I don’t really read a lot of non-fiction, I don’t have the attention span for it. My sister and I are opposites on this – I like to escape into reading, she can’t be bothered with a book filled with lies. Of course, there are exceptions – she loves Harry Potter, I love Sarah Vowell.
I wish I could say I found out about Sarah Vowell by listening to “This American Life” or catching some article she wrote for “The Village Voice” or something. However, I knew nothing of her until I watched The Incredibles dvd extras. She was the voice of Violet and had a little feature bit about how the producers cast her. And it was hilarious and totally sounded like someone I wanted to hang out with all of the time – so I went and bought Assassination Vacation, which was the radness.
Now, I’ve finished The Partly Cloudy Patriot and just started The Wordy Shipmates and think that Sarah Vowell is my new hero. She’s wicked smaht, almost to the point where I don’t know if I’d be able to actually have a conversation with her because her breadth and depth of knowledge is intimidating. She’s one of those supernerds who’s so comfortable and funny about her extreme nerdiness that everything she does ends up seeming cool. For example – Assassination Vacation chronicles her tour of the country visiting various landmarks devoted to presidential assassinations. And it is captivating. I already have American history geek inclinations (I come from a family of history majors who’s idea of a a great weekend is walking around the Antietam battlefield) – she makes them okay. Because not only does she find interesting little known facts about the subjects, she also drops pop culture references and personal anecdotes to keeps her essay from falling in the the pit of dry, boring recitations of events that normally send me screaming from non-fiction. Seriously, she analyzes the failures of Al Gore in 2000 using quotes from Revenge of the Nerds II and My So-Called Life and later got Stephen Colbert to narrate the essay for the audio book.
So, it doesn’t matter if you’re like me and generally can’t make it past the first 30 pages of most non-fiction, or if you’re like my sister and can’t justify spending time reading “stories” – I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re going to dig something by SarahVowell. Break out of your comfort zone and learn something. And embrace your inner nerd.
[Also - all of the books have awesome cover designs. This makes me happy.]