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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (13,302 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Vowell Narrator: Sarah Vowell, Conan O’Brien, Seth Green, Stephen Colbert, David Cross, Paul Begala, Michael Chabon, Norman Lear Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2003 ISBN: 9780743548137
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In The Partly Cloudy Patriot, 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 narratives 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 Salem or Gettysburg? Why do people always inappropriately compare themselves to Rosa Parks? Why is a bad life in sunny California so much worse than a bad life anywhere else? What is it about the Zen of foul shots? And, in the title piece, why must doubt and internal arguments haunt the sleepless nights of the true patriot?

Her essays confront a wide range of subjects, themes, icons, and historical moments: Ike, Teddy Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton; Canadian Mounties and German Filmmakers; Tom Cruise and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; twins and nerds; the Gettysburg Address, the State of the Union, and George W. Bush’s inauguration. The result is a teeming and engrossing audiobook, capturing Vowell’s memorable wit and her keen social commentary.

Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Even though her pieces make us laugh about every fourth line, we feel as if there’s something more significant at work…A writer of fierce observational powers who wears her intelligence and wit as comfortably as an old pair of pajamas.” 

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Intelligent and persuasive.” 

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Sassy, learned pieces…Vowell is distinctive, excitable, and odd in a good way…A singular mixture of whimsy, honesty, and seriousness.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • “Her grasp of history and its implication is astounding.”

    St. Petersburg Times

  • “Vowell is charming, funny, and blessed with a knack for finding absurdities in mundane scenarios.”

    Sunday Oregonian

  • “You may wish that the engaging Vowell was your history teacher in high school. She knows her stuff. But, most of all, she loves this country.”

    Charlotte Observer

  • “An irresistible mix of acerbic wit and semi-apologetic fanaticism.”

    Austin American-Statesman

  • “Part history lesson, part civics primer, The Partly Cloudy Patriot is a treasure.”

    Virginian-Pilot

  • “Vowell’s collection of essays explores patriotism and other aspects of contemporary life from the refreshingly contrarian view of a thoughtfully disaffected, wryly outspoken, and deeply passionate citizen.” 

    Hartford Courant

  • “Vowell reveals herself to be a master at ferreting out the contradictions and hypocrisies that are unique to American society.”

    Time Out New York

  • “No one in recent memory has been as insightful on the direct pleasures and perils of voting, the misuse of Rosa Parks as a metaphor, the appeal of Canadians, and the relative merits of presidential libraries…eloquent…hilarious…Vowell, like David Sedaris, goes too far, cares too much, and remains a very anxious and extremely funny citizen and shady patriot.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “An engrossing take on the suddenly sexy topic of love of country…Vowell puts the reader on notice that, sure, she’s funny, but supporting the quips is a rock-solid knowledge of history. Refreshing, inspiring, enchanting.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A humorous, insightful, and informative look at one individual’s sense of patriotism.” 

    Booklist

  • “Part social commentary and part stand-up comedy routine for the intellectually inclined, this collection of essays…mines history and current events for insights into American life.”

    Library Journal

  • “These essays and commentaries from Vowell’s NPR radio appearances and other sources are curmudgeonly, critical, liberal, and…laugh-out-loud funny..Her wit and slightly quirky outlook make reading her book a pleasure. Teens, regardless of their political leanings, will enjoy the pop-culture connections and even learn some history while smiling at her delivery.”

    School Library Journal

  • “A solid thinker with a warm heart and a smart mouth…The Partly Cloudy Patriot is a great piece of writing, a sharp example of American goofing, funny and true, and fraught with deep contradiction, just like the country.”

    Salon.com

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marc | 2/11/2014

    " If you like Sarah Vowell (and who doesn't), this is for you. If you haven't had the pleasure, this is as good a place to start as any. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andy | 1/26/2014

    " I've listened to it at least three times. It's funny, education and there's a really nice through line. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Salem | 1/19/2014

    " It was strange reading this book -- written around the time of the "election" of George W. Bush in 2000 -- just before the inauguration of his successor. I certainly recall feeling the same things that Vowell did during this unfortunate era in our nation's history, but the emotions fell slightly flat as we prepared to wake up from our national nightmare. Also, ASSASSINATION VACATION was better, so this book suffered for being read after its successor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Azadeh | 1/16/2014

    " I first encountered Sarah Vowell's excelent story-telling on the radio program, This American Life. I have since become a fan of Sarah's collection of short stories. This book is no exception, Sarah's insight, humor and ardent patrotism makes her read entertaining and educational, in an Op-Ed kinda-way. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christianne | 1/7/2014

    " Really insightful and funny. A great way to pass the time on my long drive from Oregon. Short nonfiction essays make the perfect audio book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 11/23/2013

    " Sarah Vowell's voice is being honed in this collection of essays. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Noelle | 11/23/2013

    " It's entertaining enough with a few exceptional moments. I laughed out loud during her section on San Francisco. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 11/14/2013

    " Reading this was like a long conversation with a really smart and funny friend who is OBSESSED with American history. (It also helps if you can imagine Vowell's distinctive voice throwing off these pithy remarks.) I love her sweetly sentimental progressive patriotism. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara Lamers | 10/22/2013

