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The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan | [Russell Shorto]

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 (891 )
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4.1 (405 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Betty Scottsdale, AZ, United States 12-15-12
    Betty Scottsdale, AZ, United States 12-15-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Comprehensive"

    Have not finished this book yet (about 1/2 way thru), but I am enjoying it. It is a very comprehensive and detailed account of the founding of colonies at Manhattan and Albany. Lots of background information on the key figures and what roles they played in the formation of New York. Highly recommend it to colonial America history buffs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth B. Brandt Moscow, ID, US 11-29-12
    Elizabeth B. Brandt Moscow, ID, US 11-29-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Very Interesting Listen"

    I really enjoyed this book. The early history of NYC was fascinating. The narrator was especially good and did an excellent job with Dutch surnames and places. The only thing that bugged me was that the author was a little to obviously intentional about the fact that this history is just emerging and he was one of the first to tell it. i just wanted to hear the fascinating story. It was a small flaw however, in an otherwise excellent listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ginger B. Collins Powder Springs, ga, US 09-25-12
    Ginger B. Collins Powder Springs, ga, US 09-25-12 Member Since 2009
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    "The Other Side of the Story"
    Would you listen to The Island at the Center of the World again? Why?

    This audiobook deserves a second listen to absorb further the great amount of information. I always knew the Dutch were great seamen and traders, but this book tells of their culture and how it translated into the lands they explored.


    What other book might you compare The Island at the Center of the World to and why?

    Any book that discusses the exploration of America and the first American settlements. Maybe a book like 1493 or even the book Cod.


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

    His pronunciation of the Dutch names added to the ease of understanding.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I listened on a long road trip. I wish I had been driving through the Hudson River Valley. It would have been even more pleasurable!


    Any additional comments?

    I appreciated the comparison between each country's approach toward settlement. The Dutch culture and attitudes were far different from the French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English, and it translated in the development of the new land.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shirley K. Bigham 04-30-12 Member Since 2007
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    "they sure did not teach this in school"

    outstanding history lesson. Makes me understand the start of our country and a hugh respect for our forefathers.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie SUDBURY, MA, United States 03-05-12
    Stephanie SUDBURY, MA, United States 03-05-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Superb Narration"

    Although a history book, it moves like a whodunit rather than a recitation of facts. While the underlying text certainly is written in this way, the narrator really did an excellent job of presenting the story with anticipation and dramatic tension. Because I listen to books as I drive, I am very sensitive to good narration that keeps me alert. This definitely did the trick.

    The story itself is fascinating not only for New Yorkers of today, but for all those interested in colonial history. Yet, the story also clearly aims also at making a point about how we understand the contemporary U.S. as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Lake Forest, CA, United States 02-09-12
    Susan Lake Forest, CA, United States 02-09-12 Member Since 2014
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    "One of my favorite Audible books so far"
    Where does The Island at the Center of the World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is one of my favorite Audible books so far, and I plan to listen to it again. It was well paced, never had a slow or dull section, and to me, very enlightening.


    Any additional comments?

    It expanded my view of our national history and how much the early Dutch settlers had contributed to our American character and values.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer 12-16-11 Member Since 2012
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    "What our schools lied?"

    Very enlightening and entertaining. As a fiction junkie it was refreshing to see non fiction can still entertain me. This just isn't a story of Manhattan it is a story of American and what we thought we knew. JOB WELL DONE.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. 08-07-11
    K. 08-07-11
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    "Great read for early American history buffs"

    Shorto bases his book on documents that weren't translated into English when I studied this era in school. He covers the European scene as well as the colonies--Dutch, English, Swedish, etc. Fascinating to me since it also shed new light on the Delaware history I learned as a child. Adriaen van der Donck is the hero and the connecting thread of this story, and I enjoyed the detailed, sometimes slow but quite dramatic telling. Shorto also shows the origins of some of American political philosophy and theory in European thought of the 17th century. Great narrator who seemed to love the story also. I plan to read van der Donck's A Description of New Netherland which is available with a foreword by Shorto.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kae See Lebanon, NJ United States 03-02-11
    Kae See Lebanon, NJ United States 03-02-11 Member Since 2011

    Kae See

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    "Interesting but wanted more social history"

    Very interesting, full of facts I didn't know about the founding of New Amsterdam. I did find all the details about politics in Holland to be a huge snore fest, though I understand why it was included. It was at its best when describing what the island, and the surrounding areas, was actually like during the period. I wanted more social history though and less politics! More of what they ate, what they did for fun, what they wore. But, given the source for the book I understand why it unfolded the way it did. A worthy read though and should be included in early American history courses.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Jersey City, United States Minor Outlying Islands 12-03-10
    Scott Jersey City, United States Minor Outlying Islands 12-03-10 Member Since 2014
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    "A Great Way to Discover Hidden History"

    The Island at the Center of the World holds true to subtitle, tagging the story of Dutch Manhattan as "epic." This book does a brilliant job of uncovering the history beneath our feet, and linking our day-to-day to that oft-forgotten colony of New Netherlands.

    As a long-time sucker for the eloquence of centuries past, I loved the quotations and original source materials featured throughout. But Russell Shorto is no hack either, and does a tremendous job painting the verbal picture of the time and place of 17th century Manhattan.

    Having grown up and still residing in the metro New York area, many of the names and places hit home. There are a few almost head-smack inducing moment, connecting something previously unknown to the obvious Dutch influence.

    I recommend this for anyone interested in history, New York, politics, maps, economics, or language. It's one of those books.

    The only reason it doesn't get five stars is for the actual recording, which is riddled with heavy breathing from the narrator. Just sloppy engineering, methinks, and detracts from an otherwise passionate performance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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