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The Source

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  26,233 ratings  ·  846 reviews
In the grand storytelling style that is his signature, James Michener sweeps us back through time to the very beginnings of the Jewish faith, thousands of years ago. Through the predecessors of four modern men and women, we experience the entire colorful history of the Jews, including the life of the early Hebrews and their persecutions, the impact of Christianity, the Cru ...more
Paperback, 1104 pages
Published July 9th 2002 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1965)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lee Drake
I can remember reading this thing for hours each night curled up in bed when I was 13 years old. It basically began my career in archaeology (fingers crossed for grad school apps). Based on Tel Megiddo, it tells the story of a fictional Tel from its birth to its excavation 12,000 years later. It follows the path of a single family against many gods as it tells the story of Canaanite, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Israeli civilization. While some of the material is dated, it nevertheless rem ...more
Michael
I have mixed fond and not so fond memories about "The Source." I am a huge Michener fan and have read all of his books. "The Source" is at the top of my Michener list along with "The Drifters." I started "The Source" in 1974 when I was visiting Israel, the subject of the book. Part of my visit included a bus tour of Israel. I was delighted to read about a place, then reach the actual site of which Michener was writing. The problem was that, about the time I arrived in Israel, I developed a serio ...more
Amy
Mar 07, 2008 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
This was a book that helped me have a more complete view of world history and all the tensions surrounding the middle east. I read in in high school during the first gulf war. My high school was pretty substandard, it was a small town, and the students didn't care or try very hard. The school was struggling just to teach the basics. I wanted more than that and I read a lot of stuff. My mom had a subscription to Newsweek and I read it nearly cover to cover every week since I was 12. Despite all m ...more
Melissa
Feb 08, 2008 Melissa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes history, or wants to feel accomplished after reading 900+ pages
Recommended to Melissa by: my Dad
If you've ever held something really old in your hands and wondered, "what was life like when this was made?" The Source is a chance to have your musings answered. Michener weaves fiction and history together seamlessly as he intertwines a narrative of an archeological dig in the 1960s (think: Indiana Jones without the bullwhip) with the stories of the artifacts and the people who created them. He traces the history of a single town in Israel/Palestine through the ages - from man's earliest atte ...more
Jamie Sigal
The Source is a thing of beauty in its planning and intricacies. This books is three things at once: A novel, a collection of short stories, and a history of religion from ancient times through to the modern era, and it works wonderfully on all three levels, though it is best as a novel since every story actually ties together in the end, much like one would expect human history to do. Everything is connected, and that includes us all as people. Most of all, though, if you have any interest in J ...more
Natalie
The current news of a 1,500 year old church uncovered in an archaeological dig in Israel was like déjà vu for me after reading The Source early this New Year's.





This picture above, and its story could be straight out of a movie version of The Source. I think the book's dig was based on Tel Megiddo, but Michener observed archaeologists at work at Hazor to prepare for writing this book.

As you can tell from reading the other reviews here, the conflicts between peoples and the layering of religious
...more
Ashley
One of my favorite books ever. It's a long one, so give yourself plenty of time.

Tells the story of religion in Israel through the findings of an archaeological dig 90 miles north of Jerusalem. It's divided into stories about 100 pages long, so it doesn't feel quite like you're reading a 1,000 page book. Like all Michener novels, it is very well researched. The characters seem real, and Michener also fleshes out historical figures.

Some sex and violence (have you read the Old Testament?) but nothi
...more
April
Loved it! It's daunting since it's over 1000 pages and has been on my shelf since my mom gave it to me in high school or college. I finally picked it up in August and had a rough start with it, but once I got going, found it facinating and more of a history lesson that I feel I got in school (even though it's fiction.)

I would recommend it strongly to anyone interested in world history (any era) and world religions. It was particularly relevant to the past weeks events in Gaza. Many parts of this
...more
Abby
Aug 10, 2007 Abby rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like sagas.
Shelves: fiction
This is typical Michener, and he went on the archaeological excavations at Hazor to research it. I really loved it when I read it in junior high, which I did partly to prove that I could read such long books. I reread it several times afterwards. Now, as an archaeologist who specialized in ancient Israel, I can say that it's a fun book to read, but the interpretations are sensationalist, overtly Zionist, and now out of date. On the other hand, it probably stirs up interest in my field, and it is ...more
Jonathan
The Source is another of James Michener's epic fictional histories. This one explores a part of northern Israel from the times of the pagans, through Jewish independence, Christian ascendance, Muslim conquest, resurgence of Judaism nationality, to the establishment of Israel.

Note: some of the story does take place in Italy in the middle-ages as Michener relates the plight of Jews there and their decision to migrate to the Land of Israel.

