29 July 2016

Book Review: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

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Here's my review as it appears on Goodreads.

Assassination VacationAssassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first Sarah Vowell book I ever read and while I've read all her others, I've come back to this one several times to reread. We move in and out of the Washington, D.C., area every few years and I usually read it when we're heading back there in anticipation of seeing some of my favorite monuments and hearing some of my favorite stories. I of course had to read it again this summer since I'll be starting a job as a tour guide with our next move there this fall. I wanted to refresh my memory of the funny and interesting observations Ms. Vowell shares.

Assassination Vacation gives us a look at the assassinations of three presidents -- Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Students don't learn much about he presidencies of Garfield and McKinley these days but they are definitely worth a look. At the time she was writing, Ms. Vowell makes comparisons to the McKinley and Bush administrations. I'd make similar comparisons to a possible Trump administration this year.

Ms. Vowell makes American history accessible and points out how American history and politics have always been mired in scandal and downright silliness. I love how she goes into the lives of the assassins as well. Everyone knows John Wilkes Booth, but Guiteau and Czolgosz rarely get much mention. Ms. Vowell points out that many people were relieved to hear that Czolgosz had a foreign name because it made them assume a foreigner had shot the president. But Czolgosz was an American citizen, born in the Midwest to immigrant parents. Sound familiar to the fears one of our presidential candidates is helping to fester this year?

I do not want a presidential assassination. But I think it's worth learning about what drove others to do it in the past and take a look at the atmosphere of politics and the entire country surrounding those events. I recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in American history, politics, or current events.

View all my reviews


  • And, yes, I'm really going to be a tour guide in Washington! I'll be with City Running Tours. I'm so excited. I'll share more details once I'm down there getting started.

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