by James A. Michener

Hardcover, 1974



A stunning panorama of the West, CENTENNIAL is an enthralling celebration of our country, brimming with the glory and the greatness of the American past that only bestselling author James Michener could bring to stunning life. From the Native Americans, the migrating white men and women, the cowboys, and the foreigners, it is a story of trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers, and hunters--all caught up in the dramatic events and violent conflicts that shaped the destiny of our legendary West.

Library's rating


(571 ratings; 4.1)

User reviews

LibraryThing member saturnloft
A novel about Colorado and a large book in every sense of the word, Centennial is one of Michener's most successful outings. It boasts the humongous timeline we've come to expect from him, but the fiction itself rests on a solid foundation of fascinating historical facts. Exposition abounds, of course, but in this case it's well balanced against the human stories.

Michener starts with a somewhat didactic geology lesson and gamely presents us with the personal trials and tribulations of dinosaurs and early mammals, followed by.. um, beavers? Well, beavers can have rich and emotional inner lives, too. Heck, you can tell the man even did massive research into beavers. This is a very dedicated writer, folks.

Anyway, the human part of the book starts with the first inhabitants of the area, the Arapaho, and their initial encounter with whites. This portion has some of the most interesting characters, the Arapaho chief Lame Beaver and the intrepid French trader Pasqinel. These people are so colorful they must surely be based on real historical figures.

There's a particularly disturbing massacre about a third of the way through the novel (basically the Sand Creek Massacre). Sad that so little of the horrific details of this event had to be made up by the author. (Truth is often worse than any nightmare one can dream up.)

An impressive pageant of characters wander in and out the pages of this book; it'd be a slog to go through them all. You have your usual black hats and white hats, a generous amount of gray characters, and a generous sprinkling of under-developed walk on parts. It's an engrossing and informative read, not high literature, but by Michener standards pretty good.
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LibraryThing member gmillar
I like these things that Mr. Michener does with history and place. Not as good for me as "The Source", but I sure loved reading it - and then reading John Kings book "In Search of Centennial" which chronocled it's research and production.
LibraryThing member Willow316
Michener is a good writer, but in picking up his books it is important to ask "am I in the mood for a book from the beginning of time?" at page 134 he has only just gotten to humans. However, this strategy for writing made me think about evolution, the difference between humans and animals and survival. In writing historical fiction, Michener portrays the sense of a place, and how we came to be where we are today. He tells a good story, but he also depicts unhappy truths without romantisizing them.… (more)
LibraryThing member siubhank
A runaway best seller, Michener's Centennial was written as a tribute to America's bicentennial celebration. The book is about a fictitious town of the same name in Colorado. The town is not nestled in the majestic Rockies, as one might expect, but instead is located out on the vast, open, treeless, windswept plains that run down from the eastern slopes of the mountains. It is here that Michener gives the reader a comprehensive history of the area, from the formation of the land and its rivers, to its prehistoric inhabitants, to its early settlers, to its subsequent clash of various cultures. The plains Indians, fur trappers, pioneer settlers, soldiers, ranchers, dry land and irrigation farmers, and the hearty descendants of these diverse groups--all are depicted vividly and weaved into an engrossing story by an author with a keen eye for detail. Each chapter is a mini-novel in itself dealing with a specific time period. Like all of Michener's historical fiction novels, Michener lived in the actual town of Centennial, Colorado, for a year or more to do the extensive research for his story. Michener's writing style is one that is unique to him. Readers seem to either love his vivid and prolific prose, or they are overwhelmed by the great attention to detail that is Michener. I love his writing and have read virtually all his novels. If you have never read a novel by Michener, this is the one to start with to see if you like his writing style. Chances are you will become a life-long fan of the man who has become one of my favorite authors.… (more)
LibraryThing member santhony
This novel is the standard by which much historical fiction is measured and a template for many of Michener's subsequent works.
LibraryThing member loveMetal162
reccomended by a not so over come reader. A hit.
LibraryThing member ElTomaso
One of Michener's best works, a history of the Midwest and Plains States.
LibraryThing member kneidhamer
Growing up I always avoided Michener's work, simply because my dad loved them so much. Anything that old must not be good!

I was sooo wrong. Wandering around the library one day, without a clue as to what I was going to read, I came across this book. Remembering that my sister was named after one of the character's in the book, I decided to give it a shot.

