I decided to pick up this book for a couple of reasons: 1) It is a collection of short essays so I figured I could read it here and there without forgetting the plot-line and 2) Sarah Vowell has a style all her own that was bound to be entertaining and thought-provoking.
First, let me explain who Sarah Vowell is in case you are unfamiliar. She has written for many magazines, participates in This American Life on NPR and is the very distinct voice of Violet in the movie The Incredibles.
This book definitely is thought-provoking as it covers topics from pop-culture, politics, history to her own family dynamics. She is very opinionated, very democrat, very aethiest, a self-proclaimed "civics geek" and has serious love for Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Most of the essays were written in the late 1990s to about 2001, so the political perspective itself was very interesting, given current events in 2009. When I read her somewhat long (and I am not going to lie, not that interesting) diatribe about how cool but dorky Al Gore is, and her disdain for the then newly-elected George W. Bush, I couldn't help but think of how much has happened since that inauguration day in 2001.
My advice to anyone who might be interested in this book is this: you absolutely need to get it on audio and *listen* to it. Her voice is not entirely lost in reading the book without her, but close. Sarah Vowell has such a distinct voice and personality, that really she should be the one telling these stories. The book is what one might somewhat crudely call a bathroom book (i.e. good for a few minutes of peace in the bathroom) or a great one for an airplane when you know your attention can't be held for long periods of time. I think I'd give it 3 out of 5, not because of content necessarily (I learned a lot and I like her ascerbic wit), but because it needs to be read BY her. I agree with one of the book reviews that says something to the effect of "you'll wish she was your high school history teacher."
I am curious to pick up one of her next two books, Assassination Vacation (2006) or The Wordy Shipmates (2008) to see how her political perspective changes as the Bush Years drag on...