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Download The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell Audiobook, by Mark Kurlansky Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,365 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mark Kurlansky Narrator: John H. Mayer Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2006 ISBN: 9781415931943
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Before New York City was the Big Apple, it could have been called the Big Oyster. Now award-winning author Mark Kurlansky tells the remarkable story of New York by following the trajectory of one of its most fascinating inhabitants—the oyster, whose influence on the great metropolis remains unparalleled.

For centuries New York was famous for its oysters, which until the early 1900s played such a dominant role in the city s economy, gastronomy, and ecology that the abundant bivalves were Gotham’s most celebrated export, a staple food for the wealthy, the poor, and tourists alike, and the primary natural defense against pollution for the city s congested waterways.

Filled with cultural, historical, and culinary insight along with historic recipes, maps, drawings, and photos, this dynamic narrative sweeps readers from the island hunting ground of the Lenape Indians to the death of the oyster beds and the rise of America s environmentalist movement, from the oyster cellars of the rough-and-tumble Five Points slums to Manhattan’s Gilded Age dining chambers. 

Kurlansky brings characters vividly to life while recounting dramatic incidents that changed the course of New York history. Here are the stories behind Peter Stuyvesant’s peg leg and Robert Fulton’s Folly; the oyster merchant and pioneering African American leader Thomas Downing; the birth of the business lunch at Delmonico’s; early feminist Fanny Fern, one of the highest-paid newspaper writers in the city; even Diamond Jim Brady, who we discover was not the gourmand of popular legend. 

With The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky serves up history at its most engrossing, entertaining, and delicious.

Download and start listening now!

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 2/19/2014

    " If you love Manhattan as much as I do, or Long Island, this is a great piece of non-fiction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew | 2/10/2014

    " It's a great history of New York City and an even better natural history of the oyster. Ignore the recipes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carmen | 2/4/2014

    " Read this one while researching my oyster article for NYPL and it was interesting. Lots of good NYC history in there along with the fascinating world of food history and bivalve science. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brian | 2/3/2014

    " Very enjoyable history of New York City via its oyster consumption. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Loftus3b | 2/2/2014

    " Great for NY and for Oyster lovers "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah Hovis | 2/1/2014

    " History of oysters and, consequently, New York City. Learned a lot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dave | 1/16/2014

    " another full Kurlansky historic trivia. I admire the research he must do on each subject to get this level of detail. I really was surprised to learn more about the Dutch "business" of the company of New Amsterdam. Sad to think of the natural environment getting so polluted that they destroyed the very thing they all ate with gusto. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alie | 1/13/2014

    " Interesting book about the history of the oyster - who knew oysters from the (not yet polluted) east river were considered the best? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Norman | 12/28/2013

    " If you live in New York, and have an interest in the history of New York, and love oysters and all things sea-related, then you should read this book. I gave it three stars, because I found it somewhat flighty and sketched in, but I definitely enjoyed it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sydney | 12/18/2013

    " More than you really want to know about Oysters but a good history of New York and some good recipes. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leandra Luecke | 12/12/2013

    " So very interesting! A must-read for New Yorkers or New York-o-philes. Or American history buffs. Or people who really really like oysters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 12/2/2013

    " Very good history of New York and the oyster and how they intertwine. Apparently, there are some historical inaccuracies, but they were minor enough that I didn't notice them. (Then again, I was never a history major.) Funny, very readable and worth every word. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 11/29/2013

    " A great read! It is really a history of the city of New York. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tia | 10/28/2013

    " This was a fascinating history of oysters in New York. I was born in the wrong century, it turns out.... :( "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica Starr | 8/6/2013

    " A study of New York history, viewed through the eyes(?) of the oyster. An interesting, if occasionally repetitive read -- how many versions of oyster stew recipes does a reader really need in order to understand that New Yorkers ate a lot of a oyster? I say one or two; Mark Kurlansky disagrees. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 4/29/2013

    " Dad said this was more of a history of NYC than of oysters, but still good: well-written and interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christina | 3/22/2013

    " Back in the day, oyster bars permeated the cellars of NYC streets. The French imported oysters from the Hudson. This book turned me on to Oysters, and the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne | 10/29/2011

    " As the NYT review says - "part treatise, part miscellany, unfailingly entertaining". An enjoyable history of New York and its waters told via the oyster industry. Some biology, some history, well told. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sias | 10/5/2011

    " An interesting and entertaining account of the oyster industry. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Greg | 10/2/2011

    " Kurlansky does it again! A page-turning history of New York from and improbable perspective...but it works beautifully. I especially loved the antique oyster recipes sprinkled throughout the book. This is Kurlansky's best and he's always good. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dianne | 8/30/2011

    " Very interesting information about the "history" of oysters and their behavior! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elyse Bekins | 6/22/2011

    " to anyone who loves oysters, read this book, fascinating history of new york city "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 4/25/2011

    " very interesting... did skim some of it as was not into all the details... however, overlaps w/ Vermeer's Hat and the NY history by Shorto so all good! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 4/15/2011

    " Great book! Painless history. A fascinating story about oysters and new york city "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Taylor | 1/31/2011

    " A really neat history book about New York for people who are not from there and didn't grow up on the East coast. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 12/22/2010

    " What a story and the history of NYC in a shell - not nut oyster! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Antiabecedarian | 9/24/2010

    " the big soy of the sea, oysters. now someone needs to write the comprehensive history of New Orleans through oysters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cwalker | 9/3/2010

    " New York's waterways produced literally millions of oysters until pollution and rubbish in the harbour killed them off, along with a thriving industry based on a cheap nutritious local food. A familiar story which we seem condemned to repeat over and over again. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 McC | 8/25/2010

    " Interesting view on the history of New York. It's a great quick read with fascinating tid bits. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew | 7/14/2010

    " It's a great history of New York City and an even better natural history of the oyster. Ignore the recipes. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda | 7/13/2010

    " Any book by Kurlansky is chock full of information and historical tidits. Learn about NYC and its history from a unique perspective! "

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About the Author
Author Mark KurlanskyMark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling and James A. Beard Award—winning author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, Salt: A World History, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, and The Basque History of the World, as well as Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue (his debut novel), and several other books.
About the Narrator

John H. Mayer is a writer, actor, and audiobook narrator. In 1973, he cowrote Radio Rocket Boy, an award-winning short film. He also has narrated dozens of audiobooks, including American Lion and The Wolf Tree, among many others.