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The Wordy Shipmates [Kindle Edition]

Sarah Vowell
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The Wordy Shipmates is New York Times?bestselling author Sarah Vowell?s exploration of the Puritans and their journey to America to become the people of John Winthrop?s ?city upon a hill??a shining example, a ?city that cannot be hid.?

To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Vowell investigates what that means? and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and- corn reputation might suggest. The people she finds are highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty. Their story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance. Along the way she asks:

*Was Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop a communitarian, a Christlike Christian, or conformity?s tyrannical enforcer? Answer: Yes!
*Was Rhode Island?s architect, Roger Williams, America?s founding freak or the father of the First Amendment? Same difference.
*What does it take to get that jezebel Anne Hutchinson to shut up? A hatchet.
*What was the Puritans? pet name for the Pope? The Great Whore of Babylon.

Sarah Vowell?s special brand of armchair history makes the bizarre and esoteric fascinatingly relevant and fun. She takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where ?righteousness? is rhymed with ?wilderness,? to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America?s most celebrated voices. Thou shalt enjoy it.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Essayist and public radio regular Vowell (Assassination Vacation) revisits America's Puritan roots in this witty exploration of the ways in which our country's present predicaments are inextricably tied to its past. In a style less colloquial than her previous books, Vowell traces the 1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Foremost among these men was John Winthrop, who would become governor of Massachusetts. While the Puritans who had earlier sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower were separatists, Winthrop's followers remained loyal to England, spurred on by Puritan Reverend John Cotton's proclamation that they were God's chosen people. Vowell underscores that the seemingly minute differences between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Puritans were as meaningful as the current Sunni/Shia Muslim rift. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing (colonial history lesson via The Brady Bunch) and tender (watching New Yorkers patiently waiting in line to donate blood after 9/11). (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Most reviewers found Vowell to be a lively guide through the frequently misunderstood Puritan period. Several wrote that she will draw in readers who might not otherwise pick up a book on the subject: what could be better than history with the voice of Violet from The Incredibles? But others found Vowell's treatment to be less dexterous; she slips in jokes where they don't make sense and too often explains the past through pop culture references despite her clear understanding of it through original texts. Those who enjoy traditional history books may be dissatisfied. Yet, as one reviewer noted, Vowell's irreverence frees her to explore the lives of neglected figures such as Anne Hutchinson and to illuminate aspects of the Puritan era that more serious authors might have missed.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Product Details

  • File Size: 771 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (October 7, 2008)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0017SWSUY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,479 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
110 of 119 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little-- well-- wordy... October 3, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I love Sarah Vowell's books. She is an absolute master at examining a historical subject, relating it to the world we live in, and inserting her personal foibles to it, all in a narrative that moves so smoothly and quickly that you're sometimes surprised that you've read the whole book at a sitting. That's what she attempts to do here, but she doesn't quite pull it off this time.

Don't misunderstand me; this isn't at all a bad book. In fact, it's fascinating. It is jam-packed with fascinating information about the Massachusetts Puritans and the religious, social, and historical context of their settlement. Vowell weaves comments about her family background, education, travels, and hopes and fears into the narrative, just as she usually does.

When Vowell's writing works best, it's driven by her quirkiness and her ability to veer off on what seems to be a tangent, then bring everything together in the end. She does that here, but just not as well as in her other books. Perhaps the subject just isn't as susceptible to the Vowell treatment as the subjects of her other books.

I actually enjoyed this book, and I recommend it highly. However, it's just not as good as her other books made me expect it to be. Well worth reading, though.
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67 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The pre-modern side of Puritan New England October 2, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There's nothing like a Sarah Vowell book to provide a new slant on a historical period. In "The Wordy Shipmates," she tackles a rather odd era, and one for which most people have definite opinions: the settlement of Massachusetts by the Puritans. Vowell does not reveal that the Puritans were *not* the American version of the Taliban. Certainly, they were fanatical, even by the standards of their own time, and harsh and guilt-ridden to boot. Their endless arguments about the meaning of biblical verses and their extreme hatred and fear of "Papists" put them two steps away from the loony bin. Yet they possessed attitudes (and paranoias) that put them squarely at the root of what would become the American nation character. Having arrived on these shores, by the grace of God, they were ferociously jealous of their freedom from the intrigues and violent interference of the English court and church. Worried sick about takeover by their own government, they were careful to give at least the appearance of subservience to the powerful crown. Vowell's hero is John Winthrop, the first governor of the collection of rude shacks that became the city of Boston. Winthrop is an oxymoron -- a Puritan with a streak of practical morality -- who rules with a weird combination of Christian compassion and tyrannical ruthlessness. Over a fractious and easily offended populace, Winthrop bobs and weaves like a prize fighter, somehow managing to keep his society from fragmenting. Winthrop nearly meets his match with Roger Williams though. Williams, far from being the free-speech champion that we liberals thought him to be, is even more of a Puritan than the Puritans. Read more ›
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52 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wandering, Informal History of the Pilgrims November 11, 2008
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Upon reading this book, I struggled for a few days on how many stars to give this. At times, I really liked Vowell's very personal-essay-like history of the Pilgrims at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Vowell is very knowledgeable and, at times, is a very good and passionate writer. At times, however, I was also either bored by redundancy, waiting for a seemingly episodic collection of essays to "come together" and read like a book, or annoyed by Vowell's constant employment of sarcasm.

