Centennial by James A. Michener


Centennial was my Colorado pick for the Around the USA in 52 Books Challenge.  And, I  might add, having read it, I have completed the challenge!  Yay for me!

Doubly exciting was fact that Centennial was a wonderful read.  As usual, Michener takes a place and goes far back into history, showing how it was formed geologically, and then how it was settled by people.  I especially enjoyed his depictions of the Arapaho and Comanche and how settlement of the area affected them.  There was a great deal about the treatment of Native Americans and Michener’s research is excellent here.

I also enjoyed hearing how cattle were brought into Colorado and the evolution of cattle ranching from Texas longhorns to Herefords and various breeding issues.  I’m not necessarily a huge bovine lover, but as a North Dakota native, you can’t help but have an interest in cattle.

And then, in the early 20th century, farming was attempted in the near desert areas.  They tilled and furrowed the land, stripping it of the sod which held the dirt in place.  Giant dust storms were created and thus Colorado became part of the dustbowl during the depression.  I remember asking my dad about that time, and he said he remembered shoveling huge piles of dust that blew in from these storms.

Also mentioned was the planting of sugar beets.  I live in sugar beet country, so I had no idea that Colorado also had that in common with North Dakota.  Michener’s tales of trying to hire workers to help thin the beets, was a fascinating look at the evolution of immigrants and migrant workers.

Overall, great story.  Not quite as good as Hawaii and Alaska, but that’s probably just a personal preference.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1976
909 pages


About Suzanne

I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids who loves to read.
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