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Extended Audio Sample Jerusalem: The Biography Audiobook, by Simon Sebag Montefiore Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,394 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Simon Sebag Montefiore Narrator: John Lee Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2011 ISBN: 9780307878663
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Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence.
How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the “center of the world” and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women—kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores—who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient world of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Lincoln, Rasputin, Lawrence of Arabia and Moshe Dayan.
Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that many believe will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice—in heaven and on earth.

Includes a bonus PDF of the family trees of the kings, high priests, rulers, caliphs, and dynasties of Jerusalem Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • A masterly, vastly entertaining, and timely book . . . Montefiore succeeds because of the power of his storytelling. [He] has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context . . . Some fascinating sources are entirely new to English readers . . . This is a compelling narrative and an important book. Victor Sebestyen, Evening Standard 
  • An astoundingly ambitious, triumphantly epic history of the city . . . Montefiore’s achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material, can hardly be praised enough . . . A marvellous book. Tom Holland, The Sunday Telegraph
  • Montefiore’s book, packed with fascinating and often grisly detail, is a gripping account of war, betrayal, looting, rape, massacre, sadistic torture, fanaticism, feuds, persecution, corruption, hypocrisy, and spirituality. Antony Beevor, Guardian 
  • An outstanding work . . . Anyone who has a role to play [in the future of Jerusalem] would do well to read this superbly objective, elegantly written, and highly entertaining book. Saul David, Mail on Sunday 
  • This is an essential book for those who wish to understand a city that remains a nexus of world affairs . . . Although his Jewish family has strong links to the city, Montefiore scrupulously sustains balance and objectivity . . . Beautifully written, absorbing. Jay Freeman, Booklist (starred)
  • A panoramic narrative of Jerusalem, organized chronologically and delivered with magisterial flair. Spanning eras from King David to modern Israel with rich anecdotes and vivid detail, this exceptional volume portrays the personalities and worldviews of the dynasties and families that shaped the city throughout its 3,000-year history. Publishers Weekly (starred)
  • Jerusalem has been the subject [of] surprisingly few single-authored books aimed at retracing her uniquely varied, long and rich history. Simon Sebag Montefiore, to whom we already owe a debt for his magisterial biography of Stalin, has daringly attempted just that . . . He has both read voraciously, and made excellent use of family archives . . . This reviewer, resident in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, was impressed by Sebag Montefiore’s ability to find the right tone, and to retain a fair approach to Jerusalem’s history . . . A lively book. Guy G. Stroumsa, Times Literary Supplement (UK)
  • Totally gripping . . . Montefiore’s history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship. It is a considerable achievement to have created a sense of pace and variety throughout his 3,000-year narrative. He has a wonderful ear for the absurdities and the adventurers of the past. Barnaby Rogerson, Independent 


  • A Meisterwerk . . . As one becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem’s rulers and the ruled, it becomes clear why this work was conceived as a biography. It provides a perfect, almost providentially designed, opportunity for one of our greatest biographers to display every one of his skills. Montefiore has a novelist’s eye, a great journalist’s nose and a great historian’s touch . . . He manages to construct a history that no fair-minded reader can conclude is anything other than judicious, nuanced, balanced, and sensitive . . . When history is written this way one can never have too much. Michael Gove, Times (UK)
  • Already a classic—a gripping and thought-provoking study of the city whose modern religious, political and ethnic rivalries can be understood only in the context of its preceding 3,000 years of history. Montefiore writes with verve, sensitivity and a keen eye for the entertaining historical detail. Financial Times
  • “It's a wonderful book . . . [Montefiore] really tries to tell you what the life of the city has been like . . . why it means so much to everyone and why it’s so spectacular. You fall in love with the city and it breaks your heart that people can’t make peace over it, because it’s a treasure.  President Bill Clinton, #1 holiday book pick on the Today Show

  • “Magnificent . . . The city’s first ‘biography a panoptic narrative of its rulers and citizens, heroes and villains, harlots and saints . . . Montefiore barely misses a trick or a character in taking us through the city’s story with compelling, breathless tension.
  • Impossible to put down . . . A vastly enjoyable chronicle [with] many fascinating asides . . . Montefiore has a fine eye for the telling detail, and also a powerful feel for a good story. Jonathan Rosen, New York Times Book Review
  • This is a fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish. Christopher Hart, Sunday Times (UK)
  • Immensely readable . . . Montefiore is that rarest of things: a historian who writes great, weighty tomes that read like the best thrillers . . . He has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading.
    Philip Kerr, Newsweek

