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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 (913 )
5 star
 (329)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.1 (428 )
5 star
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3 star
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1 star
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Story
4.1 (425 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Ilja 05-30-13
    Ilja 05-30-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    361
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "interesting story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes as it replaces fiction with facts.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    No one in particular.


    What three words best describe L.J. Ganser’s voice?

    Great voice.


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

    No, too long and complex.


    Any additional comments?

    I like L.J. Gansers voice and style of narrating but I don't appreciate his butchering of Dutch names and words. This was especially bad when he called one of the greatest seafaring man Michelle the Ritter. The name is Michiel de Ruyter.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Lake Mary, FL, United States 03-07-13
    William Lake Mary, FL, United States 03-07-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    50
    10
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great for history buffs"
    Where does The Island at the Center of the World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    In the top 20%


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    No favorite


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

    It is interesting to see how events and personalities change the course of history, sometimes for the good sometimes not.


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

    I seldom have that luxury of time.


    Any additional comments?

    If you are the type that is curious about how things came to be , this could be a good listen for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terri Far Hills, NJ, United States 01-10-13
    Terri Far Hills, NJ, United States 01-10-13 Member Since 2007
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Best book about forgotten history"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Island at the Center of the World to be better than the print version?

    Yes


    What did you like best about this story?

    The forgotten history about the roots of the US/Dutch versus the British history taught to all kids


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Learning about the Dutch constitution, etc


    Any additional comments?

    Recommend this to all people to learn about liberty and how the US really got started.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie RENO, NV, United States 12-17-12
    Debbie RENO, NV, United States 12-17-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    0
    ratings
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    9
    4
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    0
    2
    Overall
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    Story
    "Loved, loved loved this book!"
    Where does The Island at the Center of the World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    My all time favorite. The author has taken dry history and made it sound like a present day novel with drama, suspense and human connection.


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

    The intimate small individual human stories make it easier to relate to real people that lived over 300 years ago.


    Any additional comments?

    As someone who has roots that trace back to the Dutch in New York but admits to knowing nothing other than the names of these long ago dead relatives, this is a great and very readable story about the lives of those who lived in that area during this surprisingly dynamic time period.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty Scottsdale, AZ, United States 12-15-12
    Betty Scottsdale, AZ, United States 12-15-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    4
    4
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    0
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    48
    ratings
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    92
    25
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    2
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    Story
    "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
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    98
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    214
    124
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    3
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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
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    2
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    1
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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

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