Celebrate the life and work of Mark Twain by reading some of his novels, stories, travel writing, or autobiographical works.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
This is Mark Twain's first novel about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, and it has become one of the world's best-loved books. It is a fond reminiscence of life in Hannibal, Missouri, an evocation of Mark Twain's own boyhood along the banks of the Mississippi during the 1840s.
The Prince and the Pauper (1882)
The Prince and the Pauper is the story of a poor boy, Tom Canty, who exchanges clothes and identities with Edward Tudor, Prince of England. It is at once an adventure story, a fantasy of timeless appeal, and an intriguing example of the author's abiding interest in separating the true from the false, the genuine from the impostor. With characteristic humor and color, Twain brings to life the sixteenth-century royal court, the crowded, boisterous streets inhabited by London's hoi polloi, and the behavior of two young boys who are in many ways smarter than their elders.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn," Ernest Hemingway wrote, "It's the best book we've had." A complex and controversial masterpiece that has spawned volumes of scholarly exegesis and interpretative theories, it is at heart a compelling adventure story. Huck, in flight from his murderous father, and Jim, in flight from slavery, pilot their raft thrillingly through treacherous waters, surviving a crash with a steamboat, betrayal by rogues, and the final threat from the bourgeoisie. Informing all this is the presence of the River, described in palpable detail by Mark Twain, the former steamboat pilot, who transforms it into a richly metaphoric entity. Twain's other great innovation was the language of the book itself, which is expressive in a completely original way.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)
Hank Morgan, a nineteenth-century American who is accidentally returned to sixth-century England, is a powerful analysis of such issues as monarchy versus democracy and free will versus determinism, but it is also one of Twain's finest comic novels, still fresh and funny after more than 100 years.
The American Claimant (1892)
This book is a comedy of mistaken identities and multiple role switches -- fertile and familiar Mark Twain territory -- all revolving around the serious debate between the hereditary aristocracy of Europe and the democracy of America.
Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
Tom, unsatisfied with his life after his adventures on the Mississippi River, seeks out new adventures. Tom, Huck and their friend Jim ride a hot air balloon over the oceans to far away lands. They see the pyramids of Egypt and eventually end up on Mt Sinai before returning home to the waiting arms of Aunt Polly.
The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson, and the Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins (1894)
Pudd'nhead Wilson begins with a young slave woman taking her light-skinned child -- fearing for his life -- and exchanging him with her master's child. Like much of Twain, the tale becomes an indictment of racial prejudice in the antebellum south, full of Twain's gentle yet sharp-elbowed humor.
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)
This book is Twain's serious, impassioned, meticulously researched story about a compelling heroine, the Maid of Orleans. This is Twain's celebration of the ideal woman: gentle, selfless, and pure, but also brave, courageous, and eloquent.
Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven (1909)
Combining science fiction with a satiric look at conventional views of the afterlife, Twain delivers an amusing and trenchant commentary on human vanity and pretensions. Much of the humor of the story rests on the sharp discrepancies between Stormfield's cocksure expectations of heaven and its reality.
Mark Twain wrote numerous short stories throughout his life. These collections include many of them:
- The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867)
- Sketches: New and Old (1876)
- Merry Tales (1892)
- The 1,000,000 Pound Bank-Note, and Other New Stories (1893)
- The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, and Other Stories and Essays (1900)
- The $30,000 Bequest, and Other Stories (1906)
The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrims' Progress (1869)
The Innocents Abroad is one of the most prominent and influential travel books ever written about Europe and the Holy Land. In it, the collision of the American "New Barbarians" and the European "Old World" provides much comic fodder for Mark Twain--and a remarkably perceptive lens on the human condition. Gleefully skewering the ethos of American tourism in Europe, Twain's lively satire ultimately reveals just what it is that defines cultural identity.
Roughing It (1872)
These memoirs recount the writer and humorist's scuffling years with spirited travels across the American West and all the way to Hawaii. With relentless good humor, Twain tells of his misfortunes during the quest to strike it rich by prospecting in the silver mines. Wonderfully entertaining, Twain successfully finds humor in spite of his mishaps while also giving the reader insight into that time and place of American history.
A Tramp Abroad (1880)
In A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain's unofficial sequel to The Innocents Abroad, the author records his hilarious and diverse observations and insights while on a fifteen-month walking trip through Central Europe and the Alps.
Life on the Mississippi (1883)
Part travel book, part autobiography, and part social commentary, Life on the Mississippi is a memoir of the cub pilot's apprenticeship, a record of Twain's return to the river and to Hannibal as an adult, a meditation on the harsh vagaries of nature, and a study of the varied and sometimes violent activities engaged in by those who live on the river's shores.
Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)
Twain was more than a match for the expanding America of riverboats, gold rushes, and the vast westward movement, which provided the material for his novels and which served to inspire this beloved and uniquely American autobiography.
Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.