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The Island at the Center of the World Audiobook

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan

Nearly 40 years ago, a New York State Library archivist discovered 12,000 pages of extraordinary records from the original Dutch colony on Manhattan. After decades of painstaking translation, the documents became the primary source for this breathtaking history of early New York.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: I always trust the expert ears of our audio engineers, and they highly recommend The Island at the Center of the Earth because of L. J. Ganser's performance. In this riveting account of the birth of Dutch Manhattan, Ganser is at the top of his game, presenting fascinating details with a voice that remains compelling for all 15 hours. —Diana Dapito

Publisher's Summary

Nearly 40 years ago, a New York State Library archivist discovered 12,000 pages of extraordinary records from the original Dutch colony on Manhattan. After decades of painstaking translation, the documents became the primary source for this breathtaking history of early New York.

Before there were 13 colonies, there was New Netherland. Founded by the Dutch, this tiny community on the edge of the wilderness supported a staggering array of peoples: Norwegians, Germans, Italians, free and slave Africans, Jews, Bohemians, Mohawk Indians, and more. Surrounded by intolerant Puritans, New Netherland took its cues from Amsterdam, Europe's most liberal city. Inevitably the Dutch and the English clashed, and a new nation was born.

With an extraordinary cast of real-life characters, including Rene Descartes and James, the Duke of York, The Island at the Center of the World is a riveting narrative and a landmark in the chronicles of American history.

©2004 Russell Shorto; (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

  • Audie Award Winner, Non-Fiction (Unabridged), 2005

"An important work." (Booklist)
"New York history buffs will be captivated by Shorto's descriptions of Manhattan in its primordial state, of bays full of salmon and oysters, and blue plums and fields of wild strawberries in what is now Midtown." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Shorto reconstructs, in fascinating detail, the little-told story behind the Dutch settlement and its capital, Manhattan....It's hard to imagine any narrator's voice remaining fresh and compelling through 15 hours of sweeping historical narrative, but Ganser comes close." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (977 )
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4.1 (481 )
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Performance
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  •  
    peter 01-25-12
    peter 01-25-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Heavy-breathing narrator sounds bored"

    This book takes what could be a fascinating story and makes it quite tedious. Jumping back and forth in time confuses a narrative that is engaging enough to be taken on chronologically and a highly repetitive prose style eventually becomes quite grating - how many times do we need to be reminded of the trading rituals of the Mohawks and the Mohicans? Most distracting though is the narration. In no other audiobook have I been able to notice the loud breathing of the reader so overtly. I don't know whether that inhalation is edited out in other recordings, but I've never come across the narrator's breathing actually distracting me from the recitation of the story until now. Also, the narrator sounds like this is the first time he is reading the book: sometimes his intonation is off and the stress falls on the wrong syllable, his pronunciation of Dutch words is not consistent throughout the book and his transitions from English sentences to include a Dutch term is clunky, like he's guessing how the word should sound, in the strangest pseudo-nonspecific central European accent. Not a terrible book by any means, but the narration detracts considerably from the enjoyment of it.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 12-27-13
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 12-27-13 Member Since 2014

    Voracious reader since age 2. I give unbiased reviews in all genres: history, mystery, bios, crime, sci-fi - from front to BLACK!

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    "WHAT A GREAT HISTORICAL FIND"
    If you could sum up The Island at the Center of the World in three words, what would they be?

    Compelling, informative, and educational


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Island at the Center of the World?

    I'm not sure there was any "pivotal" memorable moment, at least not for me. What I was most pleased about was to learn that Manhattan's early history contained much more than being purchased (stolen? bamboozled?) from the resident Native Americans for $24 dollars worth of cheap beads.


    What does L.J. Ganser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    L.J. Ganser made what could have been an overwhelming account into an easy to understand story which moves along without getting bogged down with minutiae.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    "The Great American City Worth More Than Its Weight In Beads"


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HIYBRID 02-21-13
    HIYBRID 02-21-13

    Former steelworker from Buffalo NY retired after 40 yrs. as a Registered Nurse. Viet Vet, did a lot of theater in HS... e-Clectic for sure

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    "Farms? in Manhattan"

    So we did forget as a nation the accomplishment of the Dutch to the America you and I know today. Not just cole slaw and tulips but the beginning of the demand for redress of government in constitutional form. Similar to Kurlansky Mr. Shorto writes the extensive and somewhat recent (1972) discovery of the documents left by the Dutch East India company. He animates history in a most interesting way and fleshes out the characters believably. Why didn't they let us read history like this in high school. If Kurlansky's Cod or Salt interested you, then you'll love this book. Now it does help my understanding of the narrative because I used to live in the Bronx. All the names of places well known to me were derived here. Bravo Shorto!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathryn S. Daugherty Duluth, MN United States 08-09-12
    Kathryn S. Daugherty Duluth, MN United States 08-09-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Who knew chemistry could be funny?"

    I really enjoyed this one. The science is easy to follow and the stories are amusing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 02-09-12
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 02-09-12 Member Since 2015

    54 yrs, ,memb 12yrs,library -75%nonfic 10% fiction,15% classics. History, all sciences, bio, classics,diverse other interests.

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    "Excellent history of early N.Y."

    Though I read this a few years ago now, I still remember the great satisfaction it gave me! Very well written with great balance.A Facinating well narrated history of New Amsterdams earliest times. Highly rewarding and recommended

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Doug Elizabethtown, IN, United States 11-14-11
    Doug Elizabethtown, IN, United States 11-14-11 Member Since 2006

    Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. C.S. Lewis

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    "Fascinating History"

    The first Shorto work I read was DeCartes' Bones and I enjoyed it. This work is also entertaining, but if I were the editor I would have encouraged Shorto to stick closer to the historical story and spend less time drawing conclusions of how the early colony affected the character of Manhattan and the United States. It's a valid point, but I felt that Shorto referred it too often.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rahul arlington, VA, United States 10-05-10
    Rahul arlington, VA, United States 10-05-10
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    "blah"

    as someone who enjoys history and audio books this was not a good choice. it's the first book from audible which i've abandoned. there is no cohesive narrative and it's very confusing to follow. skip it

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 09-01-09
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    "Fascinating"

    I always enjoy historical novels, but I must say the author made the most of this material. There were a few short sections that dragged, but overall this book actually had me as excited to get in the car as a good mystery where I want to know who did it. The narrator's his voice and inflection added rather than detracted from the overall experience.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Blackmans BayAustralia 01-14-08
    Martin Blackmans BayAustralia 01-14-08
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    "Worth listenig to a couple of times"

    I have listened to this book twice, and will never look at US history the same way I did in the past. By learning about New York's founding, I now have a far greater understanding about what makes it tick, and how important it was to the founding 'fathers' from New York (with Dutch ancestory) that the US Bill of Rights protect religious freedom and nurture a tolerant society.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron 12-27-04
    Ron 12-27-04
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    "Great for perspective on US history"

    This is a great book, revealing some history that is only hinted at in high school textbooks - if taught at all. It shows how much we may owe our national character - and certainly New York City's character - to the more enlightened and tolerant Dutch colonists rather than the supertitious and merciless Puritans or those snobbish Quakers (I can say that because I am a Quaker descendant). These are my words and biases, not the author's by the way. He has a much better and wittier way with words.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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