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Alaska

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  12,295 ratings  ·  818 reviews
In this sweeping epic of the northernmost American frontier, James A. Michener guides us through Alaska’s fierce terrain and history, from the long-forgotten past to the bustling present. As his characters struggle for survival, Michener weaves together the exciting high points of Alaska’s story: its brutal origins; the American acquisition; the gold rush; the tremendous g ...more
Paperback, 868 pages
Published November 12th 2002 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published May 12th 1988)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,295 ratings  ·  818 reviews


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Matthew
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Epic Historical Fiction Fans
Alaska is the most epic book I have ever read. I did read another Michener – Centennial – and it was very epic as well. But Alaska is super-duper EPIC! I cannot imagine how one person could write one book like Alaska much less all the other epics he wrote in his life. Michener is truly incredible.

One of the things that astounds me the most about Michener is that he takes non-fiction information, shares it with the reader in a really engaging way, and then seamlessly integrates it into a rich and
...more
Duane
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I always feel like I learned something after I have read a Michener novel. That was the case with Alaska. The isolation and vastness of the of the place is inconceivable to my mind. Michener goes a little overboard on some of the details, especially the 20,000 year old details. It takes some dediaction and patience to get through, but it's well worth it. ...more
Erin
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
James Michener is one of the reasons that I ADORE historical fiction as a genre. This is my fifth (5th!!) reading selection by this author and he continues to hold me spellbound. As Michener navigates the origins of the land now known as Alaska and moves us to the 20th century, he creates a bold tale of the men and women that have left their marks on what is often considered a brutal frontier. If I described Michener's Poland as a military history, Alaska is most certainly a social history. Per ...more
Brett C
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was different than what I usually read but I still enjoyed it. It reads and flows almost like a history textbook but is filled with characters and events that add to the overall narrative. The plot starts out in prehistoric Alaska and gradually moves into the 20th century. What makes it unique is the narrative has characters with dialogue, interaction, and continual transitions into the future. The books follows prehistoric man, the rise of Native American/indigenous peoples, exploration of ...more
Tim
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent story from the birth of Alaska to near present day history. Awesome late author. 10 of 10 stars
Adam
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-fic
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
...more
Joel
Oct 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Dani
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Julie
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A novel almost as big as the state! I learned so much from this book, so many things I never realized had happened. Guess they didn't teach us anything in history class about Alaska. I thoroughly enjoyed the use of family through several generations. In this day, Michener's use of strong women and getting over cultural groups intermarrying is a huge plus. I really liked the South Dakotan that was of Scot-English- + about 10 other nationalities talking about half breeds??? Get a grip! Michener bo ...more
Laura
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
...more
Rex Fuller
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a novel...correction, a saga, built from about three novels and four novellas. But it’s not pure fiction. A number of events and characters are historical and a section in the front tells you which are which. Both an education and a real pleasure, if you like Alaska – and of course everybody does – this is probably a must read.

