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Extended Audio Sample Let the Great World Spin: A Novel Audiobook, by Colum McCann Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 5 3.80 (5 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Colum McCann Narrator: Gerard Doyle, Richard Poe Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2015 ISBN: 9781101922637
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In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s ambitious novel of a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run accident that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.

Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century.”

A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal.

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Quotes & Awards

  • This is a gorgeous book, multilayered and deeply felt, and it’s a damned lot of fun to read, too. Leave it to an Irishman to write one of the greatest-ever novels about New York. There’s so much passion and humor and pure lifeforce on every page of Let the Great World Spin that you’ll find yourself giddy, dizzy, overwhelmed. Dave Eggers
  • In his own gritty and lyrical voice, Colum McCann has lifted up a handful of souls to the light in this big-hearted, adroit and probing novel, and brought forth a spectrum of the painful, the beautiful and the unexpected. Amy Bloom
  • Every character grabs you by the throat and makes you care. McCann’s dazzling polyphony walks the high wire and succeeds triumphantly. Emma Donoghue, author of Room
  • What a book! Complex and captivating . . . a very sensual novel. John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  • Now I worry about Colum McCann. What is he going to do after this blockbuster groundbreaking heartbreaking symphony of a novel? No novelist writing of New York has climbed higher, dived deeper. Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes
  • With Philippe Petit’s breathless 1974 tightrope walk between the uncompleted WTC towers at its axis, Colum McCann offers us a lyrical cycloramic high-low portrait of New York City in its days of burning; Park Avenue matrons, Bronx junkies, Center Street judges, downtown artists and their uptown subway-tagging brethren, street priests, weary cops, wearier hookers, grieving mothers of an Asian war freshly put to bed; a masterful chorus of voices all obliviously connected by the most ephemeral vision; a pin-dot of a man walking on air 110 stories above their heads. Richard Price, author of Lush Life
  • “Stunning . . . [an] elegiac glimpse of hope . . . It’s a novel rooted firmly in time and place. It vividly captures New York at its worst and best. But it transcends all that. In the end, it’s a novel about families—the ones we’re born into and the ones we make for ourselves. USA Today
  • The first great 9/11 novel . . . It is a pre-9/11 novel that delivers the sense that so many of the 9/11 novels have missed: We are all dancing on the wire of history, and even on solid ground we breathe the thinnest of air. Esquire
  • The Great New York Novel. With echoes of Wolfe, Doctorow, and DeLillo, Colum McCann’s mesmerizing Let the Great World Spin is a prophetic portrait of New York City in the summer of 1974. . . . A fine introduction to a major talent. It is one of the year’s best novels. Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast
  • [McCann] both resurrects and redeems the horrors of Sept. 11, creating a metaphorical landscape of human endurance in the face of unspeakable tragedy. . . . This is McCann’s gift, finding grace in grief and magic in the mundane. San Francisco Chronicle
  • A shimmering, shattering novel. In McCann’s wise and elegiac novel of origins and consequences, each of his finely drawn, unexpectedly connected characters balances above an abyss, evincing great courage with every step. Booklist (starred review)
  • If William Butler Yeats and Allen Ginsberg had written a novel together, it would be this sad, this deep, this urban, this manic and this highly charged. . . . McCann’s power—his language, his human understanding, his vision—holds us in an embrace as encompassing as the great world itself. The Buffalo News
  • Beautiful, heady . . . As worn down as McCann’s characters are, they each struggle heroically against life’s downward pull, and that’s what makes the novel so powerfully uplifting. Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • Seductive [with a] propulsive pace . . . This is a New York teeming with leathery men and vicious beauties. The city itself is a stalled machine. People don’t arrive here; they crawl into it. McCann’s style is lyrical and sharp, as he expertly weaves together the lives of a handful of seemingly disparate characters. The Oregonian
  • Sprawling, lyrical . . . McCann [is a] novelist you should know a lot more about. New York
  • “Mesmerizing . . . a Joycean look at the lives of New Yorkers changed by a single act on a single day . . . Colum McCann’s marvelously rich novel . . . weaves a portrait of a city and a moment, dizzyingly satisfying to read and difficult to put down. The Seattle Times
  • Vibrantly whole . . . With a series of spare, gorgeously wrought vignettes, Colum McCann brings 1970s New York to life. . . . And as always, McCann’s heart-stoppingly simple descriptions wow. Entertainment Weekly
  • “An act of pure bravado, dizzying proof that to keep your balance you need to know how to fall. O: The Oprah Magazine
  • “[A] blockbuster groundbreaking heartbreaking symphony of a novel…No novelist writing of New York has climbed higher, dived deeper.”

