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Centennial

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  25,535 ratings  ·  510 reviews
"Michener is America's best writer, and he proves it once again in CENTENNIAL."
THE PITTSBURGH PRESS
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
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Mass Market Paperback, 1056 pages
Published February 12th 1987 by Fawcett Books (first published 1974)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve Sckenda
"There, high above the plains he had loved and the river he had so often followed, Lame Beaver, the man of many coups, found his rest. He died at the end of an epoch, the grandest the western Indians were to know." --Centennial (182)

“My name is Pasquinel; I come to you unafraid.” I loved this gutsy French trapper who travels by canoe along the Platte River and hikes up the Rocky Mountains to hunt beaver or to trade with the Native Americans for pelts, which he then sells in St. Louis. I will nev
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Luanne
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
Maria
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
Sarah Zinn
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
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Trisha
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
Ellen
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
Katie
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
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White
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
Matthew
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
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Tracey
Oct 03, 2009 Tracey rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Nancy Simioni
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
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John
Jul 31, 2008 John rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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Heather
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
Philip
Although I haven't re-read it in full since the mid-1970s (when I read it twice), CENTENNIAL probably remains my favorite novel by Michener, who for many years was my favorite novelist. This was only the third of his really "big" novels (preceded by HAWAII and THE SOURCE) and the formula wasn't quite set in stone yet. This one had, I thought, great "sweep" to it (like HAWAII, it begins with the very creation of the land on which the story will unfold, and its earliest inhabitants), and some fasc ...more
Ian Durham
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
Ram
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
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Greg
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
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
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Jessica
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
Sally
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
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Mark Haines
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
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Coy
Nov 11, 2013 Coy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jennifer
I've always loved James Michener ever since I read "Journey" years ago by accident. This novel is no exception to his usual body of work. His writing is so detailed and rich, you feel completely immersed in the locale and swept along in the history of the people. Each character is so vividly developed that an unexpected death is mourned by the reader, though you may have only "known" the character for 30 pages.
This novel is set in the middle of Colorado, in a fictional town, but all of the event
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gaudeo
If anything, I am even more impressed with this book than I was when I read it as a young person. In fiction, this is a complete history of Colorado, and particular of the northeast portion along the South Platte River--the area I happen to hail from. In particular, what strikes me in this reading is just how closely one generation after another--from the Arapaho and Cheyenne forward to residents of the 1970s--has been tied to the land. Recommended for all lovers of historical fiction, especiall ...more
Brandi Boyd
I read this book 20 years ago, and like a lot of things, I remembered it differently than it's reality. First, like a lot of Michener novels it's long. 1000+ pages. The first third of the book is hard to get invested in. A history of the land, evolution, animals and especially the Platte River. If you can make it through this especially wordy prose, there is a payoff. What seems like rambling in the beginning eventually ties in to the story.
What I had especially forgotten was that if you are goi
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Mackay
Parts of this book are fascinating, but this is the book that stopped me cold on Michener. Toward the end, in "modern" times, his shallowness made me actually throw the book across the room, and I never read another Michener nor reread him.

What can you say about a "novel," where the most interesting bit takes place not in Colorado (the "Centennial" state of the title), but in Pennsylvania and concerns how to make scrapple?

The Formula worked for his bank account but got so very tiresome.....
Kelli
Loved this book. I live in the area this story takes place so it was interesting to hear about its origins........ from the beginning of freaking time!!! I have a tendancy to tell the long version of stories in my life (everyday stuff) and began calling them the "Centennial version" of my story. A few friends have caught on and enjoy pointing this out to me whenever I get going....
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
I'd just finished Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, another book that took me roughly a month to read, and my love suggested this one -- I guess his mom had had it when he was younger and he knew she liked it and thought I'd like it. Let me just say, I've never read Michener before now. I really liked the setup at the beginning; it reminded me of Dan Brown's Langdon setting out on a research trip - but once it started getting into the chapters (or chunks, rather) of pure unadulterated history, it s ...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
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“Only the rocks live forever, Gray Wolf said.” 4 likes
“It took her three seconds-one, two, three-to know that her destiny required her to join this man, and his gun and his wagon, and his waiting horses. She had no conception of what was being asked of her, but she knew that there could be no viable alternative. She dashed inside the orphanage and grabbed the few things that belonged to her.” 2 likes
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