Not 1776 on this July 4th, but 1898 and the Annexation of Hawaii Takes Center Stage

Intrigued I trust and hopeful you will swim upstream to learn more about Sarah Vowell’s UNFAMILIAR FISHES.  This is the most surprising audio book I have ever had the pleasure to listen to yet.  I say this as I could not understand why anyone would write about this topic let alone listen to it being read aloud.  I delayed starting it as long as I could cause there were 6 discs and that is a whole lot of torture.

The absolute reverse was true, it was not torture but sheer delight.  UNFAMILIAR FISHES was interesting and engrossing from start to finish.  This was my first introduction to Sarah Vowell and I am now a devotee, I would read and/or listen to anything she does going forward.  Heck, I might even double back to catch up with those works already out there: THE WORDY SHIPMATES, ASSASSINATION VACATION, PARTLY CLOUDY PATRIOT, TAKE THE CANNOLI and RADIO ON.

UNFAMILIAR FISHES lays the foundation of Hawaii’s history, royalty, culture, American New England missionaries, religion and more that I heard like a novel only too amazed that I had to check several times to make sure this was indeed non-fiction.  Vowell is the narrator and it was her voice, which registered to me like a Peanuts character, that made this into an audio adventure. Her quirky tone and passion came through my speakers in the car beautifully and I could not stay away.

Vowell shares the history and then seamlessly flips to the present to her quest to uncover the history throughout the 6 discs.  Vowell has a connection to this state and its history and that answered my question of why this topic in the first place.  It turns out I knew absolutely nothing about these Islands nor the annexation of Hawaii.    I am neither a history buff nor someone I would classify as curious about these details but if there is other non-fiction out there like this I am in.

Furthermore, this audio book had the best production value that I have ever listened to, thank you producer Elisa Shokoff and assistant producer Michael Noble.  The music interspersed throughout created the mood so adeptly, thank you Michael Giacchino with Grant-Lee Phillips.  A number of actors/actresses including Keanu Reeves, Catherine Keener, Maya Rudolph and Ed Norton lent their voices to the historical characters to make the experience even better.  Another thanks I am sure is due to the directors, Vowell and Elisa Shokoff who made sure that all of the pieces came together in just the right place and time.

This is yet another example of why I am so in love with audio books.  I would never have picked this up no matter how appealing the front cover was nor the many recommendations that I had heard.  I know my experience would not have been the same without Vowell’s narration and her vocal inflections along with the guest vocals which brought the history to life.  Special thanks to Simon Audio for putting this one into my little paws.

About poofbooks

With a wave of the wand and a good book in hand travel to places and spaces beyond your imagination. Because reading does not require you to leave the comfort of your own living room or the bunny slippers behind. So if a vacation is not in your plans for this year, take a bookation, you will love it.
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5 Responses to Not 1776 on this July 4th, but 1898 and the Annexation of Hawaii Takes Center Stage

  1. Larry Labow says:

    Who knew abou this blog???
    I’ve been smitten/severely hung-up on Sarah Vowell for years! I’ve seen her speak 3 times.
    Your next Sarah Vowell books (yes…bookS!) – A joy is reading her earlier works, collections of her columns and essays. OUTSTANDING!!! One called “Take the Canolli” is great, as is the “Partly Cloudy Patriot” (I think that’s the name, and I’m too lazy to “google” the title). Also, her first book: “Radio On” (again…I think the correct name) was great!! “Radio On” is a sort of diary plus commentary plus her typical wonderful thinking, focused around the radio stations and music she played, as she lived and traveled. Part of that time was as a student at School of The Art Institute of Chicago, so, very relevant to us!
    HAPPY to loan you any of her older books!!!f
    lawrence j.

  2. Poof...books says:

    Just me and that is all I can share on the blog, my truth. Very hard for me to start any new read and especially non-fiction and then something I have no tie, connection or inclination to. Another reason I love audiobooks because I am more likely to give it a whirl then read a tactule verson.

    I also find myself connected to my former read so have to find motivation to leap into new read and for reasons above did not expect that with UNFAMILIAR FISHES. I tried and tried to get myself to put it on but I really just thought it would be a chore.

    But was I wrong, the treat of the ensemble cast, Sarah’s endearing quirkiness, music usage it just all came together into more then just a listen. Then on top of adoring it,so fun to share it. And I am sure I can speak for those who have to hear about what I am reading or listening non-stop this one shocked them.

  3. Jen - Devourer of Books says:

    Why would you think it would be torture? All the crazy, ridiculous, etc. things we’ve done throughout history make FASCINATING stories.

  4. I listened to Vowell’s ‘Assassination Vacation’ a few months back and loved it – definitely check it out. Her voice is quirky, but it really fits her material. I was debating between listening to this one or the Mayflower book…maybe I’ll put this one first. 🙂

    • poofbooks says:

      I am guessing her books all suffer from the quirkiness that is loveable as well as her wonderful storytelling ability. I know I am going to have to pick up another by Vowell cause I miss her already.

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