    Frank McCourt, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Angela’s Ashes

  • “Vibrantly whole…With a series of spare, gorgeously wrought vignettes, Colum McCann brings 1970s New York to life…And as always, McCann’s heart-stoppingly simple descriptions wow. A-”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Stunning… [an] elegiac glimpse of hope…It’s a novel rooted firmly in time and place. It vividly captures New York at its worst and best. But it transcends all that. In the end, it’s a novel about families—the ones we’re born into and the ones we make for ourselves.”

    USA Today

  • “An emotional tour de force…one of the most electric, profound novels I have read in years.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Colum McCann has worked some exquisite magic with Let the Great World Spin, conjuring a novel of electromagnetic force that defies gravity.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “The swirling lives represented here by the best narrators in the Recorded Books ensemble portray a complicated and changing New York of August 1974, as Philippe Petit stretches a cable between the Twin Towers in Manhattan, still under construction, and shocks the world by walking from one building to the other (both nearly a quarter of a mile in height). McCann’s 2009 National Book Award winner uses this real event to tell the stories of the people down below and, most remarkably, the fictionalized man up above. The narrators, led by Richard Poe, take on the challenge of these multiple points of view with professionalism and aplomb. Listeners are swept into this chaotic world and engrossed by the quirky characters and the way they come together. For its scope, sense of nostalgia, and emotional impact—this is not to be missed. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • Winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction
  • Winner of the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Fiction
  • A 2010 ALA Notable Bookfor Fiction
  • An Oprah Pick for Books You Can't Put Down Summer Reading List
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Top Shelf Pick
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for June 2009
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Adrian | 6/30/2011

    " I think I would actually give this book three and a half stars, but it started out slow for me. By the end, I was thinking about it while doing the dishes or driving around town, so it seeped in more than I realized. I would recommend it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nichole | 6/27/2011

    " Another 3 1/2 - good but not great

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christie | 6/23/2011

    " I loved everything about this book. The characters were well written, I loved them all and I loved the segments. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kent | 6/19/2011

    " Wonderful how som many seemingly unlinked stories come together at the end. masterful and I was completely caught up in it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lauren | 6/19/2011

    " i hated the first 80 pages. put it down for 6 months. returned to it for some reason and fell for the change in characters deeply. happy i got through it. "

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About the Author
Author Colum McCann

Colum McCann is the author of two short-story collections and a number of acclaimed novels. He has received a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Hennessy Award, and been an IMPAC finalist. In 2002 he was named the first winner of the Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. A contributor to the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and GQ, he lives in New York City with his wife and children.

About the Narrators

Gerard Doyle, award-winning narrator, was born of Irish parents and raised and educated in England. In Great Britain he has enjoyed an extensive career in both television and repertory theater and toured nationally and internationally with the English Shakespeare Company. He has appeared in London’s West End in the gritty musical The Hired Man. In America he has appeared on Broadway in The Weir and on television in New York Undercover and Law & Order. A seasoned narrator, he has been awarded dozens of AudioFile Earphones Awards, was named a Best Voice in Young Adult Fiction in 2008, and won the prestigious Audie Award for best narration in 2006 for The Dead Yard by Adrian McKinty.

Richard Poe has worked extensively in movies, television, and on Broadway. He is best known for his portrayal of Gul Evek in three different Star Trek series: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager. He is a well-known and prolific audiobook narration who has won twelve AudioFile Earphones Awards.