Michener chronicles the history of Alaska: the accretion of land to form it; arrivals of Athabascans, Eskimos, Aleuts, Russians, and Americans; the fur trade; the
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
I remember reading this as a kid and dreaming of travelling up near Klondike and beyond the Arctic Circle. I don't know if it was the rugged lifestyle or just the pseudo-romantic text of Michener that created this feeling but in any case, it never went beyond idle daydreaming since I still haven't been there nearly 40 years later. I do recall being enthralled with the story and enjoying the narrative very much though. ...more
Gary K Bibliophile
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
In early December 2019 I had just met my GR annual book goal. I decided to knock off one of the many *long* books off my TBR list. Being a military brat I happened to have the good fortune to have been born in Hawaii. So the book I had in mind was James Michener’s Hawaii. I had not read any Michener before and didn’t really know what to expect. After plugging away for a little more than 2 weeks I was quite impressed. I made a personal goal for myself to repeat this experience in years to come by ...more
Michael Bass
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa Wolf
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
James Michener's Alaska is an exhaustive -- and exhausting -- primer on Alaskan history, filtered through the lens of fiction. As an alternative to reading a stuffy old history book, this Alaska has a lot to offer: colorful characters (some historical, some fictional), dramatic landscapes, momentous occasions, and far-reaching human drama. On the down side, if you're looking for actual historical facts, they're here -- but you have to go looking for them. While Michener does provide notes detail ...more
Rich
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, hardship
4.5 Stars rounded to 4. Very well done book, that brings to life a place i knew little about. There were a few slow spots to me so could not give it 5 stars, although at 1300 and them some pages I guess that is to be expected. A historical fiction story about Alaska from early Mammoth life, original tribe life, Russians in the seal pelt trade, gold rush, Alaska salmon, WWII, Alaska becoming a state, and then modern day life. There were some other segments, but those were the main ones, all good ...more
Bill Hunter
Jan 14, 2010 rated it liked it
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
...more
Baron Rothschild
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was an ok read.
Suzanne
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
...more
Don
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Melissa
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one epic work of historical fiction. Michener brings Alaska's history vividly to life. ...more
Bodosika Bodosika
Oct 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an interesting one but unfortunately there is only one 🌟 here if not this is a 3 star book.
Janie
What a tremendous book! Five stars for it and Michener! And five stars for me (LOL!), the plodding reader, for finishing this in five weeks. I've always had to break up books over 600-700 pages and read something in between because my interest flags, but not with this one. I was already in an Alaskan obsession, so this one just snowballed it. More thoughts later when I can get to it.

A couple of quotes I want to keep and access later:

"When one looks at the glorious mountains of Alaska he sees pro
...more
Jason Gossard
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Mary Russell
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I did it! It was my goal to finish Alaska this summer and life got busy so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to... Quite the feather in my *amateur* hat if I do say so myself. Thanks Michener for keeping me captivated for months! He really put life and emotions into the history of this big beautiful state of ours. I loved the passion behind the people and the true testing of strength and grit and perseverance. I loved the intertwined family lines, seeing grandchildren of previous characters interacti ...more
Jill
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I listened to this ridiculously long audiobook over several of my longer hiking epics in July and August. It was pleasantly enjoyable. Some threads of the narrative are strung out longer than necessary, especially the final chapters about a teacher who moves to a far corner of the north but otherwise is not that interesting of a character, nor does she do all that much for the plot. There is also a heavy focus on economics that I found tedious at times. The chapters about the arrival of Russians ...more
Bruce Harpham
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I'm going to Alaska in August so I started to reading the novel. It took a month (I set a daily reading quota!). What an epic ride. It starts in prehistory and then quickly moves from there. I especially enjoyed the American history section from the 1860s to the present day. The history of different industries of the state (e.g. furs, salmon, oil etc) is particularly well told. As a Canadian, I also enjoyed the several Canadian figures that appear through the novel including a Mountie and determ ...more
Laura Jean
Although extremely long, this was a very fascinating book. I loved the blend of fiction and nonfiction. I loved the strong female characters. Michener took various important phases of Alaska's history and brought them to life with vivid and amazing detai. Although some of the early characters were a tad two dimensional, by the end the characters were very layered and quite believable. I also enjoyed how he did an entire chapter following a salmon through it's life cycle. I look forward to readin ...more
Paul
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was the second book in my Michener Marathon - I read this because there is an entire chapter about the Matanuska Valley Colony
LibraryCin
3.5 stars

This fictional chunkster pretty much tells the entire history of Alaska from before humans, through to about 1990.

It was good, but LONG. It took me 2 months to listen to the 57 hour audio. Because it was so long and covered so many time periods, events, families/people/characters, some sections were more interesting to me than others. (Although it’s so long ago now, it’s hard to remember), I think I liked the section at the start before humans. I also particularly enjoyed the gold rush
...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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“The city of Los Angeles is now some twenty-four hundred miles south of central Alaska, and since it is moving slowly northward as the San Andreas fault slides irresistibly along, the city is destined eventually to become part of Alaska. If” 3 likes
“The movement of animals across the bridge was by no means always in one direction, for although it is true that the more spectacular beasts—mastodon, saber-tooth, rhinoceros—came out of Asia to enrich the new world, other animals like the camel originated in America and carried their wonderful capacities into Asia.” 1 likes
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