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The Source

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  39,911 ratings  ·  1,427 reviews
In the grand storytelling style that is his signature, James Michener sweeps us back through time to the very beginnings of the Jewish faith, thousands of years ago. Through the predecessors of four modern men and women, we experience the entire colorful history of the Jews, including the life of the early Hebrews and their persecutions, the impact of Christianity, the Cru ...more
Paperback, 1080 pages
Published July 9th 2002 by Random House, Inc. (first published January 1965)
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Portia Religions from the Middle East-Judaism, Christianity and Islam have taken away the rights of women. Women were once regarded as the most powerful and …moreReligions from the Middle East-Judaism, Christianity and Islam have taken away the rights of women. Women were once regarded as the most powerful and respected creatures on earth since they gave forth human life. Women were regarded as goddesses and were treated as such. Middle Eastern religions made women subservient and created this whole image as of women being cunning, seducers who tricked men into submission. I personally blame all the patriarchal religions for the humiliation and mistreatment of women. If women were treated as goddesses there would be less SENSELESS VIOLENCE, LESS WARS and more peace and love.(less)
gary schreiber While it is historical fiction, likely Michener was also agenda driven and wished to portray traditional Judaism as overly strict and restrictive, thu…moreWhile it is historical fiction, likely Michener was also agenda driven and wished to portray traditional Judaism as overly strict and restrictive, thus providing a basis for Christianity as "replacement theology." Still he acknowledged that rules were a necessary component of Christianity as well, so that it just represents a "kinder/ gentler" religion. In truth Michener, writes based on the secular assumption that all religions stem from ignorance of the natural world and attempt to appease the forces of nature. From there he takes the perspective that the 3 monotheistic religions evolved . He is sympathetic to the abuse that various religions heap against those whom they consider infidels, misguided or sinners and practitioners of abominable rituals. (less)

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 ·  39,911 ratings  ·  1,427 reviews

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Lee Drake
Feb 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I can remember reading this thing for hours each night curled up in bed when I was 13 years old. It basically began my career in archaeology (fingers crossed for grad school apps). Based on Tel Megiddo, it tells the story of a fictional Tel from its birth to its excavation 12,000 years later. It follows the path of a single family against many gods as it tells the story of Canaanite, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Israeli civilization. While some of the material is dated, it nevertheless rem ...more
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have mixed fond and not so fond memories about "The Source." I am a huge Michener fan and have read all of his books. "The Source" is at the top of my Michener list along with "The Drifters." I started "The Source" in 1974 when I was visiting Israel, the subject of the book. Part of my visit included a bus tour of Israel. I was delighted to read about a place, then reach the actual site of which Michener was writing. The problem was that, about the time I arrived in Israel, I developed a serio ...more
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Source is definitely a highly entertaining and extremely interesting work, and I never lost interest. It presents the panorama of history of the Holy Land, particularly the Galilee, through the ages

I had to read it a second time to realize what a work of genius it is.

There is so much in this incredibly long book, that does depict the experiences and spirit of the Land of Israel, and the Jewish people, who originated in this remarkable land.

In 'The Voice of Gomer' a Hebrew mother is commanded
Mar 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This was a book that helped me have a more complete view of world history and all the tensions surrounding the middle east. I read in in high school during the first gulf war. My high school was pretty substandard, it was a small town, and the students didn't care or try very hard. The school was struggling just to teach the basics. I wanted more than that and I read a lot of stuff. My mom had a subscription to Newsweek and I read it nearly cover to cover every week since I was 12. Despite all m ...more
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes history, or wants to feel accomplished after reading 900+ pages
Recommended to Melissa by: my Dad
If you've ever held something really old in your hands and wondered, "what was life like when this was made?" The Source is a chance to have your musings answered. Michener weaves fiction and history together seamlessly as he intertwines a narrative of an archeological dig in the 1960s (think: Indiana Jones without the bullwhip) with the stories of the artifacts and the people who created them. He traces the history of a single town in Israel/Palestine through the ages - from man's earliest atte ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Source is a thing of beauty in its planning and intricacies. This books is three things at once: A novel, a collection of short stories, and a history of religion from ancient times through to the modern era, and it works wonderfully on all three levels, though it is best as a novel since every story actually ties together in the end, much like one would expect human history to do. Everything is connected, and that includes us all as people. Most of all, though, if you have any interest in J ...more
Brett C
After reading 'Alaska' immediately before this one, I did not find this as good. This book tells the tale of the Middle East and the spark of early Judaism and its transmutation into Christianity and Islam. The story is broken into two parts: one being an archaeological excavation site and the other a historical-fiction style of Middle Eastern religious-based history.

James Michener follows the similar style of writing starting with prehistoric information, the early Hebrews and Canaanites, tran
Aug 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like sagas.
Shelves: fiction
This is typical Michener, and he went on the archaeological excavations at Hazor to research it. I really loved it when I read it in junior high, which I did partly to prove that I could read such long books. I reread it several times afterwards. Now, as an archaeologist who specialized in ancient Israel, I can say that it's a fun book to read, but the interpretations are sensationalist, overtly Zionist, and now out of date. On the other hand, it probably stirs up interest in my field, and it is ...more
The current news of a 1,500 year old church uncovered in an archaeological dig in Israel was like déjà vu for me after reading The Source early this New Year's.

