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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  37,125 ratings  ·  781 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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Cathy Just like you're doing, start at the beginning and read to the end. The author is known for his historical novels. I can't imagine all the research…moreJust like you're doing, start at the beginning and read to the end. The author is known for his historical novels. I can't imagine all the research required for each. Personally, I enjoy every minute of them. But with the first one, I too was waiting for the book to start, but now, I enjoy the history lessons.(less)
Roger For some reason, it was not available as an ebook for a couple of years, but whatever the problem was, it is now resolved, and you can get it on…moreFor some reason, it was not available as an ebook for a couple of years, but whatever the problem was, it is now resolved, and you can get it on Kindle again.(less)

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4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  37,125 ratings  ·  781 reviews

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Jun 18, 2011 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
Jan 03, 2014 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
Oct 30, 2008 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 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A magnificent epic of a book set in Colorado in the USA from prehistoric times to 1974. Taking us from the development of the different types of prehistoric animal life from dinosaurs to wolves and beavers to the arrival of man. biography of the Arapaho chieftain Lame Beaver and his rivalry with the neighboring Comnache and Cheyenne tries to to the arrival of the first European settlers. the beaver trappers Pasquinel and Alexander Mc Keag The journeys of Levi fleeing into the prairies with his c ...more
Jul 09, 2011 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
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another of my favorite author's-- I have yet to read one of his books I didn't thoroughly enjoy. This is a saga of a family out west and very entertaining.
Fred Shaw
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the author’s trait of beginning his books at the start of time and develops his story and characters as time advances.
Mar 21, 2009 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
Jul 06, 2009 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
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
Bruce Smith
+I remember liking Michener when I was younger, but this one seemed to be all telling and no showing. Kind of boring. I got about 75% through it, but couldn't take anymore.
Katie Agress
Mar 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
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
Nancy Simioni
Feb 27, 2013 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
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
Linda Sellars
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like Micnener's writing and Centennial is no exception. I learn a lot from his books. This one could pass for a history of the settlement of the Great Plains. But it is not just a history book dressed up as a novel, the characters are real people. The book starts in the distant past and moves forward through the Native Americans, the fur trappers, the settlers, the ranchers and many more. I expected the book to be centered in the Rocky Mountains, since that is what I think of when I think of C ...more
Ron Wroblewski
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: james-michener
Michener is in a class of his own. Many long novels (this one was 909 pages), with accurate historial facts built in. I started this book last Sep and just finished it this Apr. It gave the history of Colorado, but covered not only Colorado but also New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming and Mexico. Amazing detail of the life lived by the Indians, the Anglos, the Mexicans, some Russians and Japanese. One amazing fact was that there are more people killed in Colorado in one year due to auto accidents then we ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, abandoned
DNF @ 18% I'm close to 200 pages in and we're only up to the late 18th century. I can only imagine that once it gets to the meat of the story, the part I'm looking forward to, it's going to be tedious and far too detailed. Geology, dinosaurs, mammals, buffalo, beaver, eagles, rattlesnakes, the first Native Americans, flint knappers, Apache, Cherokee, Comanche... I should have used this to put me to sleep.
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The name of the author can tell you a lot about this book. His big book sagas never disappoint.It was well done as we usually expected from Michener. A western saga, that I will recommend for those that like that type of genre, life as it evolved in the 1800's and early 1900's. The ending a bit flat for me.
Jun 11, 2012 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
Jan 02, 2013 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
Stories set against historical backdrops or that contain historical threads in some manner -- OK, I'm all right with those. But, in general, the idea of historical fiction makes me bristle. The notion of reading a speculative history such as, say, Lincoln by Gore Vidal versus, say, a factual documentary non-fiction account by, say, DK Goodwin, would have me decisively favoring the latter, if one is going to set aside time for such an attempt. When history is at hand, it's nonfiction for me.

Dec 01, 2013 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
Kristy Miller
A history of the American west, written in celebration of America’s bicentennial. Centennial focuses on the area that would become Colorado, with little bits in Wyoming, St. Louis, and Pennsylvania. Michener goes back as far as the formation of the land, and the lives of the dinosaurs, and the animals that inhabited the land before man arrived, but that is just two chapters. The story really starts with the Arapahoe brave, Lame Beaver. From there we move to the trappers and mountain men, Alexand ...more
Jan 31, 2013 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
Aug 20, 2009 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
Oct 03, 2009 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
May 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Yes, it's about Colorado. Yes, everyone in the universe has told me I "have to" read this. Perhaps, someday I'll start on page 250 and finish it. The dinosaurs, though, I just can't....
Christine Calabrese
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Centennial by James A. Michener
Book Review by Christine Calabrese

There are good writers, great writers and genius writers.

Michener was a genius.

During the mid 1980’s, I discovered and fell in love with the works of James A. Michener. His books are long, often close to 1000 pages, detailed, a fascinating mix of history and novel fiction interpretation. Flow of language, well-placed vocabulary and romantic intrigue drew me into the Michener world of historical fiction.

After I read Chesapeake, t
Karen Finch
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I loved learning more about my home state of Colorado! I went in blind and thought it was about 200 years in CO. No it’s about the area around centennial. It starts at the time of dinosaurs and ends around the 1980s. Reminded me of Edward Rutherford’s books.

It’s a long one though so be prepared to devote a large swath of time. :-).
Jul 31, 2008 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
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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.” 10 likes
“The way we react to the Indian will always remain this nation’s unique moral headache. It may seem a smaller problem than our Negro one, and less important, but many other sections of the world have had to grapple with slavery and its consequences. There’s no parallel for our treatment of the Indian. In Tasmania the English settlers solved the matter neatly by killing off every single Tasmanian, bagging the last one as late as 1910. Australia had tried to keep its aborigines permanently debased—much crueler than anything we did with our Indians. Brazil, about the same. Only in America did we show total confusion. One day we treated Indians as sovereign nations. Did you know that my relative Lost Eagle and Lincoln were photographed together as two heads of state? The next year we treated him as an uncivilized brute to be exterminated. And this dreadful dichotomy continues.” 5 likes
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