by James A. Michener


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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.
Praise for Centennial
“A hell of a book . . . While he fascinates and engrosses, Michener also educates.”Los Angeles Times
“An engrossing book . . . imaginative and intricate . . . teeming with people and giving a marvelous sense of the land.”The Plain Dealer
“Michener is America’s best writer, and he proves it once again in Centennial. . . . If you’re a Michener fan, this book is a must. And if you’re not a Michener fan, Centennial will make you one.”The Pittsburgh Press
“An absorbing work . . . Michener is a superb storyteller.”BusinessWeek

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812978421
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2007
Pages: 1104
Sales rank: 21,250
Product dimensions: 5.45(w) x 8.23(h) x 1.48(d)

About the Author

James A. Michener was one of the world’s most popular writers, the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tales of the South Pacific, the bestselling novels The Source, Hawaii, Alaska, Chesapeake, Centennial, Texas, Caribbean, and Caravans, and the memoir The World Is My Home. Michener served on the advisory council to NASA and the International Broadcast Board, which oversees the Voice of America. Among dozens of awards and honors, he received America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1977, and an award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1983 for his commitment to art in America. Michener died in 1997 at the age of ninety.

Date of Birth:

February 3, 1907

Date of Death:

October 16, 1997

Place of Death:

Austin, Texas


B.A. in English and history (summa cum laude), Swarthmore College, 1929; A.M., University of Northern Colorado, 1937.

