Category Archives: Michener, James

A pair by James Michener

by James Michener
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1974
Genre: historical fiction
Pages: 1105
ReRead?: No
Project: 2024 read my hoard

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 his child bride from the Amish country; the cowboy, Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured Englishwoman, Charlotte Seccombe. In Centennial, trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers, and hunters are brought together in the dramatic conflicts that shape the destiny of the legendary West—and the entire country.

I love a doorstopper, a sweeping epic, a long, dramatic read – and especially if it was published in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Authors like James Clavell, Leon Uris, Herman Wouk, M.M. Kaye, Colleen McCullough and, yes, James Michener. I read a lot of James Michener as a teen, because my dad loved them and they were always on our bookshelves. I definitely remember reading Chesapeake, which I haven’t yet revisited, but that’s the only one I am certain that I have read. I am fairly certain that I did read Centennial, but it’s four decades on, so I can’t be sure.

Anyway, now that The Dial Press has reprinted all of Michener in kindle as well as paperback formats, I’ve revisited a couple of them and plan to continue. As an aside, these are perfect to read on my lightweight kindle because they are so huge that reading them in paperback is physically difficult. In addition, although they are a little pricy for a 50 year old book, at over a thousand pages, it’s basically like getting 3 to 4 books for one price.

This is Michener’s Colorado/wild, wild west book, which follows several characters/families from Lame Beaver, an Arapahoe chief, through the present day (which was 1976). I found it be a great read, and especially enjoyed one of the chapters about a cattle drive that brings cattle to Colorado from Texas. This reminded me a lot of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

I really love this style of book, and wish that there were more modern writers who were writing this type of epic story in addition to Edward Rutherfurd. Since there aren’t, I’m just going to revisit the old authors.

The SourceThe Source
by James Michener
Rating: ★★★★
Publication Date: January 1, 1965
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Pages: 1080
ReRead?: Yes

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 Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition, all the way to the founding of present-day Israel and the Middle-East conflict.
"A sweeping chronology filled with excitement."

I read this one last April and never got around to reviewing it. With the Israel/Palestine conflict, it’s even more timely than it was last year. And, for anyone who is interested, the kindle version is currently on sale for $1.99 in the U.S. kindle store.

I liked this one even more than I liked Centennial, probably because the subject matter was much further away from my own historical past. I do believe that I read this one as a young adult, because there were elements that felt extremely familiar to me.

I long ago left my Christian faith behind, but I did not lose my interest in Christian history, and this book is a riveting exploration of a place that is deeply consequential to the spread of Christianity across the world. In many ways, Jewish history is world history.

I haven’t decided yet which Michener I am going to read/revisit next. I do remember really enjoying Chesapeake, so that one is in the running, but I also bought Iberia in 2016 and it’s just been waiting for me. These really aren’t books that I want to check out of the library, because it often takes me more than the checkout time to finish the book, and, as well, I expect them to have strong rereading potential.

I did decide that it was time to reread Shogun, since there is a new, lush adaptation available through FX, so that is the next 1970’s “sweeping epic” on my reading list. While I was at it, I also bought Tai Pan, which I remember actually liking more than Shogun. So, I’m heading back to feudal Japan once I finish Our Mutual Friend.