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The Path Between the Seas

The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
Narrated by: Nelson Runger
Length: 31 hrs and 36 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the National Book Award for history, The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. McCullough expertly weaves the many strands of this momentous event into a captivating tale.

Like his masterful, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography John Adams, David McCullough's The Path Between the Seas has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. This audiobook is a must-listen for anyone interested in American history, international intrigue, and human drama.

©2001 David McCullough (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

  • National Book Award, History, 1978

"A chunk of history full of giant-sized characters and rich in political skullduggery." ( Newsweek)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • HEIDI GOMEZ
  • 27-04-2016

Amazing accomplishment in history

I finished it in 2 weeks but I want to listen it again and again.

My favorite part is the revolution and independence of Panama despite the strong opposition of the colombian government.
The support and big effort made by Theodore Roosevelt to complete the canal , by his engineers; and the total eradication of malaria who killed thousands of workers during the construction.
I recommend this lecture 100%

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Tim
  • 25-06-2013

No Stone Unturned

I can understand why "The Path Between the Seas", about the Panama Canal is getting mix reviews from other listeners. I'm only the fourth person to write a review on this audiobook and the audio was published just a few years ago. The print version was published over 30 years ago, but the information is not outdated because the Panama Canal is a part of the Earth that was man made.

If you are not familiar with David McCullough, you will have a rough time getting through any of his books because he will go on and on with detail after detail. There is no stone unturned when he writes about our history. This is why you always know at what you are purchasing when listening to one of his titles.

David McCullough is a legend among the greats. He will tell you the back stories beyond the focal point, that no one ever bother talking about. They are usually human interest stories on the crew that helped build the structure, or the troops that fought in the war.

Reading about the Panama Canal was a bit tiring just because I've read a lot of other titles from McCullough this year. The Path Between the Seas was the third book from this historian when it got published in 1977. It won several awards, but he didn't get his first Pulitzer Prize until 16 years after for Truman. If you are a fan of this historian, you must need to invest your time at reading Truman. By far, it is just one of his best.

As for The Path Between the Seas, it's another apart of history that I totally skipped over when I was in school, but I'm enjoying it now.

As I mentioned before, I've read a lot from David McCullough in the past months and kind of need to take a break, but I am never disappointed of any of his titles.

It's the details that keeps the listener to keep listening.

35 of 39 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Phil
  • 30-07-2012

Otherwise good book desperately needs an editor

This is an interesting book. Actually, it is two interesting books and that is the problem. The construction of the Panama Canal is clearly a subject of immense interest to David McCullough, who has written a book about the canal's French and American construction episodes that positively drowns the reader in superfluous detail. Really, this is two different stories which would be best left to two different books. McCullough's editor failed him here, for much of the material in this book would be best left on the cutting room floor. There is plenty of good material in this book, just too much of it. Another shortcoming regards the "performance" or audiobook narration. This book is full of Spanish and French person and place names, and the narrator is simply not good at pronouncing those names. The result is just a bit annoying and painful to listen to.

23 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • A. M.
  • 21-03-2015

Great story pummeled by bad narration.

Any additional comments?

I love David McCullough, who I believe is a national treasure and America's greatest historian. This story of the Panama Canal is a must read. I have read the text version and listened to this audiobook (as I approached the actual canal for a crossing). The text version captures McCullough's voice much better than this arrhythmic and mouth breathing performance. The mouth noises (like gum chewing) and awkward pauses drove me batty. I finally had to listen to this book at twice-speed in order to squelch my annoyance. In fairness, the narrator did start to find his cadence after much of this long book was already done.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Gregory Nole
  • 28-06-2013

Not McCullough's best and reader was draggy

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

The story is interesting, but unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, the back story was not as interesting and McCullough went into long passages of tangential material. I'm a big McCullough fan but this was longer than necessary. And it was made all the worse by a reader who was so painfully slow, you could nap between his sentences. It was like listing to a 45RPM recording at 33. It was 31 hours worth of listing that could have been done in 2/3 the time if the reader had picked up the pace. It was so draggy my mind would wander between passages.

What didn’t you like about Nelson Runger’s performance?

His slow pace was a terrible distraction.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • G Rosseau
  • 09-12-2014

Great book, horrible narrator

What did you love best about The Path Between the Seas?

This is a very interesting, engrossing, well written history. Absolutely fascinating.

What didn’t you like about Nelson Runger’s performance?

Besides the fact that he's too slow - and you can fix that by using the audible app at 1.25x speed - the extraneous mouth sounds he makes all the time render this book almost unlistenable. Can't the sound engineers edit that out? It's really gross, and extremely annoying.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • History Buff
  • 09-07-2013

An incredible Undertaking

This fascinating story suffers a bit from too much detail...yet I hesitate to suggest what could be left out. Nelson Runger did a great job of narration, but until I figured out that it needed to be listened to at 1.25 speed, he was making me crazy. I think this was the producer’s error, and not Runger’s. Now that I have finally finished, I am excited to be going to Panama next week!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-10-2018

Slow at first but very interesting

I wasn't interested in history or how things worked at a young age I have grown to appreciate all these fine made made wonders for us to see and utilize. The beginning of the book was slow and there were many names to remember but I am so glad I held on and finished this book. I have a finder appreciation of all who sacrificed so much of their time, lives, energy to make the Panama Canal a reality.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David Bogosian
  • 05-09-2018

Awful narration, but interesting subject

The subject is fascinating and would make an ideal book, but McCullough's treatment somehow falls short. It seems to dwell too long on too many areas of peripheral interest, but he does bring out some of the fascinating characters associated with the history of the canal. One problem for an audio book is that there are too many characters, and you can't easily go back a few pages and figure "who was that guy?" He would have done well to limit the narrative to maybe 2/3 of the people and help us follow along better. And the narration is simply appalling. He sounds like he is trying to read this for a class of third graders: much too slowly, with very little animation or color. You are stuck for 31 hours, anyone else could have read this in 24 I dare say.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • 29-07-2018

A great idea carried out too long!

The idea of learning about how the Panama Canal was built and maintained was very interesting to me. However, while David McCullough's books are usually not too long, this book got so boring after a while because he went into every single detail, many of which I thought were unnecessary, it took me a very long time to read this book. I started and stopped and started and stopped. There were just too many details that didn't enhance my education of how was created and why and by whom. I can't remember one, I'm sorry to say, because I'm reviewing this book months after reading it, but I do know that why it took me so long to finish. I've enjoyed every other David McCullough book unabridged except for this one. All that being said, if you want to know everything there is to know about the Panama Canal and more, read the book and you will know every single detail down to the minutest detail.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Patrick Donovan
  • 10-06-2016

Good book, annoying narrator

The narrator was very frustrating with this book. His cadence was difficult to get used to and it felt unnatural, as if he was just reading each word and applying random inflections. Great story though.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful