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Sarah Vowell is the bestselling author of "The Wordy Shipmates," "Assassination Vacation," "The Partly Cloudy Patriot," "Take the Cannoli," and "Radio On." A contributing editor for public radio's "This American Life," she lives in New York City.
Vowell's account of the post-Mayflower Puritans of New England and their influence on contemporary American culture over the centuries is thoroughly enjoyable in print. But hearing her ironic but passionate little-girl voice making history accessible and providing humorous and often trenchant present-day asides, as she did on NPR's This American Life, is even better. In addition to fleshing out history with extensive quotes from journals and other documents of the time, Vowell has assembled a sizable cast of co-readers, including Eric Bogosian, Peter Dinklage, Jill Clayburgh, Campbell Scott and Dermot Mulroney. Some narrators feel like stunt casting, although there's a lovely cameo by Catherine Keener, whose calm, self-contained voice is perfect for Anne Hutchinson on trial. Vowell and company (aided by Michael Giacchino's musical score) make for pleasurable listening. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, July 28). (Oct.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.