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Extended Audio Sample In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (53,793 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Erik Larson Narrator: Stephen Hoy Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The year is 1933. William E. Dodd is appointed the US’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter with him to Berlin. At first, Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, by the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels.

But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, Martha’s father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming—yet wholly sinister—Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City…A vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Gripping, a nightmare narrative of a terrible time. It raises again the question never fully answered about the Nazi era—what evil humans are capable of, and what means are necessary to cage the beast.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Dazzling…Reads like a suspense novel, replete with colorful characters, both familiar and those previously relegated to the shadows.  Like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories or Victor Klemperer’s Diaries, In the Garden of Beasts is an on-the-ground documentary of a society going mad in slow motion.”

    Chicago Sun-Times

  • “Like slipping slowly into a nightmare, with logic perverted and morality upended…It all makes for a powerful, unsettling immediacy.”

    Vanity Fair

  • “Mesmerizing…Cinematic, improbable yet true.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Larson has done it again, expertly weaving together a fresh new narrative from ominous days of the twentieth century.”

    Associated Press

  • “Reads like an elegant thriller…Utterly compelling…Marvelous stuff. An excellent and entertaining book that deserves to be a bestseller, and probably will be.”

    Washington Post

  • “A master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction.”


  • “Larson’s strengths as a storyteller have never been stronger than they are here, and this story is far more important than either The Devil in the White City or Thunderstruck. How the United States dithered as Hitler rose to power is a cautionary tale that bears repeating, and Larson has told it masterfully.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “Erik Larson tackles this outstanding period of history as fully and compellingly as he portrayed the events in his bestseller, The Devil in the White City. With each page, more horrors are revealed, making it impossible to put down. In the Garden of Beasts reads like the true thriller it is.”


  • “Larson succeeds brilliantly…[He] offers a fascinating window into the year when the world began its slow slide into war.”


  • “Even though we know how it will end—the book’s climax, the Night of the Long Knives, being just the beginning, this is a page-turner, full of flesh and blood people and monsters too, whose charms are particularly disturbing.”

    Portland Herald

  • “A superb book…Nothing less than masterful.”

    Globe and Mail (Toronto)

  • “Electrifying reading…Fascinating.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “A stunning work of history.”


  • “Terrific.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Highly compelling…Larson brings Berlin roaring to life in all its glamour and horror…A welcome new chapter in the vast canon of World War II.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “Tells a fascinating story brilliantly well.”

    Financial Times

  • “By far [Larson’s] best and most enthralling work of novelistic history…Powerful, poignant…A transportingly true story.”

    New York Times

  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • One of the 2011 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction: History
  • Selected for the May 2011 Indie Next List
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A 2012 Audie Award Finalist
  • A 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2011 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2011 Christian Science Monitor Book of the Year for Nonfiction
  • A 2012 Chautauqua Prize Finalist
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Harvey Kurtz | 2/6/2014

    " Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family" appears to be an historically accurate description of a short period of time in Germany during which Adolph Hitler consolidated his authority and began his reign of terror and brutality. It helps to understand how a well-educated, not desperately poor citizenry joined in the lunacy of their government without much resistance and perhaps without much awareness of the monsters they were becoming. It is a chilling story and encourages some self-reflection on the society we are, ourselves, becoming. On my part, I find it almost incomprehensible that we have recently waged wars of choice on two undeveloped countries lasting, in the aggregate 25 years. We are paying the price with shortages of resources to educate our children but all so many in government care about is helping their wealthy sponsors accumulate even more vast wealth. We are fortunate that no Hitler has risen to lead us while we wonder around in this wilderness. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Lucie Rochon | 2/5/2014

    " Enjoyed the book however prefered Devil in the White City. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Rom Lokken | 1/13/2014

    " By turns a charming, horrifying, and illuminating view of the rise of Hitler through the lens of a curious old school Yankee professor and his vivacious free spirit daughter. Exceptional novelistic history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Scott Schneider | 1/1/2014

    " Germany in 1933-34 was a country on the brink. William Dodd became Roosevelt's reluctant ambassador to Germany. For a while he tried to stay optimistic about the changes Germany was undergoing but as repression and brutality increased, he became increasingly critical. Finally on June 30, 1934, the "Night of the Long Knives" when Hitler purged his government, it became clear what his intentions were and Dodd became more outspoken. It is sad how little he was backed by the State Dept. and how their only concern was Germany repaying its WWI debt. This book is a fascinating look at the rise of Hitler and the origins of World War II. With so many books written about the War itself, it is great to see a book on the run up to the war and learn the back story. "

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