Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead Books, 2015)
Fans of Sarah Vowell’s work have been waiting for this book, and it doesn’t disappoint. If you knew that there’s currently a Broadway show about Alexander Hamilton, you’re probably the sort of history geek who will enjoy this book. This biography of the Marquis de Lafayette definitely has to be the funniest biography of him out there. I was interested to learn that Lafayette was only 19 when he came to America – and that he left his young wife and children behind in France. Vowell’s casual style combines real historical research (using primary sources) with in-person visits to all the relevant parks and battlefields, providing great travel reviews for those of us who like to listen to visit historical sites. Vowell visited Valley Forge, Brandywine, Monmouth, and Yorktown and recounts the highlights of those battles from the modern perspective (with special attention to Lafayette’s role of course). I recently visited Valley Forge park, so this was a genuine help to me as well as an entertaining read.