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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Island at the Center of the World

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Colony That Shaped America
By Russell Shorto
audio book: 15 hours

*** What It Is ***

From my library's website:
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. Surrounded by intolerant Puritans, the colony took its cue from Amsterdam, Europe's most liberal city. Inevitably the Dutch and English clashed--and a new nation was born.
*** My Thoughts ***

The original Dutch colony at Manhattan has been overlooked by English-speaking historians for many years. The Dutch influences on this small part of the world made a huge impact on the development of modern America, a fact I was unaware of until now. As they say, "the winners write the history books" and that has certainly been the case here.

About a year ago I saw this audio book at the library and checked it out for my mom to listen to. She is not a reader but loves non-fiction audio books. Since she grew up in Brooklyn, New York, I figured this would be a good one for her to try out. I was right; she raved about this book for weeks! Since then she has insisted that I check it out for myself.

I mentioned yesterday that I'm a big fan of GOOD non-fiction, and this book would fit into that category. I really enjoyed listening to it during my ride to and from work.

New Yorkers and those who live nearby will recognize many of the people in the book from modern day city street and town names. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in colonial history, influences on American society, or New York.

You can learn more at the book's website - it includes an excerpt, cast of characters, examples of Dutch influences, and much more. And you can listen to an excerpt from the audio book here.

*** Your Thoughts? ***

Have you ever read a book that opened your eyes to a new part of history previously unknown to you? Tell me about it! Are you familiar with the history of Dutch Manhattan? Does this book sound interesting to you?

11 comments:

Anna van Gelderen said...

This book certainly sounds interesting to me. It has been on my wish list for a while - not because I am a New Yorker, but because I am Dutch.
It's good to hear you liked the book. I am now certainly going to buy it.

Heather J. said...

Anna - I would love to hear your perspective on this book. Please come back and let me know what you think of it if you do read it. :)

Amanda said...

I'm currently reading this and am loving it. I will definitely post my review and let you know when I am finished. I love learning about the area I'm living in because there are so many odd names and places. Our little neighborhood has a lot of history and there's a local cafe that is starting to do history presentations every first Monday of the month. There's also a great website called http://myinwood.net which I am learning a lot about my 'hood. It's all so interesting.

Heather J. said...

Amanda - Those Monday night history presentations would be a MUST ATTEND for me ... you are so lucky to have something like that nearby.

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

Thank you, Heather for reviewing these books. Both this and Lost Men sound really interesting. Will have to put them on my wish list.

Heather J. said...

Robin - you are quite welcome!

Amy said...

This does sound like an interesting book. I find that I learn so much history I don't know through books..fiction and non!

Allison said...

Great review!I will need to put this book on my wishlist..I have Dutch ancestry and it looks like a very interesting book! Thanks!

Heather J. said...

Amy - I certainly learned a lot from this book. :)

Allison - I'd love to hear what you think of it if you do read it!

Anna van Gelderen said...

Hi Heather, I just finished Russel Shorto's book and found it every bit as good as you said. I liked the lively style, and was also pleased to read that American pluralism and religious tolerance are probably (at least partly) an inheritance from the Dutch. Shorto aslo does a good book job of putting the story in perspective by sketching the historical context: the wars, the intellectual climate of the day. Great book.

Heather J. said...

Anna - I'm so glad that you enjoyed it! I was completely ignorant of the Dutch influence on America so this was fascinating to me. Thanks for coming back to let me know what you thought of it!

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