Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

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Over the weekend I read a really interesting grown-up book. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell is not your typical history lesson. Vowell, who writes for McSweeney’s and is a contributing editor the NPR’s This American Life is obsessed with death. In this book, she focuses particularly on the three presidents assassinated before Kennedy. Can you name them all? Well, there’s Lincoln….yeah, that’s what I said too. (Just to make you sound smart, the other two are Garfield in 1881 and McKinley in 1901.) So why, you ask, would anyone want to read about two presidents that are for the most part, forgotten? Because Vowell makes them interesting. Vowell’s book reads like a travel diary as she visits the historical sites that are linked to each of these assassinations. And as she visits each place she gives fascinating information about not just each president, but also the conspirators and assassins. She goes as far as the Dry Tortugas (sixty miles off the coast of Key West) to visit the prison where most of the Lincoln conspirators were imprisoned. The book is witty, smart, and relevant, as it draws startling comparisons between the McKinley administration and the present one. It’s not too long either, so you can read it and feed your brain while tricking it with Vowell’s fun writing. (And a completely unrelated aside – Vowell is the voice of Violet Parr in the movie the Incredibles. Cool, huh?)

~posted by Anna M. Nelson

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