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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 (869 )
5 star
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4.1 (388 )
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Story
4.1 (386 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Stephanie SUDBURY, MA, United States 03-05-12
    Stephanie SUDBURY, MA, United States 03-05-12 Member Since 2014
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    9
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    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
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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
  •  
    doonya 11-23-07
    doonya 11-23-07
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    "well worth the time"

    As a former resident of New York and a lover of Manhattan, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The section where the author invites readers to stand on a street in present-day Manhattan and close their eyes, then gifts us with an illuminating vision of what it looked like when the Dutch arrived, is alone worth the price of the book. The history was surprising to me and obviously impeccably researched. Makes one wonder what other wonderful stories are languishing away in the dusty archives of libraries all over the world, only waiting to be discovered. The audiobook was beautifully narrated as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pat Va, VA, USA 11-12-07
    Pat Va, VA, USA 11-12-07 Member Since 2012
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    "Dutch Treat"

    This book brought to life the names of places I have lived all my life in New York and New Jersey and readjusted my view of history -- and its a great read. The reinterpretation of this Dutch history in New York is as exciting as the main story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcia 08-04-13
    Marcia 08-04-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A snooze"
    What disappointed you about The Island at the Center of the World?

    I kept waiting for it to get interesting but it was such a slow start that I just never engaged.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Russell Shorto again?

    No.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narrator was ok...the story was dull.


    What character would you cut from The Island at the Center of the World?

    I didn't care enough about any of the characters to even answer that


    Any additional comments?

    NO.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Melbourne, FL, United States 11-12-09
    Jennifer Melbourne, FL, United States 11-12-09 Member Since 2002
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    "Enjoyed!"

    I tend toward SF&F rather than historical novels of any sort. I must say this one was very interesting. I too stopped reading about half-way through due to slowness (and some repetition) but keep with it!
    It is a fascinating examination of the early colonial period from a very different viewpoint than what we Americans grew up with. I hope more of the scholarship this book is based on (if not the actual book) makes its way into our schools.
    The author makes a fairly convincing case for his premise that the colony of New Amsterdam gave America more of its character than we suspected.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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