As always with Michener's work, if you can get past the first 100 pages or so, you're in for a real treat. The characters are so alive and realistic, you can't help but fall in love with them. And because it's a book about the many generations of a family, you get to know the whole story. Apart from the people, you get a history of the land and a gimps into the times during which they lived.
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LibraryThing member DrBrewhaha
Centennial is a small fictional town just north of Denver. Michener presents a comprehensive history of the area and people dating back to prehistoric times. The first 100 pages or so are a bit of a slog as the geology and prehistory of the area is outlined, but Michener ends up weaving all of the prehistory into the story. After that, the story flows as smoothly as the Platte River around which it is based. In a simple, straightforward, and compelling way Michener tells the story of the Indians, Cowboys, Sheepherders, Farmers, Immigrants, Prospectors, Soldiers, Pioneers, Settlers, Merchants, Money-men, Lawmen, Outlaws, Woman, and Families who made the area what it was. The story becomes a captivating page-turner that transports the reader to the historical west and forces one to consider the changes that have occurred. It is truly an American Classic that deserves a place in everyone's personal library.… (more)
LibraryThing member LillyParks
The history of the western states come alive in this story!

If you are interested in the history of the western US then this book is for you. Its got everything from dinosaurs to the indians and their their horses to the settlers and cattle ranchers. Mr. Michener creates a story filled with western lore and fascinating fictional characters.

There are maps included to keep you oriented as to where you are as Mr. Michener makes the vast praires and mountains come to life with his excellent narration. Its a wonderful story of the far west's history. Enjoy.
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LibraryThing member jpsnow
This may be America's epic, with the land itself as protagonist. The elements are perfectly combined: the beautiful history, the story of so many interesting characters and their interactions over the years, the geology and science, the perspective of the dinosaur, horse, beaver, and buffalo, and the mixture of people, including Native American, English, French, Russian, Japanese, Russian, and Mexican. It's a wonderful book.… (more)
LibraryThing member PaulCranswick
Is the ultimate in panoramic. Some of the chapters certainly work better than others and, of course, historical events are weaved into his story. The sections on the american indian and the early settlement of the plains are the best for me and very sympathetically told. It was certainly worth the effort of 900+ pages.
LibraryThing member BryanThomasS
A long investment of time but so worth it. One of Michener's masterpieces. Rich with American history, rich characterization, complex plotting. A fascinating story with fictional and true life characters interacting. A great read. Worth the investment in every way.
LibraryThing member finalcut
I discovered this book, initially, via a mini-series production of it that my 7th grade teacher showed me. I immediately got the book and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed it and it lead me to a few of his other books that I also really enjoyed.

I also discovered, thanks to this book, that I enjoy Historical fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member AmronGravett
"I pitch my tent the way men been doing’ out there for ten thousand years. And when you do that you are alone... Man, are you alone!"

This is the best-selling and most popular novel on Colorado. It is an historical novel covering the time of prehistory to 1976. The author created a well-researched epic saga weaving the lives of cowboys, farmers, miners, Native Americans, trappers, and others into the fictional town of Centennial (based on Greeley).… (more)
LibraryThing member Pferdina
It was difficult to put this book down, although it is so long there was no way anyone could read it in one sitting. The first few chapters were strange: the history professor commissioned to write about the Colorado town of Centennial, the geologic formation of the Rocky Mountains, the lives of dinosaurs. After that, though, the story began to follow the people who lived in the area and that was better. So much time is included in this book (from prehistoric times to about 1973) that it feels expansive and complete.… (more)
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
By this point, I knew that Michener was a very predictable producer. But I thought his take on the West, north of Texas would have at least one good gunfight in it. And it did. But I think this was the last of JAM that I read. Might turn over a few pages if I met it again.
LibraryThing member peggy.s
I read this book for the first time when it came out. I loved it then - and still do. I found that it did a great job of telling Colorado history - it just took everything that happened all over the state and put it in one place, a fictional town called Centennial. I have read all of Michener's books, and liked them all, but I absolutely love this one - maybe because I am a 3rd generation Colorado native!… (more)
LibraryThing member weisser4
One of the best books I have ever read. They do not write them like this any more.
LibraryThing member charlie68
A pretty complete portrait of this area of the world. Starting with the geology through dinosaurs, the Indians to the ranchers and the onset of the white man no aspect is left out. Not for the faint of heart took about a month to listen to it, but worth it.
LibraryThing member Dianaupp
The first time I read this book was in the late 70s when I was in my 20s. It moved me from a John Wayne wild west point of view. It really changed how I saw the west that I grew up in. I became very attached to the characters and it was one of my favorite books. I read it again this last month. Today the attitudes that once seemed so open/liberal seem condescending at times but I still enjoyed it.… (more)


Random House

Original publication date





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