I read Centennial years ago and absolutely loved it. Which one should I read next? Which is your favorite? Any you didn’t like? Any thoughts about the guy in general?
I’ve read most of Michener’s stuff - he’s one of my favorite authors. What you should read next kind of depends on what you liked about Centennial: did you like the character development or did you like the “location through history” piece?
In my experience, he writes two different styles of novels: there’s the “location through history” novels, like Centennial, which have good character development but the location is the “main character”, so to speak. The he writes more standard novels which focus almost exclusively on the characters and their development; Sayonara and The Fires of Spring are good examples of these.
My personal favorites, in no particular order are:
[li]Caravans (characters)[/li][li]The Source (location)[/li][li]The Drifters (characters)[/li][li]Centennial (location)[/li][li]Chesapeake (location)[/li][li]*Texas *(location)[/li][li]The Fires of Spring (characters)[/li][li]The Novel (a mix of both, but mostly characters)[/li][/ul]
You’ve opened yourself up to a lot of good books, my friend. Also, on a “about the man” point, he was a very interesting guy who was nice enough to write back to an aspiring 14 year old writer (many years ago) with encouragement and kind words.
When I was in my teens (back in the 1970s), I read pretty much all of the Michener books. I haven’t read any in the past 30 years, though.
My favorite was probably The Source, about Israel. I also liked the one about South Africa, but the name escapes me. Hawaii was pretty good. I didn’t really like Centennial, but that could be because I think it was the last one I read, and I may have been burnt out on Michener by the time I got to it.
I read something about him a long time ago, and I don’t have a cite for it. From what I remember from the article, he would go to the location of his book and live in the culture for a year. IIRC, he would take notes, but when he wrote the book, he didn’t refer to them, preferring to rely on his feelings and senses.
Indyellen, thanks for that breakdown. I recall reading Sayonara and not liking it as much as The Source. The way you described it, though, makes a lot of sense to me, because I really like the “location through history” piece.
There was a time when I gave serious consideration to writing a Michener-style book about Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Covenant. I liked that one too. It falls in the category of “location”, but it’s really good and gave me a better understanding about South Africa and their culture.
That’s true; the letter he wrote to that 14 year old so long ago was on University of Texas - Austin stationery; he was researching Texas at the time.
I read *The Drifters *and I really liked it a lot. I don’t think I read Centennial, if I did I don’t remember it. I started reading Chesapeake and I didn’t finish it, it didn’t grab me like the Drifters did. Chesapeake reminded me of Edward Rutherfurd’s (Sarum, Russka, London, The Forest, etc.) books that tells the history of a place through the eyes of the people who live there in different eras. I see Indyllen has them listed as good for characters or places, I guess I would like the ones for characters.
I really loved Centennial too and want to go back and read it again since in the interim I’ve married into that part of Colorado. We’ve land next to Bent’s Fort, hunt the same rivers and prarie, see the sugar beet works, pass by Rattlesnake Buttes, the Sand Creek Massacre site, etc. It’s great having a sense of what the region went through, what’s changed and what’s disappeared.
I especially liked The Source, The Covenant and Chesapeake. I’ll never forget reading of the skiffs with small cannon used to hunt waterfowl.
Texas for some reason didn’t grow on me as well, even though I’ve spent most of my life there. Maybe I too was just suffering from a bit of Michener overload at the time.
Those all were enjoyed 25 or so years back. I think at the time Centennial and The Source were my favorites.
My #1 tip any time anyone asks about reading Michener: Go to a used book store and get the rattiest copy you can find of the book you want. It makes life so much easier when you can just tear out the pages and toss them away as you read them.
Actually, I always take his books and tear them into three or four smaller, more manageable sections before I even begin.
Hawaii is my favorite. I like to think of him living on the islands, and how pissed off the ruling missionary/merchant/Hawaiian royalty descendants must have been after he exposed their sensitive financial and religious histories.
I also like Caribbean. The explanations of the region’s economy and ties with Europe, especially England, dovetail in neatly with my reading of 19th century English literature. I now understand the “rich West Indian heiress” meme which occurred so frequently.
That’s not bad. I picked up ***Chesapeake ***a year ago at some garage sale or something and it’s seen many better days. I just might rip as I go.
The only one I ever read was Hawaii. I liked it okay, I guess. I picked it up because I was about to go live in Hawaii for a while, and I wanted to get in the mood. But unless I wanted to read a novel about some particular place, I don’t think I would pick up another James Michener book. The style and the pace of Hawaii didn’t appeal to me as much as the subject matter. I don’t think he would ever become one of my favorites.
I loved most of Michener’s books, and really admired his writing style.
I once wrote to him, and got a reply. I’d asked where he thought the characters in The Drifters would end up, say, twenty years after the novel ended. I was honored that he wrote back, I hadn’t really expected him to.
I don’t know if I have a favorite, but it may be Hawaii. There’s a passage in which, after the fleeing Tahitians see the North Star for the first time, one character is trying to figure out the significance of a star that doesn’t circle through the sky, but only changes elevation. He took the evidence the heavens put before him and figured it out, and, as Michener put it, “a greater thing than this no mind can do.” For whatever reason I really liked this episode.
When discussing Michener’s novels, no one seems to ever mention The Source. This was the first Michener novel I read and is a fascinating read.
It is cited by a few folks here as a favorite and is what I came in to recommend. That was the one I enjoyed the most…
I read The Source when I was about 12 and really liked it. Never got around to reading any of his others, though.
Has anyone here read The Source?
I’ve read Hawaii, The Covenant, Centennial, and possibly one or two others. I loved all of them. That was years (decades!) ago. I haven’t thought about Michener in a long time. This gives me some ideas for my Kindle.
“Character development” is of course limited by Michener’s standard format – the book is never about a small set of main characters, because no one character is going to be in more than a fraction of the pages.
Of course, in The Source there was a modern archaeological team serving as a kind of tie-in throughout; but, that hardly counts, I mean, who has ever read it?
As a teenager I loved Hawaii, Centennial, Chesapeake, Poland, and Space. Not sure how much I’d enjoy them as an adult, though.
Another The Source vote. I read it many years ago and it taught me a lot (or led me to read things that taught me a lot) about the history of that region of the world and of Judaism.
I didn’t care for Hawaii because it felt to me like I was reading a genealogy more than a novel, but I liked both movies based upon it. Centennial was made into a very long miniseries which allowed them to do real justice to the scope of the novel.