Sarah Vowell, Author, Sarah Vowell, Read by, Conan O'Brien, Read by , read by the author. Simon & Schuster Audio $26 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7435-3347-8

Few narrators could sound complimentary when calling Al Gore a "big honking nerd," but Vowell (Take the Cannoli ), a self-proclaimed nerd, succeeds in doing just that while reading her collection of thoughtful, humorous essays on politics, patriotism and Tom Cruise (among other topics). Vowell's thin, reedy voice and halting delivery take some getting used to, but she settles into a comfortable groove by the end of the first tape, when she relates what she's learned from visiting places like Gettysburg and Witch City (otherwise known as Salem): no matter what your troubles are, "it could be worse." This is followed by an upbeat tune by They Might Be Giants, who composed the music for this audio. It's hard to resist a catchy, comical verse like, "You asked for baked potato/and they gave you fries/but that's not as sad now/is it/as the day the music died," but it's even more difficult to resist Vowell's obvious passion for history, for Al Gore and for Buffy the Vampire Slayer . The full plate of special guests—including Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert and Michael Chabon—make token contributions: Colbert does an admirable impersonation of Gore and the oddly chosen O'Brien attempts to fill Abraham Lincoln's shoes. In the end, however, it is Vowell's self-deprecating wit and earnest delivery that will win over listeners. Based on the S&S hardcover (Forecasts, June 24, 2002). (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 10/01/2003
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-7432-3336-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-7435-3348-5
Paperback - 197 pages - 978-0-7432-4380-3
Hardcover - 208 pages - 978-0-7432-2352-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-7435-4813-7
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