This account of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is respectful and sarcastic, reverent and flippant. Sarah Vowell has a deep interest not just in the order of events, but in the hows and whys behind them; she examines Governor John Winthrop’s journals in great detail, and her efforts to understand his and the other Puritans’ motivations are unflagging. However, she’s not above poking fun at some of their more ridiculous beliefs and petty squabbles. For those whose knowledge of this early era of U.S. history consists of hazy memories of grade-school Thanksgiving plays, The Wordy Shipmates is a great refresher course, and Vowell is an entertaining teacher who strives to connect past to present. The audiobook is also excellent, with Vowell narrating and an additional cast for voices such as John Winthrop and Anne Hutchinson.