Alas, I chose to give this book 3 of 5 stars. I figure that the best way to explain is to go through a list of pros and cons.

PROS: _________________________________________

Vowell's book on the Pilgrims is obviously a very personal one, and her enthusiasm and passion for the subject shows very well. She recounts not only the tortuous adventure the Pilgrims took from Britian to America and their struggle to build a city, but also tours she has been on, journals she has pored through, and what the Pilgrims mean to her.

The Wordy Shipmates works best - works quite well - when it is read as a collection of themed essays, rather than a flowing book. Once I began to read it in this way, I was better able to admire Vowell's frequent and lengthy asides (where an essay on x quickly becomes an essay on y). Each essay explores some facet about the Pilgrims - their religiosity, their caring nature, their admiration of hard work - but each essay stands on its own more than connects with other essays.

CONS: ____________________________________________

As something of a collection of essays, Vowell can be (quite) redundant.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great as history; not stellar as social commentary October 3, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The point Sarah Vowell hopes to make with her book is condensed in its three opening sentences: "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." In many ways the book aims to be a modern social commentary that tells us about all the terrible things that happened to and in the United States and the world because some Puritans hopped on a boat and came here.

We elected Bush? That's Anne Hutchinson's fault. And not just because Bush is a descendant of hers either. Had it not been for Anne's ideas, most American Protestants would not now believe in "immediate personal revelation" (p. 209)--the idea (radical at the time) that individuals have a personal relationship with God and that, as a result, only the individual is responsible for his or her own salvation. In other words, had it not been for Anne, there would have been no born-again Christians and, hence, no George Bush.

Our (often disastrous) interventions around the world? Blame Winthrop of "City on a Hill" fame. Had he not drummed into us that we're a city on a hill, a model to the world, we might be less eager to spread our model from one corner of the globe to the next. And, in any event, we might not have had Ronald Reagan as president. (I suspect Sarah Vowell might be a Democrat by the way.)

The Indian massacres? That too is the Puritans' fault. But here Sarah Vowell does not have to rely on genealogy or one man or woman's belief system to prove her point. The Puritans, after all, massacred many Indians. Like the Pequot, whose children, women, and men they literally burned alive. This book is thus worth reading if all you want are the details of what happened after Thanksgiving.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Humorous and Informative Read
If you like Sarah Vowell, you'll love this one. It is chock full of history and humor--a wonderful way to bone up on your early American history with information most of us never... Read more
Published 16 days ago by iammi
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling while Hilarious Non-Fiction
Vowell's use of humor quite simply propels this book. It makes what could have been a tedious tale of a dour people flat-out enjoyable. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for any serious student of early American history
Fantastic book. Extremely well-written. A must for any serious student of early American history. Sarah Vowell covers it all - the first brutal wars against the Native... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mike Victor
1.0 out of 5 stars I found this book embarrassingly bad. The author admits she started...
Littered with glib, pop-culture references and impossible-to-verify conjectures, I found this book embarrassingly bad. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Richard
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
was ok, bought it for a class i had to take.
Published 2 months ago by marsy16
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good.
Published 2 months ago by Susan DeVecchis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Hilarious!
Published 3 months ago by Shelley
5.0 out of 5 stars Love the style...
Love ALL Sarah's books -- I'm hooked. Keep writing, Sarah ! Great for book clubs too.
Published 5 months ago by iluvcats
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not one of her better books. Or maybe just the topic.
Published 5 months ago by Marlyse Strait
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this often humorous and insightful look at the Puritans ...
I enjoyed this often humorous and insightful look at the Puritans of the 1600s. The author does a great job showing how this history relates to current politics and decisions. Read more
Published 6 months ago by tom24503
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More About the Author

Sarah Vowell is the author of the bestselling Assassination Vacation, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Take the Cannoli, and Radio On. She is a contributing editor for public radio's "This American Life." She is also a McSweeney's person and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in Pixar Animation Studios' "The Incredibles."

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