Read an Excerpt

ONLY ANOTHER WRITER, SOMEONE WHO HAD WORKED HIS heart out on a good book which sold three thousand copies, could appreciate the thrill that overcame me one April morning in 1973 when Dean Rivers of our small college in Georgia appeared at my classroom door.
“New York’s trying to get you,” he said with some excitement. “If I got the name right, it’s one of the editors of US.”
“The magazine?”
“I could be wrong. They’re holding in my office.”
As we hurried along the corridor he said, with obvious good will, “This could prove quite rewarding, Lewis.”
“More likely they want to verify some fact in American history.”
“You mean, they’d telephone from New York?”
“They pride themselves on being accurate.” I took perverse pleasure in posing as one familiar with publishing. After all, the editors of Time had called me once. Checking on the early settlements in Virginia.
Any sophistication I might have felt deserted me when I reached the telephone. Indeed, my hands were starting to sweat. The years had been long and fruitless, and a telephone call from editors in New York was agitating.
“This Dr. Lewis Vernor?” a no-nonsense voice asked.
“Author of Virginia Genesis?”
“Had to be sure. Didn’t want to embarrass either of us.” The voice dropped slightly, as if that part of the discussion were ended. Then with crisp authority it said, “Dr. Vernor, I’m James Ringold, managing editor here at US. Problem is simple. Can you catch a plane from Atlanta this afternoon and report at my office tomorrow morning at nine?” Before I could even gasp, he added, “We cover expenses, of course.” Then, when I hesitated because of my surprise, he said, “I think we may have something that would interest you … considerably.” I grew more confused, which gave him time to add, “And before you leave for the airport, will you discuss schedules with your wife and your college? We shall very probably want to preempt your time from the end of semester right through Christmas.”
I placed my hand over the mouthpiece and made some meaningless gesture toward Dean Rivers. “Can I fly to New York on the late plane?”
“Of course! Of course!” he whispered with an enthusiasm as great as mine. “Something big?”
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. Then into the phone I said, “What was your name again?” When he replied, I told him, “I’ll be there.”
“In the next hour I called my wife, arranged for Professor Hisken to take my classes and then reported to the president’s office, where Dean Rivers had prepared the way with President Rexford by telling him that it sounded like the chance of a century for me and that he, Rivers, recommended that I be given the necessary leave.
Rexford, a tall southern gentleman who had accomplished wonders collecting funds for a college that badly needed them, was always pleased when one of his faculty received outside attention, because in subsequent meetings with businessmen he could allude to the fact that “we’re becoming better known all the time, something of a national force.” He greeted me warmly and asked, “What’s this I hear about US wanting to borrow our finest history man for the autumn term?”
“I really know nothing about it, sir,” I replied honestly. “They want to interview me tomorrow morning, and if I pass muster, they want to offer me a job from term-end to Christmas.”
“When’s your next sabbatical?”
“I was planning to spend next spring quarter in the Oregon libraries.”
“I remember. Settlement of the northwest. Mmmmm?”
“I thought that having started in Virginia and then done my study on the Great Lakes, it might be natural for me to—”
“Complete the cycle? Yes. Yes. You do that and you’ll be a very valuable man to us, Vernor. A lot of foundations are going to be looking for projects dealing with the American past, and if we could offer you as a man who has done his homework, Virginia to Oregon … well, I don’t have to tell you that I could generate a lot of interest in a man like that.”
“So you think I should stay here and work on my Oregon project?”
“I haven’t said what I think, Vernor. But I know for a fact …” Here he rose and moved restlessly about his office, thrusting his arms out in bursts of energy. “I know that a lot of these foundations would just love to place a project in Georgia. Get them off the hook of appearing too provincial.”
“Then I’ll tell the editors—”
“You won’t tell them anything. Go. Listen. See what they have to sell. And if by chance it should fit into your grand design … How much do we pay you a quarter?”
“Four thousand dollars.”
“Let’s do it this way. If what they have to offer is completely wide of the mark—bears no relation to American settlement—turn ’em down. Stay here the fall and winter quarters, then go out to Oregon in the spring.”
“Yes, sir.”
“But if it does fit in with your intellectual plans, say, something on the Dakotas. And”—he accented the word heavily—“if they’ll pay you four thousand or more, I’ll grant you fall quarter without pay, and you can take your sabbatical with pay spring quarter and head for Oregon.”
“That’s generous,” I said.
“I’m thinking only of myself. Point is, it wouldn’t hurt with the foundations if I could say that our man Vernor had done that big writing job for US. Gives you a touch of professionalism. That and your two books. And believe me, it’s that professionalism that makes you eligible for the big grants.” He stalked about the room, hungrily, then turned and said, “So you go ahead. Listen. And if it sounds good, call me from New York.”
At eight-thirty next morning I was walking down Avenue of the Americas, among those towering buildings of glass, marveling at how New York had changed since I knew it in 1957 when Alfred Knopf was publishing my first book on Virginia. I felt as if I had been away from America for a generation.
US had offices north of the new CBS building; its glass tower was the most impressive on the avenue. I rode up to the forty-seventh floor and entered a walnut-paneled waiting room. “I’m early,” I told the girl.
“So am I,” she said. “Coffee?” She was as bright as the magazine for which she worked, and she put me at my ease. “If Ringold-san told you nine, nine it will be.”
At one minute after nine she ushered me into his office, where she introduced me to four attractive young editors. James Ringold was under forty and wore his hair combed straight forward, like Julius Caesar. Harry Leeds, his executive assistant, was something past thirty and wore an expensive double-knit in clashing colors. Bill Wright was obviously just a beginner. And Carol Endermann … well, I couldn’t begin to guess how old she was. She could have been one of my good-looking, leggy graduate students from a tobacco farm in the Carolinas, or just as easily, a self-directed thirty-three-year-old assistant professor at the University of Georgia. I felt I was in the hands of four dedicated people who knew what they were doing, and was sure I would enjoy watching them operate.
“Let me get one thing straight, Vernor,” Ringold said. “You published Virginia Genesis in 1957 with Knopf. How did it sell?”
“But they brought it out in paperback two years ago.”
“Yes. It’s widely used in universities.”
“Good. I hope you got back your investment on it.”
“With paperbacks, yes.”
“That book I know. Very favorably. Now tell me about your next one.”
“Great Lakes Ordeal. Mostly iron and steel development. A lot on immigration, of course.”
“Knopf do it, too?”
“Yes, but it’s paying its way … in paperback.”
“Delighted to hear it,” Ringold said. “Harry, tell him how we got onto his name.”
“With pleasure,” young Leeds said. “Sometime ago we needed expertise of the highest caliber. On a project of some moment. We sent out calls to about thirty certified intellectuals for recommendations—and guess what?” He pointed at me. “Abou Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest!”
“In the profession,” Bill Wright said, “you have one hell of a reputation.”
“Hence the phone call,” Leeds said.
“Your books may not sell, Vernor,” Wright continued, “but the brains of this nation know a good man when they read his research.”
“Ringold was slightly irritated by young Wright’s interruption and now resumed charge. “What we have in mind, Professor Vernor, is for you to make a research report for us in great depth, but also at great speed. If you devote your entire time from the end of May till Christmas, we feel sure that with your background you can do it. But our schedule is so tight, if you submit it one day late, it won’t be worth a damn to us—not one damn.”
“Does that kind of schedule frighten you?” Leeds asked.”
“I work on the quarter system,” I said. Either they understood what this meant in way of planning and precise execution, or they didn’t. They did.

