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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tried It! Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Posted by Jacob D. and Zach H.

Because February is audiobook month at the library, Zach volunteered to "try out" an audiobook that Jacob suggested. Below is a discussion about the audiobook after Zach finished it.
Jacob D: For audiobook month, you listened to Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. I'm assuming you read the blurb before listening to it, so what were your expectations of this audiobook going in? And what was your take on Sarah Vowell in the first few minutes of listening?

Zach H: My expectations were to learn a lot about the early interactions between American colonists and native Hawaiians. I'm typically wary of audiobooks when I'm not familiar with the narrator. Narrators, for me, have a tendency to make or break the story, regardless of how good the story actually is. Within the first few minutes of listening to Sarah Vowell speak, I was unsure of whether I was going to be able to make it through the whole book. It was a lot like listening to a (very intelligent) child with a slight speech impediment giving a book report--endearing, but not easy to listen to.

Jacob D: Her voice is definitely interesting, and in her audiobook performances, she can sometimes sound perky or bubbly. It seems rare that audiobook narrators let any personality shine through. With an interesting voice and a perky disposition, I find it much easier to stay focused on what she's saying when compared to other professional narrators. Did you feel that her narration on Unfamiliar Fishes felt lively? Did Sarah Vowell hold your attention and eventually win you over?

Zach H: She was lively, for sure! It also helped that she had such a diverse cast of guest narrators (Paul Rudd, Edward Norton, Keanu Reeves,...) thrown in to quote certain people. By the end of the audiobook I got over the odd qualities of her voice and just enjoyed the story.

Jacob D: Like all of Sarah Vowell's audiobooks, Unfamiliar Fishes does indeed have an impressive cast of actors and radio personalities to bring life to the historical figures featured in the book. Speaking of historical figures, you mentioned that you expected to "learn a lot about the early interactions between American colonists and native Hawaiians." How did you feel about the way this book delivers its history lessons? Would you recommend this audiobook to friends or library patrons?

Zach H: Overall, it was a very informative and interesting story. She avoided making it dry by interjecting with quips, while not taking anything out of context. At times she would go on slight tangents, but never for long enough to distract from the story. I would recommend it, for sure. However, I might give a small warning that her voice may take getting used to for some.

Jacob D: Thanks for giving the book a shot. I’m glad you liked it. Let me know if you listen to other Sarah Vowell audiobooks.

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