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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  6,651 ratings  ·  364 reviews
In this sweeping epic of the northernmost American frontier, James A. Michener guides us through Alaska’s fierce terrain and history, from the long-forgotten past to the bustling present. As his characters struggle for survival, Michener weaves together the exciting high points of Alaska’s story: its brutal origins; the American acquisition; the gold rush; the tremendous g ...more
Paperback, 868 pages
Published November 12th 2002 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1988)
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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
240th out of 5,036 books — 19,308 voters
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5th out of 189 books — 153 voters

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Spanning almost 30,000 years, this book is the definition of epic historical fiction. Beginning with the migration of mastodon and saber-toothed tigers from Siberia to Alaska across the Bering Land Bridge and continuing forward to the signing of the Alaska Statehood Act that made Alaska the 49th state in 1959, the history of the nations largest state is laid out in surprisingly readable fashion. I now wish there were equally good books on each of the other U.S. states.

I've never read anything b
Joel Neff
Oct 11, 2007 Joel Neff rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Travel lovers and fans of epic stories.
Epic, as a description, is thrown around far too often these days. So often, in fact, that the meaning has been diluted down to where it is used only to describe a long story.

Alaska, by James Michener is not just a long story. Rather, Alaska is an epic in the original sense - a story that is told over the course of epochs, involving generations of characters and genealogies.

The story begins with the forming of the continent of North America and takes the reader through modern times. Along the w
The first five hundred pages of this brick of a book were informative and entertaining enough to get me over the half-way hump, but it quickly became less of a page turner and more of a slog. I think sometimes that updating my progress on Goodreads is more of a motivator to make it through a book than actually reading it... Is that a sign? If your goal is to tell the entire cultural history of a place in a novel - telling it through individual narratives might not be a bad way to do it, especial ...more
Just arrived from Germany through BM.

Page 141:
Thus the great expedition proposed by Vitus Bering staggered to an inconclusive ending. No officer had set foot on Alaska proper; the scientific excursions had been aborted; no useful charting was done; and fifteen men had already been lost. The adventure which Bering had said could be completed for ten thousand rubles would ultimately consume the two million predicted by the accountants, and all that would have been proved which was not already know
Michael Bass
For two months the author took me on a journey, soaring over majestic mountains and ice crusted seas. I was immersed in the history of the people and their ways and shown both sides of what happens when cultures clash. Alaska unforgiving and brutal to those who don,t follow her rules but a gem to behold for those who take the chance to know her. I probably read an additional three books of info online just following up on some of the topics the author went over in the book. The closest you can g ...more
Rex Fuller
This is a novel...correction, a saga, built from about three novels and four novellas. But it’s not pure fiction. A number of events and characters are historical and a section in the front tells you which are which. Both an education and a real pleasure, if you like Alaska – and of course everybody does – this is probably a must read.

Michener chronicles the history of Alaska: the accretion of land to form it; arrivals of Athabascans, Eskimos, Aleuts, Russians, and Americans; the fur trade; the
Bill Hunter
The first two chapters are pretty brutal, but apparently that is Michener. They talk about the geological formation of Alaska and though detailed and informative can be skipped. Once he gets into the third chapter following a pack of mammoths and the life of a salmon things pick up a bit but the book still drags a bit. As Michener gets into the human portion of the novel it gets much more readable.

The book follows interwoven characters and stories (some historical figures and some fictional fig
Jason Gossard
I love Michener cause I love long, sprawling, epic tales. This may be my favorite only cause Alaska is one messed up place and Michener brings that long, crazy, rough, touch, somewhat psychotic history to life. From it's earliest animal life to its struggle to become a state, every aspect of Alaska is given an in depth analysis by Michener in a at times thrilling tale of several 'families' and their development over centures. Brilliant and historical fiction at its best!
Got this at a book sale about three years ago. Last one I read by Michener was "Legacy," and before that "Chesapeake," I REALLY like his multi-generational, multi-century novels, looking forward to this one now!

(many moons later) Done! All 868 pages of it! Not a disappointment, and very much in line with his other multi-generational (nay, geological age) narrative. At my age, I have to write down who's who and how they are related to who was in the last chapter/era; went through three of those i
You can tell it’s the holiday season, because I finished reading this book a week ago and it’s taken me until now to write my review. And, did I mention it took me about three weeks to finish it? Well, it IS a Michener novel, which means not only is it really, really long, but happily, it’s really, really engaging as well!