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Centennial 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Book_Worm_1998 More than 1 year ago
One day, I was exploring my grandmas basement. As I was looking at all of the old books, just glancing at them, I came across an old, old book. It was called, Centennial. The book looked as if it would fall apart it was so old. I walked by it. Just moved on. Then, I heard my grandma call me upstairs. I started to leave the basement. But then, I turned around and grabbed this book, called Centennial, and ran upstairs. It was that night that I started reading it. It was good from the start. I was happy with everything about it and could not put it down. I am an 11 year old girl, and I love the book. I know it may take a while to finish, but it will be worth it. I am so glad that I decided to run back and pick this book off of my grandmas old book shelf, so old that it's barely standing today. Read this book and you will love it! -Book_Worm_1998
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michener's majestic and sweeping history of the American West is brought to life in this epic tale of people and places thrown together by breathtaking endeavor. In Centennial Michener manages spectacularly to weave episodes of modern fictional history from the tumultuous geological events that shaped the area of Colorado millions of years previous. By telling the entire history of the American West, from the geological upheavals that formed the New Rockies, from the dinosaurs and early mammals, from the early native American inhabitants, from the fur trappers and traders, from the cowboys and from the insidious Indian wars, right through to modern man's violent manipulation of the land, Centennial is as much an evocative triumph of a novel as it is an education. The characters will become part of your life as you read about them and their adventures. You will also feel a sad sense of loss at their passing. As you read through Centennial you will gather the pace of nostalgia and the fiction will stay with as if it were fact. As for me, I read this book three times as a teenager and am now reading it again with the same fresh anticipation more than twenty years later. A true blockbuster, a story with soul, from a master storyteller and an amazing book that you shouldn't miss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have no idea how many times that I have read this book. It has never lost its hold on me. I also have the 12 tape VHS series. It shows what television could be.
HighlandYankee More than 1 year ago
This is the fourth time I have read Centennial and I enjoy it more and more with each reading, taking away something new each time. James Michener writes methodically and accurately. He almost puts you to sleep with the first part of his story only to quickly wake you up with characters that are as real as if you were meeting them face-to-face. Somehow, the author makes these characters so real that you feel their pain and suffer through their trials and tribulations with them.
ABD2018 More than 1 year ago
As great as the tv miniseries was, the book is far superior. I cannot count the times I've read Centennial. Being familiar with the area written about, I consider this book to be very accurate historical fiction. Once you've read Centennial, it's impossible to visit the Front Range of the Rockies without looking for landmarks from the book. I wore out 2 print copies, now have it in ebook form, as well as the DVDs from the miniseries. HIGHLY recommend!
LillyParksONBooks More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is probably Michener's greateset book. With over 1,000 pages it is a long read but well worth the time spent. Many have complained about the long first two chapters not being relevent to the story, however the stories DO connect with many of the later chapters in subtle but informative ways. I highly recommend Centennial to anyone interested in old west.
DrBrewhaha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
PaulCranswick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Dianaupp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel is the standard by which much historical fiction is measured and a template for many of Michener's subsequent works.
jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
loveMetal162 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
reccomended by a not so over come reader. A hit.
BryanThomasS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
LillyParks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
ElTomaso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of Michener's best works, a history of the Midwest and Plains States.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! If you loved shogun, you,ll love this. Truly amazing that he can put so much research and dedication to getting it right. Thank you for the many hours of reading and discussions that followed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my 2nd reading after 30 years. I enjoyed this book but not as much as the 1st reading. Love his historicsl fiction, he had a knack for making one feel as if the story is waiting until you resume reading where you left off. I am not fond of his habit of treating older woman as if they were all not as intellegent or pleasant to be with as men. He also assumes that if men are not tall or if short, very muscular, they are not manley. Otherwise, I will always consider the author to be the very best historical fiction writer of my time (I'm 75). *****
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This book is a great read. To bad we to have more eriters like Mr. Mitchner who knew how to write and keep the readers interested in what they are reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Takes time to get through over 1,000 pages - but this is an exceptionally well documented and written saga of the region and those who inhabited it. Quite the journey!