Friday, March 11, 2011

#8 The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

This was my first Sarah Vowell book and now I'm definitely on the lookout for more.  I never in my life would have believed that a history on Puritans in America could be anywhere near entertaining, but she was able to pull it off.

This book goes into the history of the lesser known Puritans- the ones that didn't come off the Mayflower.  Her main focus is on people like John Winthrop, who came to New England on the Arbella, the Reverend John Cotton, and the fanatical Roger Williams.  She takes the reader through the founding of Boston and Rhode Island, the Pequot War, Anne Hutchinson, and all the crazy Puritan antics in between.  Her intention is to show us that our idea of the Puritans is wrong.  They were highly intellectual and argumentative individuals who on many occasions issued pamphlet smack-downs on each other.  They were not just deeply religious and they were hardly ever boring.  She also shows how one event leads to another (one of the best ways to explain the importance of history), how one speech inspires others to build communities and go to war.

I don't really want to go into more detail than that because I feel like I would get carried away.  Vowell's book is not segmented into chapters, which makes it feel more like a lecture than anything else, but not a dull lecture like most of the ones that I put up with in class.  I highly recommend this to anyone interested in history, even just a little, because it is a fascinating and surprisingly quick read.

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