Michener's writing career began during World War II as a lieutenant in the Navy, when he was assigned to the South Pacific as a naval historian. He later turned his notes and impressions into Tales of the South Pacific, his first book, published in 1947, when he was 40. It became the basis for the Broadway and film musical South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Tales of the South Pacific won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948. Michener's fiction novels include Tales of the South Pacific, Hawaii, The Drifters, Centennial, The Source, The Fires of Spring, Chesapeake, Caribbean, Caravans, Alaska, Texas, and Poland.
His nonfiction works include Iberia about his travels in Spain and Portugal; his memoir entitled The World Is My Home, and Sports in America. Return to Paradise combines fictional short stories with Michener's factual descriptions of the Pacific areas where they take place.