The story is told through an excavation of a site in northe
...more
Dick Tatro
This book should be required reading for all students. Michener uses his historical fiction style to trace the development of the worlds three great religons (jewish, Christian and muslim) through the story of the family of UR. The UR family's orgin was in the caves of Makor in 10,000 BCE. The story is based on a dig in the Tell of Makor in 1964. Makor is a fictional place that had been refered to in the old testament. The dig is made by a group from Chicago but most of the workers are from the ...more
Zach Judkins
Aug 29, 2007 Zach Judkins rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: any avid reader interested in archeology, history and religion.
This book is long. A very good read but long. I would recomend reading another book alongside this one to keep from becoming burnt out. Still, this is a very good book, from one of the best authors of the day. This book tells the history of ancient isreal and its religions in a very interesting way. it begins with a group of archeologists that discover the remains of an old city in modern isreal. They begin to dig and as they get deeper come across artifacts of older and older civilizations. Whe ...more
Jessica
Another epic novel by my favorite author. This book was a beast to get through and I've been reading it off and on for months now. It was utterly fascinating. The book is about the land we now call Israel. It starts with primitive peoples and their creation of "religions". There were many difficult things to read about such as killing of 1st born sons to the God Baal. (I think) -symbolic of things to come? The Jews were of course the central characters in this story and the evolution of their "r ...more
Oobydoo65
I have read this torn, twenty-five year old copy three times now. No easy feet, as it is one of the thicker michener books. The first time I read it, Iwanted to convert to Judaism and go to Israel and live on a kibbutz. I wanted to dig in the dirt and find relics and artifacts that would confirm the existence of God. I wanted to be a part of the spirit that was behind the community of believers, scientists, anthropologists. The educated and strong. I wanted to get tan and lean and smart and worl ...more
Kate
I read this book many years ago and loved it then. With my upcoming trip to Isreal I had to go back to this one and am enjoying it more the second time around. Of course I don't really remember what I read in 1969 so it's all new again. Chock full of history specifically to the area we will be visiting. Can't wait. Too bad I couldn't get it on Kindle.
Ram
Not so easy to summarize a book like this in a few paragraphs.

Basically this book gives a broad deep picture of the Jewish history from prehistoric times (naturally before Judaism) to the mid 1960's. The frame of the story is an archeological expedition digging in an imaginary site of an ancient town in the north of Israel. Using this framework the author goes back in time to various episodes in the history of the site and other places related to Jewish history (and related to the site in some w
...more
Lisa
I began reading with enthusiasm for the premise of this book: looking at the history of Israel through the eyes of archaeologists at a dig. Unfortunately, now I feel it was a subject too large in scope for even this author and his legendary research. After throwing out the first chapter on cavemen as an anomaly, each subsequent chapter could not stem the sliding credibility factor. I'm pretty certain Michener didn't understand Biblical history (for example his characterization of King David was ...more
Julie Davis
Goodbye Don Quixote. Farewell Saratoga Trunk.

My copy of The Source has just gotten here from Paperback Swap. I'd forgotten just how freaking big it is. Small type too, which normally delights me, but not when I'm reading to a deadline.

The Holy Land it is ... Michener style!

Scott has chosen this for an upcoming A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. I look forward to rereading it.

UPDATE
I must have read this in high school or college, which would have been in the 1970s. I'm amazed at how many of th
...more
Johnny D
In which I review this book's one star reviews:

"Painfully simplistic, implying that some of the greatest, centuries-long developments of mankind could happen within a generation or two. I had to stop reading less than halfway through, as I couldn't get past the gaping inaccuracy, anachronisms, and sheer fallacies. Other than that, and a few fairly flat characters, the writing was decent enough."

Our reviewer opens up his review with his metaphorical knife at the throat of the book. Not only does
...more
Phoenix
I can't help putting five stars on this and most of Michener's novels. I read this more slowly than usual and consequently had already forgotten some things I learned at the beginning. But I get the feeling that if in my history class any teacher had handed me any Michener book, my classmates and I would not have been sleeping and acting up. This one dealt with the Holy Land, from the time when man was first a man (out of ape-stage, still living in a cave) and built the first house. And it moved ...more
Ashley
May 29, 2009 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in religion, the Middle East, archeology
Recommended to Ashley by: John Stavros
One of my favorite books ever! Like most of Michener's books, The Source is enormous, so get ready to spend a lot of time by a lamp in a comfy position. It begins in the late 1970s at an archeological dig at fictional Makor in the Middle East. The archeologists discover artifacts all the way down to bedrock in the first chapter. Each succeeding chapter is how each artifact got there, and subsequently, the story of religion in the Middle East. One thing I love is that the book feels smaller than ...more
Madeleine
I LOVED this book. It is at time desperately sad and then incredibly inspirational. It made me proud of my Jewish heritage. I think it is a must-read for all, but especially for people like me with little Jewish education, but a strong sense of Jewish identity. This will give you a sense of your roots.
Kathy Garlock
My favorite Michener book.

A friend gave this book to me at one of the lowest points in my life. I would like to say it inspired me to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again. Not even close. But I did enjoy the book. Enjoyed it enough so that when I found my way out of the stark black and grey forest of depression; I picked it up again. And enjoyed it just as much. But for different reasons.

Like all of Michener's books, there are stories to suit a multitude of tastes, emotions
...more
Judy Chessin
Always a wonderful read. I read this every decade and learn something new each time. The best way to recall the story of the people of Israel. Of course it is dated, since it was written prior to the 67 war, and yet it is classic enough to explain the background of the modern day conflict.

