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Centennial

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  41,199 ratings  ·  956 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 Start at the beginning and finish at the end. Michener, provides a LOT of back story. During my first book of his, I wondered what it had to do with t…moreStart at the beginning and finish at the end. Michener, provides a LOT of back story. During my first book of his, I wondered what it had to do with the story, I was a bit impatient and just wanted him to get on with it. But I've grown to enjoy his style of writing and let it take me further into his stories.(less)
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 re…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)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.25  · 
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Luanne
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
Debbie
Dec 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Debbie by: Annette Supruniuk
Woohoo! I DID it! The longest book I've read this year, even longer than Lonesome Dove! I finally finished it on Christmas Eve Day!

Why I chose to read this book:
1. my sister highly recommended it;
2. I reached my Reading Challenge goal already;
3. since I read Lonesome Dove around this time last year, I wanted to see how the two compared; and,
4. why not? 😜

Positives:
1. author James A. Michener, inspired by true events in Colorado's history, used an interesting writing format. In short, a fictional
...more
Duane
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. ...more
Tim
Feb 10, 2021 rated it did not like it
I didn't care for this at all as it not so lightly extols the virtues of white, racist supremecy. Native Americans, Mexicans and blacks are demeaned and diminished to the point of sub-human stature. Accordingly, it's okay to murder, maim, deride, cheat, steal, belittle all who are nonwhite. That's American historical literature for you. 0 of 10 stars ...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
...more
John
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite authors. As usual Michener delivers an interesting story of a fictional town in the American West. He gives a historical perspective of the region from ancient times to the early 1970s.
Gary
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
The Colonial
James A. Michener, an esteemed novelist with a catalog and resume consisting of numerous bestsellers, holds a profound niche in the field of historical fiction with his attention to the topography and social history of specific territories. The reader looking for both a cultural and geographic history of Colorado and Westward Expansion need look no further, as Michener has proven himself time and time again to have a clear knack for creating a fascinating story that involves both historical cont ...more
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
...more
Stacy
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. ...more
Maria
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
Philip
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
...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
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.
Janie
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! I'm not a fast reader, and have only read this before bed and during a few afternoon breaks, but after 8 weeks, this 1068 page, densely worded tome is conquered!! And what a story!

I'm convinced Michener could write about paint drying and make it interesting. I love how he draws the reader into the characters (and there are many) so that when the character moves out of the story, you miss them.

I started this only because my sister and I had a two-week Road Scholar tour of Colorado's national
...more
Trisha
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
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
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. ...more
Carrie
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was excited to read this, because Colorado (where we live) is the Centennial State, and this is a book about the settling of Northern Colorado (where we live). How often do you get to open a 900 page book and see your town in the center of the map on the first page?
My problems were two-fold:
1. He literally started from the ground up. After 100 pages of "The lava flow slowly ebbed, leaving a sizzling rent in the Pre-Cambrian earth...," I skipped ahead, to the dinosaurs. "The allosaurus raised i
...more
Sarah
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. ...more
Brian Fagan
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Reading this book when I did created an almost surreal experience. I recently realized I was hankering for some Michener, and found this one. My son took me on a 9-day camping trip to Colorado and Wyoming, and when we came home, it seemed like a great time to read this story of the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado and its surroundings. Imagine my surprise when the least-visited location we took the time to check out, Pawnee Buttes, became a recurring centerpiece for this entire 1000+ page ...more
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
...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
Cat.
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.... ...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
Christine Ward
Jun 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Ellen
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
Katie
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
...more
Evan
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.

Havin
...more
Heather
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
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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
...more

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