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Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Originally posted on Tue, May 25 2010 at ROPL.org.

If you like history, and even if you don’t, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. This witty, clever and engrossing book reads like a novel and not a study of presidential assassinations, but that’s exactly what it is.

Published in 2006, Vowell’s book is part history, part comedy and part travelogue. Assassination Vacation gives us the details, some familiar and others not, of three presidential assassinations. The first, and the one we all probably know a little bit about, is that of Abraham Lincoln. The second president is James Garfield, followed by William McKinley. These three Presidents’ deaths are woven together, almost lovingly, by Vowell’s obsession with assassinations.

Instead of inundating us with facts and figures, we travel with her as she visits obscure places, such as the Doctor’s house where John Wilkes Booth sought assistance after shooting Lincoln, as well as the more famous locations. She travels to the theater where Lincoln was shot, and also to the Oneida commune where Charles Guiteau lived before he assassinated Garfield as well as hiking the Adirondacks, just as Theodore Roosevelt was doing when McKinley died. It’s these details, and more, that draw you into the stories of the three assassinations, as well as into Vowell’s own life.

Though covering a serious subject, Vowell is almost inspiring in her devotion to bringing us all sides of these stories. Assassination Vacation is a fun, interesting and educational read.

Other books by Sarah Vowell

The Wordy Shipmates
The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Take the Cannoli

A few books about Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley (and John Wilkes Booth)

In Lincoln’s Hand: His Original Manuscripts
President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman
by William Lee Miller
They Have Killed Papa Dead! by Anthony Pitch
Manhunt by James Swanson
The Presidencies of James A. Garfield & Chester A. Arthur by Justus Doenecke
The Garfield Orbit by Margaret Leech
The Presidency of William McKinley by Lewis Gould
William McKinley and his America by H. Wayne Morgan
Good Brother, Bad Brother by James Giblin (about John Wilkes Booth)
American Brutus by Michael Kauffman (about John Wilkes Booth)

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