Sarah Vowell is the reigning queen of humorous American history and a compelling purveyor of its most trivial (the best history is always trivial) and savory tidbits. In The Wordy Shipmates, Vowell relates the tribulations, exasperations, compassions and cruelties of John Winthrop in the early years of New England settlement. In her usual charming and slightly irreverent way, Vowell works her literary magic on Puritans, Anglicans, Native Americans, John Cotton, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Henry Vane, et al, and one is almost never at a loss for entertainment. To be honest though, Wordy Shipmates falls short when compared to her earlier, more trivia filled and more entertaining (and the only other Vowell book I've read), Assassination Vacation. It's about the material; people who fire bullets into the heads of our presidents are always going to be more interesting than Puritans. But also it's the vacation aspect of the earlier work, with the company of friends and relatives, the sight seeing and the quicker easier riffs that come fast and thick from Vowell's sharp mind. Wordy Shipmates has those riffs, but not as many and those that are here can sometimes feel forced. W.S. does get better the deeper you go and much overlooked history is revealed thereby and to be fair, anyone who can make the Puritans seem interesting is doing good (one might even say the Lord's) work, by definition. I especially enjoyed the part near the end regarding Anne Hutchinson and her proto-Pentecostal forays, but then I've always been fascinated by expressive and um, perhaps inappropriate religious outbursts. W.S. is never a tough go, and one could reasonably finish it in a day or two, if one was in a hurry. All in all, this is an interesting book, funny, informative and easily consumed as per Vowell's usual way with words. One can only hope that the (sometimes) earnest tone is not a sign of Vowell starting to get all serious on us. Earnestness is always the death of wit and I would hate to see one of our best humorists fall victim to a case of self-importance. We have an autographed copy of W.S. at St. Johns Booksellers, complete with Sarah Vowell's smoky, come hither photo on the rear D.J. flap. Now, is there anything sexier than a smart chick drilling you with her sexy, sexy eyes? Historical trivia maybe!