Date: April 2005

Duration: 7 hours 21 minutes


New York Times bestselling author of The Wordy Shipmates and contributor to NPR’s This American Life Sarah Vowell embarks on a road trip to sites of political violence, from Washington DC to Alaska, to better understand our nation’s ever-evolving political system and history.

Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other—a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.

From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue—it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and—the author’s favorite—historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.


  • Robin Brenizer

    Love this book and author. Her stories are funny and educational. It makes me want to go on an assassination vacation too.

  • Sandy

    Returned--couldn't finish it--couldn't get past her voice. It may be a good book--I liked the subject but would rather hear a drill at the dentist office. Someone should have told her how bad her voice was before she made the reading.

  • Anonymous

    Witty, very well researched, with some fine story telling. The only bad point is the reader sounds like the daughter of Gomez Adams. If you can get past this you will have a very fine listening experience.


    I have been a presidential hobbyist for 40 years and I never had so much fun reading a history book. Sarah's wit comes though loud and clear, I never knew facts about dull Jimmy Garfield could make me laugh.

  • Texas History Fan

    Sarah Vowell makes history fun. I knew virtually nothing about Garfield and McKinley much less their nut case assassins. She reads her own work and her unique voice brings her personality out and shows her passion for her topic. HOWEVER, she almost ruins the entire adventure by randomly inserting extreme hatred for George W. Bush at every oportunity and showing no respect for God or Christians in general. If she could have stuck with her subject matter this book would be a true gem.

  • Anonymous

    What a delightful 'read'. Too much detail to do much else besides listen, but what a wonderful book. Author is ascerbic and definitely is definite about her politics. She also reads the book, so emphasis and style are in line with the book. I like it, and cannot wait for her other book to come out in Audio.

  • Anonymous

    Although in the begining I was kind of loss as to what the book was about. It became quite clear that she has same love of history that I have. Enjoyed the off beat stories and the little known facts about the people that she worte about. Being a student of history myself I do not always agree with the parallels that she draws with current day events, and would love to have a discussion on those points. I never the less would very much like to take some of trips that she talked about and visit some of the out of the places that she visited. Going see these places where history happens always makes it come alive and real instead of just reading dates and names in a dry history book. She made these places and people come alive and fleshed them out. They are not just dead people and places in far off lands unaccessable.

  • Andrea Stillwell

    The author's voice is unique... well we all have unique voices! Hers tends to grating to start as she reads her own work, however perseverance gives you a witty take on all she is discussing, filled with wonderful trivia, lots of context for the facts and some out loud laughing. I shall go in search of more to read or listen to by this author.

  • Anonymous

    I cannot speak of the book itself because I could not listen to the reader. I'll give it another chance but in print form.

  • Shane Nixon

    Her voice is annoying. The book is less historical than I wanted. I felt sorry for RT Lincoln. But yet I read this book to the bitter end. I don't know why, but I couldn't send it back unread. I'll just give it three stars and move on!

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by Sarah Vowell

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