- Clan of the Cave Bear series
This very popular series follows a heroine's life on the prehistoric steppes of
central asia. She apparently did extensive research, right down to learning
how to knap flint knives and how to use a sling and atlatl. I thought they
were engrossing and exciting, although the sequels do go down hill a bit.
Olive Ann Burns
- Cold Sassy Tree
This is the story of the author's grandfather, I believe. Like Jim the
Boy, it is a simple, charming story of a young boy growing up in rural
America around the turn of the century. Burns is a wonderful story teller.
She makes the characters come alive and makes you fall off your seat laughing
more than once.
- The Education of Little Tree
This is a beautiful story of a half-Cherokee young boy being brought up by his
grandparents in the Great Smoky mountains. It helps if you are interested in
native American culture, but it also paints an interesting picture of the
people and times in general.
- Death Comes to the Archbishop
This is a spectacular story of the bishop of the new territory of New Mexico.
It has a broad scope in time, geography, and culture. Cather develops the
characters of the Bishop and his vicar especially well; I was in tears at the
archbishop's funeral. Cather also has captured the essence of all the various
classes of people in the region very well: the white American traders, the
simple pious Mexican farmers, the converted Pueblo Indians, the proud and
defiant Navajos, the rebellious Mexican clergy, etc. I thought it was a work
of stunning scope and depth, destined for my list of favorite books of all
- My Antonia
This is the story of an immigrant family from eastern Europe that moves into
the mid-west to try to make a life for themselves. The characters are superb,
especially Antonia. Cather paints a deep and moving picture of women's life on
- Jim the Boy
This is the simple story of a young boy in the back woods of North Carolina in
the early 1900's. The author is a masterful story teller; I felt like I was
listening to grandpa by the old fireplace. He paints a beautiful picture of
life in that time and place.
- Big Sky
This is one of the original classic western novels. It tells the bittersweet
story of a mountain man driven away from his home as he travels through the
Rockies and becomes a successful trapper. There is lots of adventure. It
describes the grandeur of the landscape vividly. It develops the protagonist's
classic mountain man character superbly; it is very difficult to get into the
heads of these close, reclusive, mythical men; this author does a spectacular
job. The history of western expansion and the devastating effects on the
native Indians (both friendly and hostile) merges seamlessly and compellingly
into the main story. It is a work of great literature in addition to being a
highly engrossing adventure story.
- Angela's Ashes
This is the very depressing story of the author's childhood in Ireland during
the depression. It is not a feel-good book, but it paints a vivid picture of
the people, area, and time. I have not seen the film version.
James Michener was an untiring researcher and tremendously prolific author.
With the exception of South Pacific, they all follow a formula: they are
a series of stories within the framework of a unifying story of an
archaeologist or historian researching the area in question. The inner stories
each bring to life an instant in the history of the place. Michener will make
anyone wish they'd been an historian! His books are extremely deep and
thorough, and the earlier ones, despite the sheer tonnage, are very readable
and addictive. I finally quit reading him when I grounded on the reef of
Texas, which I simply could not get through, no matter how patiently I
This covers a small region on the front range of the Rockies (that becomes
Denver, I think.) It covers, oh, a few billion years of its history.
Michener does a good job treating all the various groups of people, from the
earliest prospectors, to the traditional ranchers and farmers, on up to modern
feed lots and politicians. This is more anthropology than mere history.
Same thing for Hawaii.
- The Source
This follows the history of a certain mound of dirt in the Middle East. He
follows it from prehistoric times up through present, stopping by all the
region's religions along the way. It is one of his earliest and best.
- South Pacific
This is a series of stories of people, places, and events from Michener's
time in the South Pacific during World War II. The popular broadway musical
was loosely based on this book. This is Michener story telling at its best.
This is an interesting but mostly just entertaining book.
- Master and Commander
Alas, I've only read the first! It is brilliant. And I don't really have
much interest in naval warfare. Aubrey and Maturin are deep, complex, human
characters. My only complaint was that the plot was a bit undirected: stuff
happened and kept happening until it stopped.
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- Angle of Repose
This is a complex book that follows the stories of a cantankerous old invalid,
and the fascinating life of his strong-spirited pioneer grandmother as he
researches her correspondence and old news clippings. The two stories are
carefully interwoven despite the generations and decades between them, but I
have to say that I was mostly interested in the grandmother. What an
incredible character! She was brought up in an aristocratic family near New
York but leaves her high class circle of friends and relatives to follow her
husband all over the western wilderness as he struggles to make a name for
himself as a mining engineer without compromising his strict ethics that don't
belong in the lawless American frontier. It is a fascinating character study,
and an even more fascinating portrayal of life on the frontier in a huge
variety of settings.