The way Sarah Vowell sees it, the year 1898 may have been one of the most significant turning points in American history. In that one year the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam and invaded Cuba and the Philippines, hurtling itself onto the path of becoming a militaristic "meddling" superpower. This book is a history of Hawaii leading up to that year, covering Hawaiian civil wars and royalty, and American missionaries, whalers, naval seamen and Presidents. If you have heard Vowell on This American Life the tone of her writing will be familiar to you. Smart, funny, and sardonic she's a good story teller and thorough researcher. One of her biggest strengths is putting what she's learned in context and connecting the dots. She talks about herself and her own journey too much for some tastes, but I found her good company.