When I began Alaska, I tried to recall some history of the state, to predetermine what Michener might include in the book. All I could come up with was gold, oil and cruise shi
Michener can be long winded, but the message stays in my mind.
As is his way, he goes back to the very beginning of time explaining
how the movement of the subterranean plates shifted and reshifted
to create the Alaska we know today and how the first men to cross from Asis to Alaska had to work all the time to get food and shelter. His account covers the history of all the tribes of Alaska. His account of the gold rush and how cities came and went was so interesting. I am friends with a married co
James A. Michener is known for his highly detailed narrative and pages-long expository on the history of a region. When done correctly, a reader is taken on a whirlwind adventure through time, following the growth and development of an area through the eyes of the land and of a select few founding families. When done poorly, the effect is more like a lengthy history textbook. Alas, Alaska falls into the latter category.

What Michener does well can become nauseatingly boring over time without a hu
Marvellous. The best book I have read of Michener's so far.
Michener is truly the epic storyteller par excellence.

In his typical style, he starts way back tracing the early origins of Alaska and how this mass of land came to be formed, takes you through a stunning history of the native peoples both Eskimo and Inuit, through to the inevitable encroachment of white man, the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian and Kodak islands as well as the sale and purchase of the land by the Russians and American
Michael Sump
I have rated this a 4, though I'm closer to a 3.5 on this particular book. I love Michener, and I love his style of writing. His books are a blend of historical exposition with a narrative and fictional story. He's very adept at creating families of characters that walk through the history of place and that hold and retain your interest. I give Michener a 5 while giving "Alaska" a 3.5.

The book is long (over 850 pages) as is typical for Michener. I didn't find that this book stuck together as wel
I really liked it; aside from it being 868 pages! I am going to visit Alaska soon and it was nice to get an overall view of the historical Alaska. This book is a novel, but he does a good job of getting basic Alaskan history in front of the reader and it made me want to know more.
Actually the 868 pages only seems daunting at the beginning. The book is divided into 12 sections, each of which is easily a book in itself. It reads very much like a series would. There is some connection to the chara
A passionate story of a passionate region. The experiences of Michener's Alaskan characters are just as exciting and tumultuous as their surroundings. I appreciate that Michener's passion for the lives he created didn't tempt him to give them fairytale endings. Even when a character got a leg-up in one instance, life in Alaska's frontiers continued to assult them on other fronts. His portrayal of encounters between Native Alaskans, Europeans, and Asians were realistic in that they didn't become ...more
Great book. Epic, full of stories. I feel like he really presented what happened without sugar coating any groups point of view. It was very sad in some parts, inspiring in others. I read a few of James Michener's other historical stories (Chesapeake, Centennial, Texas)and this seemed comparable in quality, scope, and mix of history/story/detail.

The only negative is that "Alaska" got off to a very slow start. The first 15- 20 pages are about the geology and origins of the land. Important for und
Aug 19, 2014 Don rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Don by: Chris Melnick
The story is good, the history great. The characters fail to achieve depth. I failed to connect with most of the characters, although there were a few exceptions. However, as a read before a family trip to Alaska, this was great. Some of the story centered precisely in the area where we traveled, and Michener serves as a great preparatory teacher for anyone planning to travel in Alaska. It was also fun to see who in our family group could get through the 1000 pages first!
One of my favorites from Michener. As always, the book stands on its own with just the tales and travels of the main characters. But the real beauty, as is standard with Michener, is that you will walk away with a deeper understanding of Alaska than you would ever have expected. From the formation of mountain ranges, differing claims of ownership, ancient inhabitants and their struggle to survive, gold rush booms and busts, aviation in impossible conditions, education in the deep frozen northern ...more
Rebecca Huston
A very good, if rather episodic, look at Alaska's history from the prehistoric to the modern, with lots of details and personal stories. Great for the armchair or actual traveler. Proved to be very useful for me in planning my upcoming trip to the 49th State.

