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Extended Audio Sample The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.00016155088853 out of 53.00016155088853 out of 53.00016155088853 out of 53.00016155088853 out of 53.00016155088853 out of 5 3.00 (12,380 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Vowell Narrator: Sarah Vowell Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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New York Times bestselling author Sarah Vowell explores the Puritans and their journey to America in The Wordy Shipmates. Even today, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but 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? 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. Along the way she asks:

  • Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christ-like Christian, or conformity’s tyrannical enforcer? Answer: Yes!
  • Was Rhode Island’s architect, Roger Williams, America’s founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? Same difference.
  • What was the Puritans’ pet name for the Pope? The Great Whore of Babylon.

Sarah Vowell’s special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America’s most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Sarah Vowell lends her engaging voice and keen powers of observation to a work of social history…Provid[ing] a glimpse of what life was really like for the people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the founders of Plymouth.”  

    Los Angeles Times 

  • “[Vowell exercises] her trademark sweet, silly, arch sense of the incongruous ways we memorialize the American past.” 

    Chicago Tribune 

  • “[Vowell’s] a complex blend: part brilliant essayist, part pop-culture-loving comedian and a full-time unabashed history geek.” 

    Seattle Times 

  • “Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing…and tender.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A book dense with detail, insight, and humor.”  

    Booklist (starred review)

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Selected for the November 2008 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by KJH | 5/26/2016

    " I loved this book. Great info about our early ancestors that is still relevant in the politics of today. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Bob Gale | 2/19/2014

    " Enjoyable quick read of a period of American history covered only briefly in our schools. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Paul | 2/13/2014

    " Led me to like and dislike many of the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. For the same reasons I like and dislike America in general. Vowell empathizes with the characters even while poking jabs at them. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Bahimiron | 2/11/2014

    " The first of Sarah Vowell's books that had me drifting. For a book where the thesis was meant to be that the early Massachusetts settlers were big on education and reading, she abandons that pretty quickly and heads off into 'boy, those guys were kind of jerks' territory. Which, let's be honest, most folks picking this up aren't going to be entirely unaware of just how jerky our early settlers were. When she finally got around to the stuff about the Pequot War and Anne Hutchinson I was more interested, but that's practically the last third of the book. For the most part it functions as a snapshot of a few decades of John Winthrop's (Massachusetts hero, early American dickbag) life more than anything else. Unlike Assassination Vacation, I felt that this book really lacked the charm that Sarah's voice brings, which left the material a little too dry for me. And that's my fault. I'm a product of Generation Rx and there's only so much attention I can pay at any time. But I got a lot out of Assassination Vacation and the Partly Cloudy Patriot. I didn't get nearly that much out of The Wordy Shipmates and I wish I had. "

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