A Man of Many Words

In terms of literary output, Michener was more like an 18th-century author than a modern one. His bibliography runs to more than three dozen books, including some prodigiously long novels, an autobiography, even a book of sonnets. Most are still in print. Some highlights:

TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC (1947, Fawcett, $6.99) The book that started it all — romantic, nostalgic, and tragic — is actually a series of short stories about World War II servicemen and -women stationed in the Pacific.

THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI (1953, Fawcett, $5.95) Perhaps the most ”literary” of his novels, it looks at the conflict between duty and conscience in an American pilot in Korea.

HAWAII (1959, Fawcett, $6.99) This saga of Hawaiian history, from its volcanic origins until its 1959 statehood, made Michener’s name a household word — and, like his two previous books, was snatched up by Hollywood and turned into a film.

THE SOURCE (1965, Fawcett, $6.99) As layer upon layer from a fictional archaeological dig is uncovered, the history of the Holy Land unfolds. One of the most popular of his works, it seems to suggest that if only Muslims, Jews, and Christians understood one another’s histories, enmity would fade away.

THE DRIFTERS (1971, Fawcett, $6.99) A group of ’60s hippies wander through Spain, Portugal, and North Africa alongside an older man who seeks to understand their rebelliousness. Terrific travelogue, tolerable social insights.

CENTENNIAL (1974, Fawcett, $6.99) The story of the American West, as only Michener could tell it. (To give you an idea of its breadth, it takes a good 80 pages before the first people appear.) Stressing the interdependence of man, animal, soil, and water, the author gently advocates a return to Native American values.

SPACE (1982, Fawcett, $6.99) A fictive rendering of the U.S. space program to the present, it’s less a novel than a celebration of 20th-century frontiersmen — and a warning against antiscientific superstition in American culture.

TEXAS (1985, Fawcett, $6.99) At 1,096 pages, this sesquicentennial tribute to the nation within a nation reads a bit like the world’s longest greeting card — but what better way to take a vicarious journey?

THE WORLD IS MY HOME: A MEMOIR (1992, Random House, $25) Michener sums up his tough childhood, wartime experiences, and literary career with unpretentious grace.