Book Review: The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates

Sarah Vowell

Riverhead Trade

272 pages

The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief. And by dangerous I don’t mean thought-provoking.  I mean: might get people killed.

Promising opening, right? The Wordy Shipmates is a book about a group of colonists that traveled from England in 1630 to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The group was led by John Winthrop, who went on to be the governor of Massachusetts.

This book was mostly a diatribe on the religious beliefs of Winthrop and his people.  I don’t necessarily have an issue with reading the history of puritans and their religious beliefs but that was all. there. was.  For 272 pages.  For that reason, The Wordy Shipmates was a prime example of what happens when you go into a book with completely different expectations.  I anticipated a book that told more about the day to day living of the puritans and the hardships they faced.  I expected to hear more about the people that maybe didn’t make it into our history books. I got none of that.

The Wordy Shipmates seems to have overwhelmingly positive reviews, so don’t take my opinion as gospel.  In fact, I am excited to read more from Vowell and I did appreciate her acerbic wit.  I can see why she has such a following, and I fully intend to read more from her, starting with Assassination Vacation.

Other Reviews:

S Krishna’s Books

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Vulpes Libris

Sasha & the Silverfish

Care’s Online Book Club

You’ve GOTTA Read This!

I purchased this book from Borders.

7 Responses

  1. This is so my kind of book. I hate the happy mythology of the Puritans so something that looks at the darker aspects of their arrival here really interests me!

  2. Yeah for some reason I thought she was all kind of ‘witty look at history’. This sounds a little more serious. I look forward to hearing what you think of some of her others. Nonfiction when it is good is really good but it can be so dry sometimes too if the topic isn’t what you were hoping for.

  3. She’s hilarious on audio…she has a quirky voice that totally works with her snarky writing.

  4. Wordy Shipmates wasn’t my favorite Vowell … that belongs to Assassination Vacation, which is the one I listened to first. I see that Softdrink mentioned listening to her on audio and I would recommend that … she does have this nutty sounding voice that just fits her material perfectly. You get more of the nuances and sarcasm in her writing. I think you’ll be much happier with Assassination Vacation!

  5. I do want to read more by Ms. Vowell. THanks for the linky-love.

  6. I’ve never read anything by Ms. Vowell, but I know I have at least one on my shelf (not this one). I’m curious to try her for myself now! Maybe I’ll try her on audio.

  7. Interesting review! This is an author that I’ve always wanted to try but just haven’t for whatever reason. I might try one of her other books first though…

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