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Alaska

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  11,134 ratings  ·  709 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 ...more
Paperback, 868 pages
Published November 12th 2002 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1988)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  11,134 ratings  ·  709 reviews


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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.
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. ...more
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
...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
...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, ...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 ...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
...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 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 ...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
...more
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
...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!
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
...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!
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 ...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 ...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 ...more
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.
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
Scott Ferguson
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is huge! Tiny little print keeps it at 868 pages. It tells the story of Alaska over 30,000 years through narratives and novels mixed with fact and history. It was both interesting and entertaining.
Sallie Dunn
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Classic Michener. Michener weaves history and educates his readers in so many ways while creating human interest stories with each and every offering. Alaska is up there with all the rest.
Ben
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Epic. I haven't read Michener in many years, but he's a great storyteller. This was a fun way to learn a lot of Alaskan history, from outsiders' perspectives.
Sarah Beaudette
May 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Everyone should know whether s/he is a Michener fan. Turns out, I'm not. I got through the first twenty million years of geological creation this time. I've tried a few times with Hawaii because my mom loves it, but I kept getting distracted. This time, I was actively researching Alaska, and appreciated Michener's detail. Great.

We delve into the generations. I found the chapter from the woolly mammoth's pov more gripping than some of the subsequent chapters from human povs, which was maybe a bad
...more
Megan
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I learned a lot about Alaska...but I kept having to google things to find out if they were fictionalized for the book. 1,072 pages later, I would have rather spent the time on a nonfiction account of Alaskan history. The characters were really poorly developed and female characters annoyingly revolved around their love interests. I can appreciate the massive undertaking that this book must have been, but it was pretty dull reading.
Jeri Paull
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well, according to this site it took me 2 1/2 months to finish this book. It was very long, in true Michener style. When the focus was on the family stories, the book was fascinating. When it was on politics and the laws of the developing state of Alaska, not so much. Definitely recommended, but don't be afraid to skim!
Christie Bane
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
You know what the perfect function of James Michener novels is? GETTING ME THROUGH IRONMAN TRAINING IN AUDIOBOOK FORMAT.

Seriously. This delightful beast of a book is 59 hours of audio. Where but on long Ironman rides would a normal person ever have time to finish it? It took me about a month to finish. Alaska is perfect for this function because although it is an epic novel with the protagonist being Alaska itself, the story is told through a series of (relatively) short vignettes. It starts
...more
Jeff
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very long. That is not a bad thing, it was a very interesting story. But, this book is a wonderful illustration of how my reading habits and appreciations have changed. I tore through all the Michener books in my twenties, eagerly anticipating the late arrivals to his career and catching up on the many written before I was old enough to know of them, to even read in some cases. Now, thirty years later while I appreciate the books I cannot see them the same way. The writing is ...more
Sue
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, alaska
Following the formula of his other epics, Michener begins "Alaska" with geology and pre-history, imagines the lives of pre-historic people, and brings history to life. He put words in the mouths and motivations in the hearts of historic figures and invents fictitious characters for them to interact with. He anthropomorphizes an animal, in this case a salmon. Thus, although this tome stretches over 1100 pages, in the end the reader can distinguish among the three groups of native Alaskans, ...more
Kathy
I am giving this one up. I have been trying to return to Alaska, but why bother? It is a slog. The novel is over 1100 pages and I am over 400 in to the story. It follows the same format of several Michener books. The main character is actually a location and the story begins in prehistoric times, starting with the geologic formation of the area, the flora and fauna, the migration of animals and humans, all the way up to modern times. I, amazingly, was really enjoying all the ancient prehistory. ...more
Becky Lukovic
May 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
Gosh I really wanted to like (or even love) this book. Michener's book on Hawaii was one of my all-time favorites. I just slogged through this one.....at first, I thought it was just the nature of Alaska, but when I got to the fictional ending--it was like, really? Towards the end, I was skipping paragraphs and pages just to get through it.
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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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“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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