Hawaiian history not your forte? No worries. Think of Sarah Vowell as your quirky personal tour guide through 19th-century American imperialism. In her latest book, Unfamiliar Fishes, Vowell (who is the “senior historical-context correspondent” on The Daily Show) explores the cultural clash that ensued when America went on an annexing spree and turned Hawaii into “the place where Manifest Destiny got a sunburn.” Mix one part indigenous culture; a slew of Christian missionaries; assorted lepers, barons, and con men; let brew for a few decades; and top off with a smart-alecky narrative—this is Vowell’s version of a Hawaiian history lesson. Join her at Barnes &Noble tonight where she’ll be discussing her book and signing copies. You just might learn something new and unleash your inner history buff.

Wed., March 7, 7 p.m., 2012