This picture above, and its story could be straight out of a movie version of The Source. I think the book's dig was based on Tel Megiddo, but Michener observed archaeologists at work at Hazor to prepare for writing this book.

As you can tell from reading the other reviews here, the conflicts between peoples and the layering of religious
Lisa Reising
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I began reading with enthusiasm for the premise of this book: looking at the history of Israel through the eyes of archaeologists at a dig. Unfortunately, now I feel it was a subject too large in scope for even this author and his legendary research. After throwing out the first chapter on cavemen as an anomaly, each subsequent chapter could not stem the sliding credibility factor. I'm pretty certain Michener didn't understand Biblical history (for example his characterization of King David was ...more
Lars Andersson
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love to understand things about other people and theminds and how they think. So I guess this can be a book worhty reading. Religion is in fact the force of the universe and we have the power to connect.
Dick Tatro
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for all students. Michener uses his historical fiction style to trace the development of the worlds three great religons (jewish, Christian and muslim) through the story of the family of UR. The UR family's orgin was in the caves of Makor in 10,000 BCE. The story is based on a dig in the Tell of Makor in 1964. Makor is a fictional place that had been refered to in the old testament. The dig is made by a group from Chicago but most of the workers are from the ...more
Jonathan Dunsky
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Source is another of James Michener's epic fictional histories. This one explores a part of northern Israel from the times of the pagans, through Jewish independence, Christian ascendance, Muslim conquest, resurgence of Judaism nationality, to the establishment of Israel.

Note: some of the story does take place in Italy in the middle-ages as Michener relates the plight of Jews there and their decision to migrate to the Land of Israel.

The story is told through an excavation of a site in northe
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! It's daunting since it's over 1000 pages and has been on my shelf since my mom gave it to me in high school or college. I finally picked it up in August and had a rough start with it, but once I got going, found it facinating and more of a history lesson that I feel I got in school (even though it's fiction.)

I would recommend it strongly to anyone interested in world history (any era) and world religions. It was particularly relevant to the past weeks events in Gaza. Many parts of this
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have read this torn, twenty-five year old copy three times now. No easy feet, as it is one of the thicker michener books. The first time I read it, Iwanted to convert to Judaism and go to Israel and live on a kibbutz. I wanted to dig in the dirt and find relics and artifacts that would confirm the existence of God. I wanted to be a part of the spirit that was behind the community of believers, scientists, anthropologists. The educated and strong. I wanted to get tan and lean and smart and worl ...more
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books ever. It's a long one, so give yourself plenty of time.

Tells the story of religion in Israel through the findings of an archaeological dig 90 miles north of Jerusalem. It's divided into stories about 100 pages long, so it doesn't feel quite like you're reading a 1,000 page book. Like all Michener novels, it is very well researched. The characters seem real, and Michener also fleshes out historical figures.

Some sex and violence (have you read the Old Testament?) but nothi
Paula Yerke
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I did it!! I have had this book on my "to read" list for a long time. The subject matter, the history of Judaism, has always been of great interest to me. The problem is the sheer length of this book. It is a monster and so I always found starting it to be a daunting task. As my early Christmas present to myself, I decided to go for it. It sure did not disappoint! I am awed by the scope of this book. Michener tells the tale of Judaism starting in 9834 BCE and continues to 1964 CE. He does this t ...more
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
You're probably wondering, why read the whole darn thing (1070 pages) when you rate it a meagre 2 stars in the end? Well, that's the secret of huge books. If you want your readers to finish your badly written book just make it huge, because first they will continue reading with the hopes of your book just having a awkward start, and by the time they reach 1/4 of the book and have realized the book is just shitty, they will continue reading anyway because they already 'came this far' and put effo ...more
Walt Walkowski
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This is a difficult review to write. I found the characters that the author created to be pretty compelling, and that's what kept me reading the more than 1,000 pages. But the overall message of the book is disappointing, and maybe even maddening. In making this book primarily about the trevails of Jews in creating their own state, Michener pretty much dismisses the idea of God as an invention of human beings. And while one might take what is written as simply a storyline of the imagination, it ...more
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read a number of Michener's books and this is one the best. I just loved how Michener introduced each period in the story by how a dig reveals artifacts in different layers (era). I particularly enjoyed the parts where the Olympic games were held - how the people observed them. There was also a fascinating chapter about the evolution of religion through the introduction of a figurine of Astarte. This book is quite educational. I recommend it to those who are interested in learning more ab ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of non-romance historical novels
Shelves: desert-island
The Source is James Michener's Magnum Opus. It presents a stunning vision and scope, with a fine exploration of Jewish culture and history.