    " This might be my favorite Sarah Vowell: both smart and hilarious. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amy | 9/27/2013

    " Collection of essays that is a little hit and miss, but overall, solid. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca | 6/19/2013

    " SO far I am really enjoying this... from the quotes by Lincoln to the advice to Clinton... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Trina | 6/7/2013

    " A disjointed group of essays, some good, some so-so. For me, Take the Cannoli is a perfect group of essays, and Assassination Vacation is brilliant in structure, erudition and humor. I was disappointed in Partly Cloudy. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tori | 4/14/2013

    " Glad it was short. A couple of good chapters interspersed with a lot of rambling. I was going to give her an extra star for being an open atheist, but then she got rambly again. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lix Hewett | 9/7/2012

    " Some of these essays are more entertaining than others, but the best happen to be last so I came out of this book really entertained and pleased and thus I'm giving it four stars. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michelle | 7/31/2012

    " I adore Sarah Vowell but her histories are more my speed than the personal narratives. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Betony | 2/24/2012

    " earnest and thoughtful look at what it means to be a patriot in america. if you like quippy writing and/or npr, read this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peggy | 2/19/2012

    " witty and smart view of how history surrounds us. history is everywhere. we only need to open our eyes and try a new perspective. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joshua | 1/9/2012

    " My first book by SV...I liked it. Quirky. I liked all the Oklahoma mentions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 valpal | 12/6/2011

    " excellent as usual from sarah vowell "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ellen | 10/7/2011

    " Love her, but this one wasn't my favorite. The history's a little too recent not to get lost in your own memory of events. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Janet | 9/1/2011

    " It's a good book for anyone who finds random anecdotes about American history to be amusing, interesting. Pretty funny, I love her style, so I'm biased. She can, however, be a little long winded at times, but worth it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 7/24/2011

    " Humorous, insightful and well written, Vowell's reflections on American political and social life in the 2000s (and, in some cases, in prior history) make for a fun read. I see myself in many of her stories. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 5/30/2011

    " Sarah Vowell elaborates on Sartre's assertion that "man is condemned to be free." Her essays on this and other topics are, as always, hilarious and true. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kate | 5/23/2011

    " The Al Gore/Buffy chapter is good (and I never even watched Buffy) and she's revealed she's a twin!

    This is a book I would be proud to have written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alyssa | 5/5/2011

    " This is probably my least favorite book of her's, but Sarah's mediocrity is still a delight. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bronson | 4/6/2011

    " Completely mesmerized by the timbre of Vowell's writing. It is especially significant that I was charmed by a Democrat. Let me be clear: I was charmed, not persuaded.

    Ha! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lori Ann | 4/5/2011

    " Not my thing. Not very linear, too much stream-of-consciousness. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristin | 4/1/2011

    " Is it weird my favorite part was the Al Gore part? Does it make it weirder that I was listening to this book and Stephen Colbert was playing Gore? :) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Harrison | 3/31/2011

    " Maybe Sarah Vowell is just meant to be heard, not read. Always loved her on NPR & thoroughly enjoyed her appearances on the Daily Show. Picked this up as a starting point and found it to be rather flat. Will continue to enjoy her vocal cadences. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Doris | 3/29/2011

    " Some partly cloudy essays mostly with an historical twist. Great for history buffs with a sense of humor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debbi | 3/24/2011

    " An enjoyable collection of essays. My favorites were: Letters to a Dead Congressman, Cowboys vs The Mounties, and Partly Cloudy Patriot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Reagan | 3/22/2011

    " A collection of her short stories/essays. Not my favorite of hers, but still good (and often laugh-out-loud funny). "

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About the Author
Author Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell is a contributing editor for public radio’s This American Life and has written for Time, Esquire, GQ, Spin, Salon, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. She is the author of Radio On, Take the Cannoli, and The Partly Cloudy Patriot. She lives in New York City.

About the Narrators

Stephen Colbert was born and raised near Charleston, South Carolina. He is the host, writer, and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award–winning series The Colbert Report; he was also The Daily Show’s longest-running and most diverse correspondent. His book, I AM AMERICA (And So Can You!), is a New York Times bestseller, occupying the number one spot for thirteen weeks. Colbert also contributed to the #1 New York Times bestseller AMERICA (THE BOOK): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction. He has appeared on shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Saturday Night Live. Colbert, his wife Evelyn, and their three children reside in the New York metropolitan area.

David Cross, a stand-up comedian, has appeared on several television programs, including Mr. Show and Arrested Development. His book I Drink for a Reason was a New York Times bestseller. Though born in Atlanta, he is an avid Red Sox fan.

Michael Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize winner and the New York Times bestselling author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, the middle-grade book Summerland, and several others.

Norman Lear is the television producer of such groundbreaking sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Maude. He has received four Emmy awards, a Peabody, and the National Medal of Arts. As an advocate, Lear founded People for the American Way and supports First Amendment rights and other progressive causes.