For the longer review, please go here:
I have just finished an enlightened journey to Alaska via James A. Michener. This is historical fiction at it's finest. The book began with a short helpful chapter on what's fact and what's fiction in this saga. The journey begins with the specific geologic histories of the various Alaskan terranes. Next comes the Beringia "land bridge" between Siberia and Alaska which introduced the movement of various exotic animals such as the mastodon and the saber-toothed tiger and later the human inhabitan ...more
Having returned from a trip to Alaska this past summer, I found this book to be absolutely fantastic. Michener always starts from "nothing" and really builds everything into his novels. I had visited several of the places mentioned in this book, and was as fasinated by his story, as I was with actually being in this wonderful wildnerness.
John Harder
I have been concerned about my upper body strength. The solution -- I read much of this book in the bath – keeping this hefty tome over the waterline has resulted in rippling biceps. The length is understandable as the novel begins with wooly mammoth and ends in the modern era? If you want to learn the entire scope of Alaskan history without slogging through a textbook you can’t beat Michener.

Some facts. 1. The stereotype of the drunken Indian (Eskimos) has a good basis in fact. 2. The Alaskan g
What a creative and engaging way to tell the history of Alaska! I enjoyed every disparate story along the journey, knowing that each would tie back into the long line of characters that had already been introduced. This was my first Michener novel. I will not be afraid to take on another of his epics.
Because it is so epic, it is difficult to give this book a 3 when it is a borderline 3/4 read. For a first time Michener reader with an interest in Alaska you will be impressed by how readable this sweeping historical and geological saga is, however, as a huge fan of Michener's The Source and also a big fan of Hawaii, this story just isn't up to snuff. The history is there, it's just the majority of characters Michener fictionalizes to deliver the story come across as flat, failing to ignite the ...more
Sarah Phillips
A fictional tale of the history of Alaska, as told through the stories of several families, from Indians to Russians to Americans. Upon reading one of Michener's tomes, one can really understand quite a bit of history of a region. I read this right before one of the worst winters Alaska had experienced in several years, and I found myself worrying about the fictional characters because they were so real to me.

Michener's stories are quite long, but that is because they cover an entire history of
I'm glad I read it but I'm glad to be done with it. 868 oversized pages in extremely fine print was too much for me. I live near the Matanuska Valley and know a family who came from Minnesota with that project, so that part was interesting, but there is no such place as Dog Creek around here. There are plenty of other creeks he could have named so I don't know why he had to make one up. The author also got Bettels wrong. He called it Beetels. IF I had to come up with one word to describe this bo ...more
P.marie Boydston
Took several months before traveling to Alaska to read Michener's novel and it really was a beautiful depiction of all the culture and history I found when I was there. It was so nice to be familiar with all the important landmarks, ports, and different native cultures as I visited the majestic state. I would recommend this book in particular to anyone planning a trip to Alaska, and even if you never go, read this novel and you will know what it feels like to be there in person. His imagery is s ...more
Jacob O'connor
The world has become very critical of missionaries. I once heard Bill Maher on a diatribe against missionaries to Africa. He was angry that they insist on preaching before giving up the spaghetti-o's. Meanwhile they're in the Congo and Maher is in a million-dollar studio. Michener is equally hard on gospel bearers. If his reports on Hawaii and Alaska are true, there are some legitimate gripes. More on that in a bit.

I didn't enjoy Alaska as much as Hawaii. Michener is a punishing writer. His char
Don Devine
It took me over 3 months to read this book. And at times I was forcing myself to read it because I wanted to finish it. It was tasking. I don't want to go into details on plot and characters as I don't want to spoil anything and I don't really want to turn anyone away from this book. But I am a big fan of James Michener's. But I am not a big fan of this book. I don't consider it one of his better novels or for that matter even a good one. It had its spots where it was great but for the most part ...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...
Hawaii The Source Centennial The Covenant Chesapeake

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“The movement of animals across the bridge was by no means always in one direction, for although it is true that the more spectacular beasts—mastodon, saber-tooth, rhinoceros—came out of Asia to enrich the new world, other animals like the camel originated in America and carried their wonderful capacities into Asia.” 1 likes
“The city of Los Angeles is now some twenty-four hundred miles south of central Alaska, and since it is moving slowly northward as the San Andreas fault slides irresistibly along, the city is destined eventually to become part of Alaska. If” 1 likes
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