just isn't that compelling. ( )
  theWallflower | Jan 14, 2014 |
Lots of fun. Glad I read it in Massachusetts. ( )
  gospodyina | Jan 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
Maybe there's something to be said for learning about the pilgrims, after all—especially from an instructor as entertaining as Vowell.
added by sduff222 | editBitch Magazine, Kelsey Wallace (Mar 28, 2011)
 
As always with Vowell, her commentary is apt and frequently, startlingly
insightful. I would suggest that this book might well be used as
a sort of introductory text to the ideas of the Puritans particularly for
undergraduates. Because she engages so cleverly with popular culture,
it may help provide a successful approach to the dense and highly
intellectualized writing of this group of Puritans. For the nonspecialist
in this period, the book could serve as a reminder of what continues to
be so fascinating about the ideas of the New England Puritans of the
seventeenth century and the impact their thought continues to have in
popular discourse.
added by sduff222 | editReviews in Religion and Theology, Mary Coleman (Sep 1, 2009)
 
Sarah Vowell is a problem. She’s a problem like Sarah Palin, Cyndi Lauper and Kathy Griffin. She’s annoying. Or, really, she’s double-annoying, because she styles herself as annoying — provocative-annoying — and if you become annoyed by her you seem to be conceding the point. She’s gotten to you.

Take “The Wordy Shipmates,” her fifth book. Vowell has integrated her sarcasm, flat indie-girl affect and kitsch worship — refined in print and on public radio — into a pop history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Known for her adenoid-helium voice, Vowell is a genial talker but an undisciplined writer. This new book mixes jiggers of various weak liquors — paraphrase, topical one-liners, blogger tics — and ends up tasting kind of festive but bad, like Long Island iced tea.
 
Drawing on letters, essays, and sermons, Vowell offers a penetrating look at the tensions between John Winthrop, John Cotton, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and others as they argued about the role of religion in government and everyday life. They saw themselves as God's chosen people, a credo that set the tone for American history and notions of manifest destiny that have led to all manner of imposition on other lands and cultures. But they also vehemently debated separation of church and state and founded Harvard, even as they pondered the destiny of what Winthrop referred to as the "shining city on the hill "A book dense with detail, insight, and humor.
added by sduff222 | editBooklist, Vanessa Bush (Oct 1, 2008)
 
At times dense, at times silly, at times surpassingly wise.
added by sduff222 | editKirkus Reviews (Aug 1, 2008)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Vowellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dzama, MarcelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laroche, NicoleDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levinthal, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seow, JackieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Jeffrey L.Map artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure delight...Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges. Delight, --top-gallant delight is to him, who acknowledges no law or lord, but the Lord his God, and is only a patriot to heaven.

--Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Dedication
For Scott Seeley, Ted Thompson, and Joan Kim
First words
The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief.
Quotations
I'm always disappointed when I see the word "Puritan" tossed around as shorthand for a bunch of generic, boring, stupid, judgmental killjoys. Because to me, they are very specific, fascinating, sometimes brilliant, judgmental killjoys who rarely agreed on anything except that Catholics are going to hell.
Behind every bad law, a deep fear.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but author Vowell investigates what that means--and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and-corn reputation might suggest. The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance.… (more)

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