The Big Read Sonoma 2010
More by Mark Twain
Other Books for Folks Participating in Sonoma County Library’s The Big Read
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer skips school, hides out on an island, falls in love, witnesses crimes, and comes back from the dead—twice! At the center of his adventures is Injun Joe, a murderous villain who kills Doctor Robinson, an event witnessed by no one except Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Even though Tom Sawyer has long been defined as the very concept of American boyhood, Mark Twain himself made this surprising disclosure: “[It] is not a boy’s book at all. It was written only for adults.” Whether you are a child or an adult, Tom Sawyer truly is “a panorama of happy memory.”
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Faking his own death, Huckleberry Finn runs from his drunken, abusive father, and discovers Jim, a runaway slave, along the way. Unfortunately, because the slave’s disappearance coincides with Huck’s, everyone thinks Jim killed Huck. Thus follows a tale of escape and survival as Huck and Jim raft down the Mississippi river.
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today
Co-written by Charles Dudley Warner, this was Twain’s first attempt at fiction. The work is a tale of post-civil war political corruption, materialism, economic speculation, and fraudulent piety. The novel both satires formulaic and sentimental fiction and criticizes the populace’s preference for appearance over reality. This book is considered one of the best sources for understanding the economic boom years during the administration of Ulysses S. Grant. Its characters would have been readily recognized by contemporary readers as parodies of then-current public and political figures.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Hank, a late 19th-century Yankee, suddenly finds himself in King Arthur’s court. Hank passes himself off as a magician greater than Merlin himself and almost single-handedly transforms 6th-century England into a 19th-century land—complete with schools, trains, telephones and factories. Filled with Twain’s characteristic wit, this work represents the author’s opinion that laissez-faire capitalism, progress, and technology are the best.
Taking place in the antebellum South, Pudd’nhead is the story of a slave child and a freeborn child who switch identities. Pudd’nhead himself is an intellectual with a penchant for amateur detection. The book parades as a murder mystery and a social commentary—in other words, this work is characteristically Twain in all the right ways.
The Prince and the Pauper
Two boys who look alike—one a prince, the other poor—accidentally switch places and live out the rest of their lives in each other’s life. A predecessor to Connecticut Yankee, this work was Twain’s earliest attempt to join his fascination for Europe’s romantic past with his inclination to satirize his own society and age. Twain’s recurring criticism is that people mistake outward appearance as the gauge of true worth. Anyone can be a king, just as the pauper—given the chance—learns to be a good king.
The American Claimant
The Earl of Rossmore is distressed when an American of no name or birth claims his title. The American Claimant is about Americans—the way they view themselves and the way they are viewed by others—through the eyes of a British nobleman.
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
Told from the viewpoint of a lifelong friend of the French heroine, Joan of Arc is an amazing departure from Twain’s usual style. Throughout Twain’s life, Joan of Arc remained his favorite historical figure and the book reveals what some have called an “splendidly expressive side of Twain.” Twain himself wrote, “I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best... And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others.”
How Nancy Jackson Married Kate Wilson, and other tales of Rebellious Girls and Daring Young Women
If you think Mark Twain only wrote about boys’ adventures, guess again. This collection holds thirteen stories about unconventional and daring young women who fight battles, ride stallions, rescue boys from rivers, cross-dress, debate religion, hunt, square off against angry bulls, or—in what may be the most flagrant flouting of Victorian convention—marry other women!
Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings
In Letters from the Earth, Twain presents himself as the Father of History—reviewing and interpreting events from the Garden of Eden through the Flood by translating the papers of Adam and his descendants through the generations. First published fifty years after his death, this eclectic collection is vintage Twain: sharp, witty, imaginative, complex and wildly funny.
Life on the Mississippi
This fictionalized autobiography was the immediate predecessor to Twain’s masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Narrated by a “former steamboat pilot,” the plot loosely follows the ambitions of a boy to become a steamboatman. The work draws loosely on Twain’s own experiences as an apprentice steamboat pilot. Readers should be careful not to take any of the stories too seriously, as they are littered with fictitious tall-tales. However, the book celebrates the power and romance of the great Mississippi River.
The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim’s Progress
In one of the most influential travel books ever written about Europe and the Holy Land, Twain humorously juxtaposes American “New Barbarianism” and the European "Old World." Happily deconstructing the ethos of American tourism in Europe, Twain's satire reveals just what it is that defines cultural identity. As he put it, "Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
A Tramp Abroad
In 1878, Mark Twain took his family to Europe where he intended to stay until he completed one of the half-dozen books he was working on. What he ended up doing instead was to write a book about his trip to Europe. From Baden-Baden to the Black Forest, from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc, A Tramp Abroad is filled with brilliant prose, insightful wit, and Twain’s uncanny perception of what is true.
In this touched-up autobiography, Twain reminisces about five years spent roaming around the United States, from the Nevada territory to California and to the Hawaiian Islands (“Sandwich Islands”). This work was a pioneer for the emerging genre of “New Journalism” or “non-fiction” as we now call it, and is widely regarded as his best travel book. It tracks his progress as an Easterner who sheds greenhorn notions and becomes pro-Western.
The Complete Essays of Mark Twain
An exposé of the complete range of his genius and satire, Twain’s essays reflect his real view on the subjects with enough of the ridiculous to keep anyone from taking anything too seriously.
The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain
“Moral” lessons, bitter irony, facetious advice, and modern fables all collide in Twain’s short works. Some of the famous ones include “The Mysterious Stranger,” “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” and “The Diary of Adam and Eve.”
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians
Mark Twain began this story in 1885 and never finished it before his death. 117 years later, Utah author Lee Nelson was intrigued by Twain’s portion of the story and got permission from the Mark Twain foundation to finish the novel. Just as Huck and Tom join forces with mountain man Brace Johnson to rescue Jim and two girls who were captured by Indians, Twain’s portion of the novel ends. Thus in 2002, Nelson, after having published several historical novels with settings on the American frontier, figured he was as qualified as any other living author to finish the work begun by Twain.
Adapted with permission from the Orem Public Library.