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4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  31,964 Ratings  ·  636 Reviews
"Michener is America's best writer, and he proves it once again in CENTENNIAL."
A stunning panorama of the West, CENTENNIAL is an enthralling celebration of our country, brimming with the glory and the greatness of the American past that only bestselling author James Michener could bring to stunning life. From the Native Americans, the migrating white me
Paperback, 1086 pages
Published July 1st 1989 by Fawcett Books (first published 1974)
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Jun 18, 2011 Luanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michener stayed with our family for two weeks when he was writing this book. We had a cattle ranch in southeast Wyoming and he was doing some of his ranching research with us. I was just a teenager then, but I remember him vividly. He asked the sort of question that would allow someone to respond thoughtfully and in great length. He would smile and listen and never write anything down, but I could see him filing away every word that was spoken. He read at least 200 books for every book he wrote. ...more
You could take a university course in the History of the American West and not learn as much as you can from this completely thorough fictional history by James Michener. His background research is as detailed as any writer in the genre. And he has the skill to fold those details, that history, into a fictional story that makes history come to life. I've read most of his novels and they are all exceptional, but the three that really stand out for me are Hawaii, Centennial, and The Covenant.
Sarah Zinn
Oct 30, 2008 Sarah Zinn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars because it was expertly written, but not five because it pissed me off. The historic details, interweaving of plots, and lifelike characters were a collective thing of beauty. I did note that Michener left a couple of loose ends (Ethan Grebe, to start), and seemed to forget to color up a character who fascinated me (Tim Grebe). The character was toward the end of the book - maybe he just got tired of writing and wanted to finish it already?

What pissed me off, however, was a distinct
Jul 09, 2011 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I finally got around to reading not the paperback but the hefty 1974 Random House hardcover --holding the book steady and unright was a nightmare. Yes, I have delicate little hands. This novel is pure unadulterated ambitious Michener -- and great fun. Paleontology, horses, the Oregon Trail, Colorado, Indian tribes, sugar beets, the ranchers and the cattle industry, guns, the railroads. A Colorado saga, and the narrative does not flag. I think it's one of his best, but not better that The S ...more
May 12, 2016 Stacy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another of my favorite author's-- I have yet to read one of his books I didn't thoroughly enjoy. This is a saga of a family out west and very entertaining.
Jul 06, 2009 Trisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book because I have decided to take a literary tour of the United States. Having been to the south with Eudora Welty and the Optimist's Daughter, I decided to go West. And I couldn't have chosen a better guide than Michener (whom I have never read before.) I was absolutely fascinated by the details and historical information - beginning way back some billion years ago when the cooling earth began to shape itself into what is now known as Colorado. Each chapter of this book was like ...more
Sarah Anne
DNF @ 18% I'm close to 200 pages in and we're only up to the late 18th century. I can only imagine that once it gets to the meat of the story, the part I'm looking forward to, it's going to be tedious and far too detailed. Geology, dinosaurs, mammals, buffalo, beaver, eagles, rattlesnakes, the first Native Americans, flint knappers, Apache, Cherokee, Comanche... I should have used this to put me to sleep.
Mar 21, 2009 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
8/13/15: I seem to be making a serious attempt at re-reading CENTENNIAL.

8/21/15: Yes indeed. At 280 pages, I'm nearly one-third of the way through, and enjoying it very much. Michener packs a heck of a lot of historical detail into the narrative, but as I said in my original comments below, this novel seems to have better pacing than some of the more formulaic ones that were to follow.

8/27/15: Michener has often been accused of cardboard characters in his epics, but I don't find that to be true
Jun 11, 2012 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical novels can be either a mix of really good history and really bad writing--this is not the case with Centennial. James A. Michener invites the reader to be a fellow traveler from the first animals to first humans to the modern chaos that is the American West. His characters are very human, often flawed, and mostly fighters to survive a land under tremendous pressures from with in and without. He begins with the the story of the Arapaho, Lame Beaver and the courier dubois-Pasquinel, who ...more
Nancy Simioni
Feb 27, 2013 Nancy Simioni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite story of all time. My favorite author too!
I love all the characters -- who have remained with me for over 35 years. I read it on our honeymoon (1976) while traveling through Colorado. (The book in Italian is actually titled "Colorado".)
A great read about how the American west was developed -- from the prehistoric to indians to fur traders to cowboys to the American bi-centennial in 1976. Oh, and we learn a lot of American history along the way in a pleasurable story-telling way typic
Linda Sellars
Feb 24, 2017 Linda Sellars rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like Micnener's writing and Centennial is no exception. I learn a lot from his books. This one could pass for a history of the settlement of the Great Plains. But it is not just a history book dressed up as a novel, the characters are real people. The book starts in the distant past and moves forward through the Native Americans, the fur trappers, the settlers, the ranchers and many more. I expected the book to be centered in the Rocky Mountains, since that is what I think of when I think of C ...more
Jan 31, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, historical
Wow...What a marathon of a book. For years a friend has been suggesting I read Centennial, and now I see why. Michener has created lush stories with engaging characters. With each chapter, I became friends with a new set of characters and when they would show up in later chapters, it felt good to see them again. It is apparent that the book is well researched, although only rarely does Michener go overboard with showing you how much he knows. This is one of those books I did not want to put down ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Katie rated it it was amazing
My dad has often described this book as his favorite, so I decided it was time for me to read it. I enjoy Michener's books and have had this one sitting on my shelf for a while.

