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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  6,036 ratings  ·  339 reviews
The high points in the story of Alaska since the American acquisition are brought vividly to life through more than 100 characters, real and fictional.
Hardcover, 868 pages
Published May 12th 1988 by Random House (first published 1988)
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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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
The book follows interwoven characters and stories (some historical figures and some fictional figures) from the beginning of human life in Alaska. From years of Inuits to the Russians to American statehood. Michener hits on founding of modern Alaska, the gold rush, the salmon industry and many other topics.

This book is an interesting and entertaining read if you have a lot of time to devote to the book.
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.
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
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
It would have been difficult for my 7th grade self to imagine that I would have just finished a book by James Michener, it would have been impossible to imagine that it would be the second book of his and that I liked both Texas as well as Alaska. (Texas remains the only book I have ever burned in an act of frustration and anger at having to endure it as a 7th grade Texas history student). Either I've become an incredibly boring adult (totally on the table) or I have come to appreciate the genre ...more
Prasan Kaikini
This time Michener outdoes himself by starting the story of Alaska from the time the earth itself was formed. The geologic forces that created the mountains and volcanic islands of Alaska and the waves of hunter-gatherers that moved into Alaska across the land bridge from Asia and Siberia are described in such vivid detail you feel you are almost watching a PBS documentary. The early explorations by the Russians and their encounters with the "natives", the exploitation of Alaskan natural resourc ...more
"I loved this book! Of course, I have never read a Michener book that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. He creates interesting characters and tells the history of a place with such care through the people of the place and time.

I learned a lot about Alaska. It is interesting to read about the wide spectrum of activities that have occurred in that beautiful land, the gold rush and the salmon fishing. I like that Michener starts at the prehistoric time to describe the land and the animals that were there
Very good book for understanding Alaska.
The plot is perhaps not the most engaging, and the characters come and go as centuries progress.. But it's good enough, for what the book sets out to be (edutainment about Alaska).

One thing that annoys me was that as usual with American literature, if there are Russians in it, they are bad... No deviation from that trend in this book - the Russians that settled Alaska were downright evil if this author is to be believed. But enter the yankees, and the esk
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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 th
More about James A. Michener...
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