  • Ambitious and arresting . . . A powerful achievement, erudite without pedantry, and intimate with the complex archaeology of the city on the ground. In the matter of competing faiths, it is all but pitch-perfect . . . Jerusalem: The Biography is a double-headed book: at once a scholarly record and an exuberantly written popular tour de force. Colin Thubron, New York Review of Books
  • Sweeping and absorbing . . . Montefiore is a master of colorful and telling details and anecdotes . . . His account is admirably dispassionate and balanced. Jackson Diehl, Washington Post Book World
  • Magisterial . . . As a writer, Montefiore has an elegant turn of phrase and an unerring ear for the anecdote that will cut to the heart of a story . . . It is this kind of detail that makes Jerusalem a particular joy to read. The Economist 
  • Simon Sebag Montefiore’s magnificent biography of Jerusalem has all the grandeur and sweep of her 3,000-year history. His masterful research and his gift for bringing it all to life make this fascinating work a treasure-trove for scholars and laymen alike. Henry Kissinger
  • In his stunningly comprehensive history, Simon Sebag Montefiore covers 3,000-plus years of the Earth’s most fiercely contested piece of geography . . . Not only has Montefiore delivered a piece of superb scholarship, he has done so in an extremely easy-to-read style. The author tells the history of the complex relationships that existed between long-dead peoples in a manner that makes them seem human and understandable. Imre Lake, Newark Star-Ledger
  • One of the 2011 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandra | 1/28/2014

    " Lovely history of Jerusalem told with references to Christian, Jewish and Muslim sources. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steve Gillway | 1/17/2014

    " Great book. A bit of a slog to get through, but when read over an extended period the reader can ovoid being overwhelmed by the wealth of detail. I found the footnotes on each page really added another dimension to the stories. I think the author tries hard to be neutral and judge each action by the standards of the time, however, the nature of Jerusalem is that it is impossible to keep everyone happy. As a young man, the Arab-Isreali question seemed relatively simple. Now, I can see the incredible complexity and this book demonstrates that all of the great powers have been in command and have some skeletons in the cupboard and therefore lack the moral authority. This is an imoportant part of the world and I look forward with interest as to how the Chinese become involved. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brian Traglio | 12/12/2013

    " He focuses on the who-what-when version of history, which is probably necessary with a subject so wide in scope. It's mostly a chronicle of who killed whom and who expelled whom and a succession of rulers. There's little here about the culture of the city throughout the time covered, but that's likely by design as it is such a major undertaking. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carey | 11/27/2013

    " This is one of the best history books I've ever read. It is sprawling, but given the subject matter it has to be. It is profoundly interesting and very readable, which are the two key elements of a good non-academic history text. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 K C | 11/23/2013

    " Clearly written, but editorial mistakes made it annoying. In one chapter something that happened in 12th century was noted as 15th. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tanya | 11/8/2013

    " Educational. Very thorough. Jerusalem and environs have always been a huge mess. Wow. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hadrian | 9/21/2013

    " Another impressive work by Mr. Montefiore, detailed the extremely long and vivid history of one of the world's most famous cities into a very readable and flowing history, from King David, to David Ben-Gurion, and beyond. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nidhi | 3/12/2013

    " Difficult read but highly informative "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dorothy | 8/27/2012

    " This is a wonderful book. If you really wnat to understand the city of Jerusalem throught the centries this is a must read "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tom Corddry | 7/14/2012

    " Montefiore's description of this book as a "biography" is apt, and Jerusalem has lived a long and rather messy life. Amazing context for current mideast situation, and a very absorbing way to view thousands of years of history around the Mediterranean. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mona Bomgaars | 5/13/2012

    " Very detailed history of Jerusalem with extensive footnotes and bibliography. It takes intention and commitment to complete but will remain in my library for frequent reference. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Carswell | 12/30/2011

    " There is a lot to take in here. Needs to be read a couple of times. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robert Bennett | 11/6/2011

    " Excellent insight into events leading up to current world conflicts! We are rooted in history! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patrick | 10/25/2011

    " Wonderful! Detail and story telling at it's best. A real incentive to read Dawkins more often, What were they fighting over? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Moritz | 8/22/2011

    " amazingly researched, fantastically informative and incredibly moving. makes the history of Jerusalem your own. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 K C | 8/19/2011

    " Clearly written, but editorial mistakes made it annoying. In one chapter something that happened in 12th century was noted as 15th. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susu | 8/14/2011

    " Seems like a miracle that Jerusalem remains standing. An all-encompassing flight through thousands of years. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laurence | 3/14/2011

    " Ok, I am 250 pages in and I love every word. This is a book I will be sorry to finish.

    I'm on page 410 now. I have to force myself to stop reading, as I want to eek out the last 100 pages slowly... very slowly.

    It is that good. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephen | 2/10/2011

    " interesting history book set as a biography and gives a good historical insight into the city over the years but only takes the book up to 1967 but gives a summary of events afterwards 1967 in the index though "

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About the Author
Author Simon Sebag Montefiore

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a historian specializing in Russia. Born in 1965, he read history at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. The author of several novels and a presenter of television documentaries, he is married with two children and lives in London.

About the Narrator

John Lee has narrated more than 100 audiobooks. His work has garnered multiple Earphones Awards and has twice won AudioFile‘s Best Voice in Fiction & Classics. He also narrates video games, does voice-over work, and writes plays. He is an accomplished stage actor and has written and co-produced the feature films Breathing Hard and Forfeit. He played Alydon in the 1963–64 Doctor Who serial The Daleks.