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Extended Audio Sample Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Vowell Narrator: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, John Hodgman, Catherine Keener, Edward Norton, Keanu Reeves, Paul Rudd, Maya Rudolph, John Slattery Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2011 ISBN: 9781442337305
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“Vowell makes an excellent travelling companion, what with her rare combination of erudition and cheek.”

The New York Times Book Review

Many think of 1776 as the most defining year of American history, the year we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self-government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as crucial to our nation’s identity, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded Cuba, and then the Philippines, becoming a meddling, self-serving, militaristic international superpower practically overnight.

Of all the countries the United States invaded or colonized in 1898, Vowell considers the story of the Americanization of Hawaii to be the most intriguing. From the arrival of the New England missionaries in 1820, who came to Christianize the local heathen, to the coup d’État led by the missionaries’ sons in 1893, overthrowing the Hawaiian queen, the events leading up to American annexation feature a cast of beguiling if often appalling or tragic characters. Whalers who will fire cannons at the Bible-thumpers denying them their god-given right to whores. An incestuous princess pulled between her new god and her brother-husband. Sugar barons, con men, Theodore Roosevelt, and the last Hawaiian queen, a songwriter whose sentimental ode “Aloha ‘Oe” serenaded the first Hawaii-born president of the United States during his 2009 inaugural parade.

With Vowell’s trademark wry insights and reporting, she lights out to discover the odd, emblematic, and exceptional history of the fiftieth state. In examining the place where Manifest Destiny got a sunburn, she finds America again, warts and all. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Its scintillating cast includes dour missionaries, genital-worshiping heathens, Teddy Roosevelt, incestuous royalty, a nutty Mormon, a much-too-­merry monarch, President Obama, sugar barons, an imprisoned queen and Vowell herself, in a kind of 50th-state variety show. It’s a fun book…[a] playful, provocative, stand-up approach to history.”  

    New York Times Book Review 

  • “As entertaining and personable as it is informative.” 

    Washington Post 

  • “Sarah Vowell is an intellectual melting pot. Her cleverness is gorgeously American.” 

    Los Angeles Times 

  • “Sarah Vowell is for my money, the best essayist/radio commentator/sit-down comic and pointy headed history geek in the business.

    Seattle Times 

  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John | 5/24/2011

    " A lot oif insight and a very interesting account of the Americanization and subsequent take over of The Sandwich Islands (aka Hawaii) between 1820 and 1898. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Juliealef | 5/21/2011

    " Pithy. Hysterical. Yet with no discernible structure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mason | 5/20/2011

    " Though starting off rather slow, Vowell's bright, sardonic tone helps breathe life into the tale of Hawaii's "Americanization." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Labmom | 5/18/2011

    " I would read Sarah vowell's grocery list. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Maryellen | 5/18/2011

    " A fair handed history of Hawaii from the arrival of the missionaries up to the annexation. It just did not grab me the way Tony Horwitz does. It had some moments, some humor and some pretty dull parts. It's a short book, the author has a pleasant voice and so it was not horrible to get through "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheryl | 5/16/2011

    " More here after my book club meets! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Netts | 5/14/2011

    " not quite as enjoyable as her previous books (and slightly more preachy too) but still an interesting slice of american history "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Connie | 5/13/2011

    " I'm a huge Sarah Vowell fan, but didn't find this as interesting as some of her others like, say, "Assassination Vacation" or "Partly Cloudy Patriot." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kaia | 5/12/2011

    " It's not my favorite that she's written, but it's excellent Vowell-style history. I am surprisingly ignorant about Hawaii, as it turns out. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tara | 5/12/2011

    " Learned a lot about Hawaii's history, and I love how Sarah Vowell can blend scholarly historical research with a snarky sense of humor! "

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