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Extended Audio Sample Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (21,735 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Vowell Narrator: Conan O’Brien, Dave Eggers, Stephen King, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue, it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and, the author’s favorite, historical tourism.

Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are lighter diversions into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A learned, engagingly discursive, funny, sometimes even jolly ramble—literally—through the landscape of American presidential assassinations…Vowell makes an excellent traveling companion, what with her rare combination of erudition and cheek.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A funny and engaging history that revels in irony and morbid minutiae.” 


  • “A wacky, weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Vowell…takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine…An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations but the social and political circumstances that led to each—and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Sarah Vowell, the NPR commentator with a childlike voice, provides an engaging tour of historic sites associated with presidential assassinations…More than a history lesson, Vowell’s work looks at how men of violence have forced themselves upon history, changing the course of politics and power. Audiobook listeners get serious bang for their buck, including guest appearances by Stephen King, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, and Eric Bogosian, among others.”


  • “Vowell has a perspective on American history that is definitely funny…There is much to enjoy.”

    School Library Journal

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • An Audie Award Finalist in 2006
  • A USA Today Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Graham | 1/22/2014

    " This was a lot of fun. I like history, especially that of American presidents, and Sarah Vowell is my kind of quirky. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Rebecca MA | 1/12/2014

    " This book talks about the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, but really focuses on Lincoln, with facts throughout the whole book. I learned a lot about all of the assassinations in this book, and in particular about Lincoln. There were a lot of stories that just don't get told in the history books. However, I found that chapters were way too long and it was a bit wordy, so I found it hard to follow and at times a bit dry. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Elaine Smith | 1/5/2014

    " Humorous and factual, a wonderful way to learn history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Colleen | 12/28/2013

    " Sarah Vowell manages to make this book about presidential assassinations simultaneously informative and hysterical - my favorite kind of book. "

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