I'm glad I waited to read it. I never could have appreciated it as well if I hadn't spent some time living and traveling out west. The history and themes of this book have become some of my favorites to read about over the past few years. It was a pleasure to read a fictionalized account of historical topics I enjoy, inc
Stories set against historical backdrops or that contain historical threads in some manner -- OK, I'm all right with those. But, in general, the idea of historical fiction makes me bristle. The notion of reading a speculative history such as, say, Lincoln by Gore Vidal versus, say, a factual documentary non-fiction account by, say, DK Goodwin, would have me decisively favoring the latter, if one is going to set aside time for such an attempt. When history is at hand, it's nonfiction for me.

Holy moly – where to begin… This was required reading in my High School AP US History class and I’ll never forget touring the Southeast for colleges with my mother, knowing that this mammoth book had to be read before August. We alternated between listening to the audiobook version (my first real introduction to audiobooks) and cramming in some nighttime reading in various cities such as Richmond, Nashville, Winston-Salem, Raleigh - Durham, and so on.

Centennial is the kind of book that will mak
Aug 20, 2009 White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read this book 5 times. So inspirational to me, I wrote a saga of my home state of Utah in a Michenerian style. Love this author. He leaves no stone unturned. This is a book that you live as you read it. It isn't just a "read". I lived with that family of beaver, the Indians, the settlers, the cowboys, and the environmentalist down to every thought the had and feeling they felt. Even the beaver made me cry. Michener is more than a story teller, he is a historical scientist and a geologist ...more
Rebecca Huston
Want a big summer read to sink your teeth into? Try this one. Michener details the story of a Colorado settlement, Centennial, from the geology and the prehistoric animals all the way up to the modern day. There's native Americans, the trappers and early settlers, cattle ranching vs. sheep herding, con artists, the circus coming to town, the horrors of the Dust Bowl, and the modern problems of today. Most poignant is the fate of the Arapaho people, endlessly lied to and persecuted by the America ...more
Oct 03, 2009 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cara Santucci
I read this book when the mini-series was about to be released on TV. I was working in the Wyoming State Archives/Historical Dept. at the time, and Michener had done research there. He acknowledged the staff there in the introduction to this book. Because my dad's family lived in Greeley, CO, and I had family in Ft. Collins and my dad's people (Germans form Russia) were described in this book, I was very taken with it. I still remember the excellent characters - McKeeg, Clay Basket, Potatoes Bru ...more
Oct 25, 2009 LemonLinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An epic masterpiece of the American Southwest from a master novelist. And that says it all. If you want to see how the Southwest evolved over time, read this book. You will learn it all - from pre-historic to the domination of the Native American to their demise and the rise of modern day Southwestern culture. It is an informative and entertaining read.
Jul 31, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
I could even consider giving this book the highest rating, but I held back because it was a little dated and a little awkwardly heavy handed in parts.
Basically I always wondered if people just had Michener books on their shelves because they were long and impressive looking, or if they were actually good and engrossing reads. I started The Source a while ago, but gave up when I got close to the present day. I found the stuff about ancient times really interesting, but the more modern it got the
Holly Lindquist
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 01, 2013 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever stood in a spot and wondered who had stood in that spot before you, this book is for you. Michener seamlessly weaves together the lives of all the past residents of the town Centennial, while simultaneously tackling political, social and ecological changes. It is a long book, but he put the same amount of effort into developing the characters of the last story as he did with his first, and never once did I feel like he was rushing a plot. With each new generation we are able to se ...more
This book was AMAZING! I can see how some may be intimidated by its size, but it was worth every single word. Michener is quite a story teller; he does it with fantastic narrative and great descriptive prose. You would think that with a book this size he would spend a lot of extra time describing things, but he doesn't - it is the perfect amount, no filler!

Also, even though this book was written in the 70s, I think the parts toward then end dealing with "modern day" Colorado translate well to 20
Aug 23, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Centennial was a great book due to the complex, detailed and overlapping stories it contained that covered the entire range of the West's development. This was focused on one specific town, Centennial, which is in Colorado, and thus it was also interesting to see it in relation to our visit to Colorado
Tim Rees
Sep 20, 2016 Tim Rees rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very probably the best book I have ever read. This is a must read. It is that rare book where I lived the experience and the pages simply came to life. But it the life of Little Beaver that has stayed with me all these years since I read it.
May 05, 2008 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The middle of this book is very good. The first 150 pages are very hard to wade through, and the last 50 pages or so are also very hard to wade through. But I enjoyed the middle.
May 13, 2012 Cat. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
Yes, it's about Colorado. Yes, everyone in the universe has told me I "have to" read this. Perhaps, someday I'll start on page 250 and finish it. The dinosaurs, though, I just can't....
Aug 01, 2009 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
I hated the beginning of this book. There are at least 50 pages (I stopped after that many pages) about the geology and animal development of the region. It's awful AND boring.
Fred Shaw
I enjoyed the author trait of beginning his books at the start of time and develops his story and characters as time advances.
Ian Durham
Jun 26, 2014 Ian Durham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are people who don't like fiction. While some of them are good friends of mine, I'll be honest and say it scares me a bit. The purpose of fiction is, of course, to tell a story. But _good_ fiction sows the seeds of empathy. It puts the reader into someone else's shoes in way that non-fiction simply can't. Non-fiction can invoke sympathy, but by enveloping the reader in a world, good fiction comes as close as one can (I'd even say closer than film) to delivering an experience. People who do ...more
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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
More about James A. Michener...

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“Only the rocks live forever, Gray Wolf said.” 5 likes
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