Unfamiliar Fishes

Unfamiliar Fishes

Many think of 1776 as the defining year of American history, when we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self- government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as defining, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded first Cuba, then the Philippines, becomi Many think of 1776 as the defining year of American history, when we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness ...

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Title:Unfamiliar Fishes
Author:Sarah Vowell
Rating:
Genres:Nonfiction
ISBN:Unfamiliar Fishes
ISBN
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:238 pages pages

Unfamiliar Fishes Reviews

  • Greg Zimmerman
    Apr 07, 2011
    When I made my first trip to Hawaii on vacation earlier this year, I quickly realized two things. First, I suck at pronouncing Hawaiian names. Secondly, I know embarrassing little about Hawaii's history. So I was delighted when I learned that noted witticist Sarah Vowell's new book,...
  • Steven
    Mar 01, 2012
    Fascinating and wry look (as expected from Sarah Vowell) at how Hawaii became annexed by the United States. Well worth the time to read or listen, as I've found (despite my hearing problems) that I enjoy the author's narrated audio books better...if only to exactly know the pitch a...
  • martha
    Mar 01, 2011
    I thought that after a year of grad school I would never want to voluntarily read nonfiction again. But it turned out I wanted to voluntarily read nonfiction nearly immediately, because I'd had this waiting patiently on my Kindle the entire year. I was so excited about this because I'v...
  • Eric
    Apr 19, 2012
    I chose to read this after honeymooning in Hawaii and glimpsing the native culture, as well as a barely perceptible undercurrent of malice toward the islands' many "haole" tourists. I have a much better understanding of both having read this, and wish I read it before my trip there. ...
  • Siria
    Feb 20, 2011
    This is a brief, quirky and sharp history of Hawaii in the nineteenth century, from the early contact of its people with Europeans and Americans to the cowardly, shameless way in which the kingdom was annexed by the United States. Vowell writes not with mere sympathy for the Hawaiian p...
  • Rick
    Apr 25, 2011
    Oh man Sarah Vowell is so good, so fascinating. Okay, two things that hit me right off: First, this book has no chapters. There are a few (five, maybe?) section breaks, but basically it just starts, and goes full-on, full-bore for like the entire thing. It makes for interesting bedtime...
  • jess
    Mar 01, 2011
    2019: I visited Hawaii for the first time recently and many times I thought about this book (which is probably the first time I have thought about this book since I first read it in 2011). I am surprised to see that I seemed to hate it and gave it two stars in 2011. I felt more kindly ...
  • Emily
    Apr 04, 2011
    The day Unfamiliar Fishes came out, it was downloaded to my Kindle. I loved Sarah Vowell's previous books, especially Assassination Vacation. Sarah Vowell has turned into a sort of deep sticky underbelly of American History sort of historian whose books feel like long episodes of The A...
  • Kristen
    Apr 13, 2011
    I normally really enjoy Sarah Vowell's books (especially Assassination Vacation, which is one of my favorites). However, this one really didn't do it for me. I listened to it, as I've listened to all of her books, and found myself spacing out and having to rewind often as I wasn't taki...
  • Jenny Maloney
    May 03, 2011
    Vowell has a great way of knocking the higher goals of historical figures - she cuts through the hyposcrisy really well - and at the same time elevating the intentions of these very human people. The people populating this book are the Hawaiians (both royal and common), missionarie...
  • Kathy
    Aug 02, 2011
    Sarah Vowell makes reading and learning history the most irreverent fun you can experience in confronting the reality of what actually occurred versus what textbooks sugarcoat or ignore. The United States' acquisition of the Hawaii islands is eerily similar to the acquisition of Americ...
  • Ruben
    Sep 23, 2011
    Definitely, one of the few historical narratives that entertains while informing. Author Sarah Vowell gives an overview of the history of Hawaii by focusing on the introduction of New England missionaries to the islands, and the subsequent impact of their arrival. In this book, dates a...
  • Nicholas Karpuk
    Apr 04, 2011
    Sometimes it seems Vowell the humorist can't fully reconcile with Vowell the rabid historian. There are large chunks of Unfamiliar Fishes that work quite well, with Vowell weaving her personal accounts and interviews into the discussion of how America gained control of the Hawaiian ...
  • Spencer
    Jan 15, 2016
