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4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  28,292 Ratings  ·  549 Reviews
Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier. Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story of Colorado—the Centennial State—is manifested through its people: Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; Levi Zendt, fleeing with ...more
Paperback, 1056 pages
Published February 12th 1987 by Fawcett (first published 1974)
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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
67th out of 5,515 books — 21,299 voters
The Book Thief by Markus ZusakGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettA Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
Recommended Historical Fiction
44th out of 2,237 books — 2,212 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 24, 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
Dec 12, 2015 Duane rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2013 Sarah Zinn rated it really liked it
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
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
Aug 16, 2009 Trisha rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2012 Ellen rated it really liked it
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
Sep 04, 2015 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
Nancy Simioni
Feb 27, 2013 Nancy Simioni rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
Oct 03, 2009 Tracey rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2015 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2008 John rated it really liked it
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
Mar 27, 2015 Heather rated it it was amazing
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
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
Sep 23, 2008 Angela rated it really liked it
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.
Ian Durham
Jul 27, 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
Oct 13, 2014 Ram rated it liked it
A very well researched book. As in most of Michener’s books, It spans on many years and human lives and touches many aspects of the subject. In this case the subject is Colorado. As I lived in Colorado for 3 years, it has a special meaning to me.

Through the lives of many characters over many years and generations, I found myself in a deep and extensive tour of the people, land and creatures that lived in Colorado and made it the lovely state it is today (or to be more precise the state it was in
Feb 19, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Holly Lindquist
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christine Ward
Aug 15, 2011 Christine Ward rated it it was ok
After re-reading it, I'll stick with my original rating of 2 stars. It's not a bad read, but it's definitely not Michener's best work. As with all Michener stories, this is a multi-generational tale, only this one is set in the town of Centennial, Colorado. The tale begins with the geology of the area, then takes the reader through the history of the area and its inhabitants (animal and human alike) from prehistoric beginnings to the 1970s.

I'm used to Michener's style of starting with the geolo
Dec 09, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
An epic novel about the settlement of Colorado and the westward pioneer movement. It was a lot of work to get through, but I did. The book goes into some detail about the tragedy of the American frontier killing the buffalo off so as to kill the Native Americans by depriving them of their food source. It shows the pioneering spirit and drive that a lot of people had to find a prosperous life in Colorado. Being from Utah, I was very well aware of the westward movement in terms of Mormon history, ...more
I'm enjoying this.

One thing about Michener's style that especially impresses me is that each chapter in most of his books read like a separate novella. Centennial reads so far like eleven novellas within an epic novel.

Some how the characters overlap, but mostly within generations. He also references specific events and narratives from previous novellas, such as how the beaver dam (loved that part) showed up in the chapter on the devious, thieving Wendells.

Finally finished this one. Just as wh
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I am very familiar with the area in which the fictional Centennial takes place. The book to me has become so realistic that I sometimes confuse the reality of the Pawnee Grasslands and the Platte River with the characterizations of the book. I have seen Peregrine Falcons and Prairie Falcons at the Pawnee Buttes or was it the Chalk Cliffs.........which one was real and the other fictional. Michener was never known for his humor or for lending romance ...more
Mark Haines
Jul 27, 2010 Mark Haines rated it it was amazing
Shelves: westerns
Very rarely do I read a book that makes me mad, sad, happy, cry, laugh out loud, and discuss with random people in my daily life. Centennial made me do all of these things. This is the first Michener book I have read and am glad that I picked it. I was given a glimpse into the development of the west that didn't leave anything out. I felt connected to the majority of the characters...especially the Scottish fur trader McKeag.

The beginning history of the land is a little hard to slog through, but
Jan 02, 2016 Scott rated it really liked it
Between this and Herman Wouk's "Winds of War" this was my introduction to adult fiction. I read this book in high school the summer after it came out and I was enamored with Michener. I read everything by him after that but this was my first. I am not sure it was his best but it was introduction to sweeping epics and it has been a constant search ever since to find authors that can write with such sweep.
Nov 11, 2013 Coy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Coy by: Bob Knobel
This was my Dad's favorite book. I can see why he liked it. It is a history that is close to home and about some of the things he loved. I liked it too, but probably not as much as he did. I don't recall liking the middle of a book and not caring too much for its beginning or its end, but that was the case with Centennial. Get past the primordial soup and geology and the characters are pretty neat. I love how he brought individual animals to life. The explorers and indians were good too, but the ...more
Cathy Wacksman
Aug 11, 2015 Cathy Wacksman rated it it was amazing
It can be challenging to finish a Michener book because they are so long but if you like learning about history then you will be glad you persevered. In fact, there is sorrow at having to say goodbye to characters you've been reading about for over 900 pages.
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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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