The book is extremely long - over 500,000 words (1200+ pages, fine print) and covers pre-Judaic, proto-Judaic/Hebrew, and Judaic history going back to ca. 10,000 BC

Much of what I know about Jewish culture and history comes from this book (sad perhaps, but true). Like some of my friends say, historical novels are a great way to read history.

This novel is stru
Johnny D
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In which I review this book's one star reviews:

"Painfully simplistic, implying that some of the greatest, centuries-long developments of mankind could happen within a generation or two. I had to stop reading less than halfway through, as I couldn't get past the gaping inaccuracy, anachronisms, and sheer fallacies. Other than that, and a few fairly flat characters, the writing was decent enough."

Our reviewer opens up his review with his metaphorical knife at the throat of the book. Not only does
Jennifer Hughes
Sep 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Maybe I picked the wrong Michener book to start with. It did not work for me on several levels.

First, his characters were almost one-dimensional, they were so flat. The reader is expected to fill in the gaps in all the relationships: feelings of animosity or chemistry and attraction between characters really isn't depicted. You just have to assume that it is there.

Second, ok, I know I only got into it like 100 pages, but everything I saw was told instead of shown. Bo-ring. I learned that one in
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not so easy to summarize a book like this in a few paragraphs.

Basically this book gives a broad deep picture of the Jewish history from prehistoric times (naturally before Judaism) to the mid 1960's. The frame of the story is an archeological expedition digging in an imaginary site of an ancient town in the north of Israel. Using this framework the author goes back in time to various episodes in the history of the site and other places related to Jewish history (and related to the site in some w
Zach Judkins
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: any avid reader interested in archeology, history and religion.
This book is long. A very good read but long. I would recomend reading another book alongside this one to keep from becoming burnt out. Still, this is a very good book, from one of the best authors of the day. This book tells the history of ancient isreal and its religions in a very interesting way. it begins with a group of archeologists that discover the remains of an old city in modern isreal. They begin to dig and as they get deeper come across artifacts of older and older civilizations. Whe ...more
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I can't help putting five stars on this and most of Michener's novels. I read this more slowly than usual and consequently had already forgotten some things I learned at the beginning. But I get the feeling that if in my history class any teacher had handed me any Michener book, my classmates and I would not have been sleeping and acting up. This one dealt with the Holy Land, from the time when man was first a man (out of ape-stage, still living in a cave) and built the first house. And it moved ...more
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Long and languid, the two weeks I spent on reading this saga has torpedoed my 2015 Reading Goal. A very good and absorbing story - typical Michener - although a couple of sections and the end were very slow going and not captivating, which is why it clocks at at four and not five star read.
Alex Bright
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this back when I was in grade 10 and it's stuck with me all these years later. Profoundly visceral depiction of the lives, villages, towns, and cities that grow (and fall) around a single water source -- a well -- over millennia of human history. ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Another epic novel by my favorite author. This book was a beast to get through and I've been reading it off and on for months now. It was utterly fascinating. The book is about the land we now call Israel. It starts with primitive peoples and their creation of "religions". There were many difficult things to read about such as killing of 1st born sons to the God Baal. (I think) -symbolic of things to come? The Jews were of course the central characters in this story and the evolution of their "r ...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

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“A Roman came to Rabbi Gimzo the Water Carrier, and asked, "What is this study of the law that you Jews engage in?" and Gimzo replied, "I shall explain. There were two men on a roof, and they climbed down the chimney. One's face became sooty. The other's not. Which one washed his face?" The Roman said, "That's easy, the sooty one, of course." Gimzo said, "No. The man without the soot looked at his friend, saw that the man's face was dirty, assumed that his was too, and washed it." Cried the Roman, "Ah ha! So that's the study of law. Sound reasoning." But Gimzo said, "You foolish man, you don't understand. Let me explain again. Two men on a roof. They climb down a chimney. One's face is sooty, the other's not. Which one washes?" The Roman said, "As you just explained, the man without the soot." Gimzo cried,"No, you foolish one! There was a mirror on the wall and the man with the dirty face saw how sooty it was and washed it." The Roman said, "Ah ha! So that's the study of law! Conforming to the logical." But Rabbi Gimzo said, "No, you foolish one. Two men climbed down the chimney. One's face became sooty? The other's not? That's impossible. You're wasting my time with such a proposition." And the Roman said, "So that's the law! Common sense." And Gimzo said, "You foolish man! Of course it was possible. When the first man climbed down the chimney he brushed the soot away. So the man who followed found none to mar him." And the Roman cried, "That's brilliant, Rabbi Gimzo. Law is getting at the basic facts." And for the last time Gimzo said, "No, you foolish man. Who could brush all the soot from a chimney? Who could ever understand all the facts?" Humbly the Roman asked, "Then what is the law?" And Gimzo said quietly, "It's doing the best we can to ascertain God's intention, for there were indeed two men on a roof, and they did climb down the same chimney. The first man emerged completely clean while it was the second who was covered with soot, and neither man washed his face, because you forgot to ask me whether there was any water in the basin. There was none.” 18 likes
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