    The perfect mix of informative and entertaining, Sarah Vowell (for whom I harbor an increasingly persistent author crush) has once again captivated my heart and mind with Unfamiliar Fishes, a pointedly non-fairytale account of just exactly what went down when the U.S. flexed its imperi...
  • Peter Derk
    Jan 12, 2016
    I listened to this on audiobook with my mom while we drove to Santa Fe. Believe me, just about anything would be entertaining in that situation. We're not a picky people. But this, hoo boy, this book is bore-city USA, population: me and my mom in the car. If our car trip was a country,...
  • Trike
    Sep 19, 2015
    The title of this slim yet dense history book comes from Hawaiian David Malo who was an apparent genius and someone who could clearly see the future: If a big wave comes in, large and unfamiliar fishes will come from the dark ocean, and when they see the small fishes of the shallows...
  • Wallace
    Feb 20, 2011
    I ADORE Sarah Vowell. I usually gobble up her books, and relish listening to the audio versions. So this, unfortunately, was a disappointment for me. I am not at all interested in Hawaii, but was sure that I would be once I heard Sarah Vowell's version of it. However, the usually incre...
  • Julie Bestry
    Jun 04, 2011
    I always like Sarah Vowell -- if textbooks were written in Sarah Vowell's style, I imagine students would be far more inclined to do assigned readings. Not that Unfamiliar Fishes felt like assigned schoolwork, but it's always nice to learn new things in an entertaining way. I generally...
  • Rachel
    Jan 03, 2011
    I had hoped that Unfamiliar Fishes would be as good as Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation or The Partly Cloudy Patriot, but I suppose that was naive of me. The book of hers it most resembles, which is unsurprising in retrospect, is her next-most-recent book, The Wordy Shipmates. Lik...
  • allysther
    Mar 28, 2011
    I made the mistake of listening to this instead of reading it for myself. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but her voice made it difficult to listen for long periods. ...
  • Ms.pegasus
    Nov 07, 2011
    UNFAMILIAR FISHES opens with a string of tourism anecdotes, leaving readers to wonder: What is the point? The point is the cataclysmic changes to Hawaii between Captain Cook's landing in 1778 and its annexation as a US territory a little over a century later. Rather than sticking to ch...
  • Elena
    Apr 05, 2016
    I guess I didn't expect much from this book, first person, amateur history about a vacation destination. I had read Gavan Daws' masterful history of the Hawaiian Islands "Shoal of Time," what could be added? Well, lots. Vowell makes lots of interconnections in her story about the 19th ...
  • Kristy Miller
    Sep 14, 2016
    ?The groundswell of outrage over the invasion of Iraq often cited the preemptive war as a betrayal of American ideals. The subtext of the dissent was: 'This is not who we are.' But not if you were standing where I was. It was hard to see the look in that palace tour guide's eyes when...
  • Jeimy
    Mar 26, 2017
    My second Sarah Vowell, I read it between breaks of Their Eyes Were Watching God, I was once again riveted by the author's voice. This book, peppered with primary sources, offers the reader a brief history of Hawaii, its people, and the colonization process that led it to becoming a st...
  • Judie
    Feb 24, 2018
    Sarah Vowell is a history buff and has written several books on the subject. The subjects are quite varied and include Lafayette and the assassinations of US Presidents. One thing they all have in common are the quirky tidbits she relates in those histories. UNFAMILIAR FISHES is the s...
  • Alex Dow
    Sep 26, 2017
    Essential reading for your next Hawaiian vacation (along with the first two chapters of Michener's Hawaii) ...
  • Albert
    May 22, 2017
    I enjoy Sarah Vowell?s mixture of well-researched history, travelogue and personal opinions. She always makes clear what is history and what is opinion, often through her use of sarcasm. More recently I have started listening to her books, which she narrates, and have found them even...
  • Molly
    May 28, 2017
    Another interesting and obviously well-researched work by Vowell. Her enthusiasm and appreciation for and of her subject matter is, as usual, obvious and positively informs the work. Her snark and conversational tone are here - adding to the light and quick-reading nature of the text. ...
  • Brierly
    Apr 11, 2019
    My third book by Sarah Vowell; I read the print edition of this one. In summary, the book is a personal essay approach to the Americanization of the Hawaiian islands?as always?interwoven with the cultural observations of Vowell herself. Much like my first read, Assassination Vacati...
  • Celia
    Nov 12, 2018
    ?Unfamiliar Fishes?. The title refers to a Hawaiian scholar?s grim warning that ?large and unfamiliar fishes will come from the dark ocean, and when they see the small fishes . . . they will eat them up? (from the NY Times review dated Apr 1, 2011). In 1898, the United St...