For the first time, I was annoyed by the character of Vered, whose story did not strike me as true to a Palmach fighter. To my mind the character is far too frivilous and wouldn't have made the choices that she
...more
Marsha
This book chronicles the history of the Jewish people from caveman times to the present. Actually, the caveman wasn't Jewish, but his descendants were. I kind of skipped through the caveman part (I'm not really into that) but found the bulk of the book which is based on history fascinating and compelling. How Michener tells the story is he goes through the layers at an archealogical dig site and each layer tells a story. Jewish history is amazing. Two final notes: If your sympathies lie more tow ...more
Karlheinz Kobras
It's just a genre I like. It's a novel and we can learn history. The story which forms the framework is about a group of archeologist who do field excavation in a place that is now in Israel. Digging deeper end deeper they go back in time starting with finding a bullet. The chapters are about the story around the artefacts. These stories start with "the bee eater" about a man 10000 BC, strives through the ages, covers important events like Massada and finally an episode of one of the modern wars ...more
Shari
I have read a number of Michener's books and this is one the best. I just loved how Michener introduced each period in the story by how a dig reveals artifacts in different layers (era). I particularly enjoyed the parts where the Olympic games were held - how the people observed them. There was also a fascinating chapter about the evolution of religion through the introduction of a figurine of Astarte. This book is quite educational. I recommend it to those who are interested in learning more ab ...more
Cirtnecce
“The Source” by James Michener is one of my all-time favorites; it’s a book I go back to after years and years and it embraces me like an old friend who still has more tales to tell, despite my having visited it many times previously! It’s one of my personal bibles and stands up there with my absolute devotion for the likes of Pride and Prejudice, East of Eden and To Kill a Mockingbird. While one can debate whether its literary significance is as profound as the other titles that I listed, there ...more
Jim
Jan 27, 2014 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of non-romance historical novels
Shelves: desert-island
The Source is James Michener's Magnum Opus. It presents a stunning vision and scope, with a fine exploration of Jewish culture and history.

The book is extremely long - over 500,000 words (1200+ pages, fine print) and covers pre-Judaic, proto-Judaic/Hebrew, and Judaic history going back to ca. 10,000 BC

Much of what I know about Jewish culture and history comes from this book (sad perhaps, but true). Like some of my friends say, historical novels are a great way to read history.

This novel is stru
...more
JP
Michener once again provides a journey of thousands of years in about a thousand pages. This story revolves around the excavation of Tell Makor, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. It takes the reader through about 10 civilization and times, tied together by the layers they form in the tell, and a family descended from Ur. The primary theme is man's relationship with God and culture. Michener portrays how cultivation of land led to reliance on gods, how Judaism led to monotheis ...more
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What's The Name o...: Story of an ancient city through history based on an artifact found per chapter [s] 4 132 Oct 24, 2012 01:37PM  
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James Albert Michener is best known for his sweeping multi-generation historical fiction sagas, usually focusing on and titled after a particular geographical region. His first novel, Tales of the South Pacific , which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Toward the end of his life, he created the Journey Prize, awarded annually for t
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“A Roman came to Rabbi Gimzo the Water Carrier, and asked, "What is this study of the law that you Jews engage in?" and Gimzo replied, "I shall explain. There were two men on a roof, and they climbed down the chimney. One's face became sooty. The other's not. Which one washed his face?" The Roman said, "That's easy, the sooty one, of course." Gimzo said, "No. The man without the soot looked at his friend, saw that the man's face was dirty, assumed that his was too, and washed it." Cried the Roman, "Ah ha! So that's the study of law. Sound reasoning." But Gimzo said, "You foolish man, you don't understand. Let me explain again. Two men on a roof. They climb down a chimney. One's face is sooty, the other's not. Which one washes?" The Roman said, "As you just explained, the man without the soot." Gimzo cried,"No, you foolish one! There was a mirror on the wall and the man with the dirty face saw how sooty it was and washed it." The Roman said, "Ah ha! So that's the study of law! Conforming to the logical." But Rabbi Gimzo said, "No, you foolish one. Two men climbed down the chimney. One's face became sooty? The other's not? That's impossible. You're wasting my time with such a proposition." And the Roman said, "So that's the law! Common sense." And Gimzo said, "You foolish man! Of course it was possible. When the first man climbed down the chimney he brushed the soot away. So the man who followed found none to mar him." And the Roman cried, "That's brilliant, Rabbi Gimzo. Law is getting at the basic facts." And for the last time Gimzo said, "No, you foolish man. Who could brush all the soot from a chimney? Who could ever understand all the facts?" Humbly the Roman asked, "Then what is the law?" And Gimzo said quietly, "It's doing the best we can to ascertain God's intention, for there were indeed two men on a roof, and they did climb down the same chimney. The first man emerged completely clean while it was the second who was covered with soot, and neither man washed his face, because you forgot to ask me whether there was any water in the basin. There was none.” 12 likes
“We seek God so earnestly, Eliav reflected, not to find Him but to discover ourselves.” 9 likes
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