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Extended Audio Sample Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu Audiobook, by Laurence Bergreen Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.46 out of 53.46 out of 53.46 out of 53.46 out of 53.46 out of 5 3.46 (26 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Laurence Bergreen Narrator: Paul Boehmer, J. Paul Boehmer Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2007 ISBN: 9780739357422
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As the most celebrated European to explore Asia, Marco Polo was the original global traveler and the earliest bridge between East and West. A universal icon of adventure and discovery, he has inspired six centuries of popular fascination and spurious mythology. Now, from the acclaimed author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (“Superb . . . A first-rate historical page turner”—The New York Times)—comes the first fully authoritative biography of one of the most enchanting figures in world history. In this masterly work, Marco Polo’s incredible odyssey—along the Silk Road and through all the fantastic circumstances of his life—is chronicled in sumptuous and illuminating detail.

We meet him as a callow young man, the scion of a wealthy Venetian merchant family, only seventeen when he sets out in 1271 with his father and uncle on their journey to Asia. We see him gain the confidence of Kublai Khan, the world’s most feared and powerful leader, and watch him become a trusted diplomat and intelligence agent in the ruler’s inner circle. We are privy to his far-flung adventures on behalf of the Khan, living among the Mongols and other tribes, and traveling to magical cities, some far advanced over the West. We learn the customs of the Khan’s court, both erotic and mercantile, and Polo’s uncanny ability to adapt to them. We follow him on his journey back to Venice, laden with riches, the latest inventions, and twenty-four years’ worth of extraordinary tales.

And we see his collaboration with the famed writer Rustichello of Pisa, who immediately saw in Polo the story of a lifetime; enlivened by his genius for observation, Polo’s tales needed little embellishment. Recorded by Rustichello as the two languished as prisoners of war in a Genoese jail, the Travels would explode the notion of non-Europeans as untutored savages and stand as the definitive description of China until the nineteenth century.

Drawing on original sources in more than half a dozen languages, and on his own travels along Polo’s route in China and Mongolia, Bergreen explores the lingering controversies surrounding Polo’s legend, settling age-old questions and testing others for significance. Synthesizing history, biography, and travelogue, this is the timely chronicle of a man who extended the boundaries of human knowledge and imagination. Destined to be the definitive account of its subject for decades to come, Marco Polo takes us on a journey to the limits of history—and beyond.

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Quotes & Awards

  • As enthralling as a rollicking travel journal. New York Times Book Review
  • With his polished, authoritative storytelling, Bergreen makes the world of Marco Polo very pertinent. Entertainment Weekly
  • Mesmerizing . . . This is lively history that is richly detailed and destined to be the definitive account of Marco Polo and his adventures for decades to come. Tucson Citizen
  • Illuminating . . . A window into the most exotic of places and times. St. Petersburg Times
  • Fascinating . . . A constant surprise and delight. The Plain Dealer
  • [An] exciting reconstruction of the extraordinary life of Marco Polo . . . impressively researched and deftly composed. Booklist
  • This is an enthusiastic retelling of Marco Polo's timeless story. Laurence Bergreen draws from a broad range of the surviving Polo manuscripts to create a convincing portrait of how Marco was able to get to thirteenth century China, and of what he saw, felt and did when he got there. Readers unfamiliar with Polo's adventures will find much pleasure here. Jonathan Spence, author of Emperor of China
  • "At last! Marco Polo comes to life! Laurence Bergreen, perhaps America's liveliest biographer, has created a triumph of fascinations, a classic portrait that now surely can never be bettered. Simon Winchester, author of The Map That Changed the World

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Charlene | 2/20/2014

    " This really read like an extremely long high school report. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sophia | 2/16/2014

    " Interesting but not very well written... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 2/15/2014

    " At times Marco Polo gets lost in the details, and with the exception of Kublai Khan, none of the actors come alive as much as in "Over the Edge of the World," Bergreen's masterful book on Magellan's round-the-world voyage. That said, this is still a heck of trip. I found the last chapter, concerning the travel through history of Polo's original "Travels" equally interesting. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 William Newsom | 2/15/2014

    " This book was useful in preparation for my worldview essay and class sessions published in Omnibus V (forthcoming, August 2010). The book is marred by a fairly pervasive anti-Christian and anti-Western bias, which leads him to some strange conclusions (Marco Polo was a closet Buddhist); but if you can get beyond that, there's a lot of interesting background details. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Pegeen | 2/13/2014

    " Wanted more geography of the actual Silk Road and less about the Mongol Empire. The middle become a list of places -- not well written in the middle. The impact of foreign cultures and religions on Marco himself was interesting, tho speculative at times. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott Archer | 2/2/2014

    " I knew almost nothing about this subject matter and Asia prior to reading this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy Petersen | 1/22/2014

    " This is just what I wanted, having read a translation of Marco's travels which I found a bit dry. Bergreen gives us a more comprehensive picture and considerable background, with additions about Marco's life and times before and after his long momentous journey. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tim Jokl | 1/18/2014

    " Fascinating. Does not read like the dry, convoluted, academic drudgery of say an Antonia Fraser book. This is written with some verve and creativity, yet is crammed with accurate historical information that I feel I am properly absorbing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sandra | 12/1/2013

    " Thoroughly enjoyed this book! It is easy reading, fascinating, almost like a flying carpet to shadow the great traveler, Marco Polo! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sara | 11/9/2013

    " Finally finished this! Reading this book was so boring I kept stopping so it's been at least a year now since I started. The content of the book (Marco Polo's life) was interesting, but somehow the writing is poorly done and saps much of the excitement from the content during the delivery. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 MikeFromQueens | 9/7/2013

    " The adult version. Nice work - and now I can understand how Marco Polo actually carried out these travels and returned alive to tell the stories. Well worth the time to read as it enlightened me to Asian cultures and their ancient ways. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 BlueNile | 7/20/2013

    " My Mongol fascination continues...This book is slightly less exciting than Weatherford's Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, but still a great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle | 7/17/2013

    " This is an amazing book! The writing can be a little plodding, otherwise it would be a five star. The story of Marco Polo is incredible, and what he discribed at the end of his travels was written down and is documented here... also with Marcos' biography woven in. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ron Peck | 2/26/2012

    " I found this book to be very interesting and informative. Having background knowledge of this time period and specifically of Marco Polo and his family helped tremendously in grasping the story. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history or Marco Polo. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shelli | 1/8/2012

    " I've known who Marco Polo was ever since I was an elementary school student, but I really couldn't say I knew anything specific about him or his travels. This book remedied my ignorance, but warning: some explicit descriptions of Mongol and Chinese traditions. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ellen | 3/23/2011

    " Certainly interesting; full of historical information. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lucas | 2/20/2011

    " I'd like to know if after reading this if there is much additional value to reading a translation of the Marco Polo book.

    The other recurring thought is to write a modern interstellar science fiction version of this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sally | 1/24/2011

    " It was ok - interesting but very repetitive. I checked it out of the SB library, and took it to Tanzania - it was due while I was there, so I just renewed it online at a hotel's internet room. What a world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ron | 12/28/2010

    " I found this book to be very interesting and informative. Having background knowledge of this time period and specifically of Marco Polo and his family helped tremendously in grasping the story. I recommend this book to anyone interested in history or Marco Polo. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 MikeFromQueens | 12/19/2010

    " The adult version. Nice work - and now I can understand how Marco Polo actually carried out these travels and returned alive to tell the stories. Well worth the time to read as it enlightened me to Asian cultures and their ancient ways. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Widad | 11/5/2010

    " It was a long and sometimes dry read, but in the end, I'm glad that I trucked through it. I enjoy watching people's reactions when I share some of the experiences and stories related in this book, like suffocating a man by means of filling his mouth with feces. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lilly-Anne | 10/21/2010

    " Packed full of interesting facts about the Mogul Khans and the empires they controlled. Fascinating! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 10/16/2010

    " So informative about a part of the world I know little about. Highly recommend. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Catherine | 10/5/2010

    " new category of book is : waiting in line book -- this is falling asleep book tho "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shelli | 9/2/2010

    " I've known who Marco Polo was ever since I was an elementary school student, but I really couldn't say I knew anything specific about him or his travels. This book remedied my ignorance, but warning: some explicit descriptions of Mongol and Chinese traditions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Quinn | 5/2/2010

    " Marco Polo is my favorite Venician. "

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About the Author
Author Laurence BergreenLaurence Bergreen is the prize-winning author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, as well as James Agee: A Life; Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life; Capone: The Man and the Era; and As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin, each considered the definitive work on its subject. A graduate of Harvard University, he lives in New York City. Visit his website at www.laurencebergreen.com.
About the Narrators

Paul Boehmer is an American actor best known for his numerous appearances in the Star Trek universe. Paul is a 1992 Masters of Fine Arts graduate of the Professional Theater Training Program at the University of Delaware.

J. Paul Boehmer is an American actor best known for his numerous appearances in the Star Trek universe. Hkis audiobook narrations have garnered nine AudioFile Earphones Awards and two prestigious Audie Awards for Best Narration, besides being a finalist for the Audie Award in 2012 and 2015. Between narrations, he is active in regional theaters across the country. His television appearances include guest spots on Nip/Tuck and Numb3rs.