Sarah Vowell

The radio star and author on adventurous reading—maritime, murderous, and musical.

 

 

Fans of the public radio program This American Life have long known Sarah Vowell's instantly recognizable blend of earnest inquiry and sardonic Gen-X humor.   But with a string of books that meditate on subjects ranging from popular culture (Radio On), politics (The Partly Cloudy Patriot) and  American history (Assassination Vacation), Vowell has come into her own as a chronicler of the overlooked aspects of American history. Her new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, is a typically personal --and illuminating--  look at the strange meeting of 19th-century New England missionaries with Hawaii's royalty.  Sarah Vowell spoke with us about three of her favorite books, below.

 

Books by Sarah Vowell

 

 

 


 

Moby-Dick

By Herman Melville

 

"When I'm writing and I get stuck, I grab this hoary old yarn and crack it open, diving in at random just to splash its weird words at my head like cold salt water. I just did that and happened on the chapter where Ahab is described as 'a Khan of the plank.' Never fails to wake me up."

 

 

 

 

 


 

Killing Floor

By Lee Child

 

"Seems like detective fiction and its spawn is about the only genre that consistently finds virtue in solitude. This is the first novel in Child's addictive series about Jack Reacher, an ex-military policeman turned drifter. I buy Child's books on the day they come out thanks to his unsurpassed ability to incubate suspense and his lonesome protagonist's relentlessness."

 

 

 

 


 

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung

By Lester Bangs, edited by Greil Marcus

 

"I read this hilarious, heartbroken collection of old record reviews and other pieces about pop music as I was writing my first articles for my college newspaper. I've been trying to live up to Bangs's candor, liberty and morality ever since. There is a six-paragraph ode to Lou Reed written during the hostage crisis in Iran that sings the praises of the authors of the Magna Carta whilst imagining a future of 'sharing bar beers with our parents.'"

 

Comments
by fleurpower11 on ‎03-24-2011 03:27 PM

Will Sarah be in San Francisco for any readings?

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.