8 Best Mark Twain Books Update 05/2022

Clemens was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in a small riverside town near Missouri in 1835. He would go on to change American literature. More than 100 years later, Mark Twain is still one of the best writers that the United States has ever made. Twain is a well-known author, a well-known travel writer, a well-known humorist, and a well-known literary critic. Any American author who wants to follow in his footsteps will have to face an intimidatingly long shadow. When it comes to writing, he was incredibly prolific. He wrote 28 books and more than 100 short stories!

So don’t worry: there’s more to Twain than just The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. If you want to learn more about the work of the man who became one of the most important figures in American literature, here are 14 of the best Mark Twain books. They’re arranged by when they were published, because a few of his works were published after he died.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865)

Short stories aren’t really books at all, but rather short stories. This is the piece that first put Twain in the news. People used to call this book “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” but it was changed to “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.” This is the story of a man who finds himself in an awkward conversation with another man who just wants to hear his own voice. His friend’s stories are pointless and long, and our narrator can’t even say a word to say sorry. A story about a jumping frog is the title of the piece. In spite of how short this piece is, it should give you a taste of Twain’s unique humor, which is a big part of his later works.

The Innocents Abroad (1869)

When Twain was a child, he was a big fan of traveling and took many chances to see the world. This passion shows up a lot in this early work. The Innocents Abroad is one of Twain’s best-selling books and one of the most popular travelogues ever written. It tells the story of Twain’s trips through Europe and the Middle East in a lighthearted way. Comedic set pieces happen when people go to places like the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Vatican, but also when Twain points out cultural differences that aren’t OK.

Though “The Innocents Abroad” is classified as nonfiction, the truth is that it is somewhere between real and fiction. Twain is an author at heart, so some of his stories may seem a little out of the ordinary. But the stories are so good that it doesn’t really matter what’s true and what’s not. If it’s true that “it’s all about the journey,” as they say, then you can’t do better than this book. It’s a lot of fun. Because it’s also where you can see a young Mark Twain at the start of his own long journey. He was witty and irreverent, growing as a writer, and not yet bitter about the world around him.

Roughing It (1872)

In 1869, when Samuel Clemens was 26 years old, he set off to California to look for gold. This led to the book “Roughing It,” which is the prequel to “The Innocents Abroad.” Here is a mix of Twain’s early adventures, which he called “semi-autobiographical” again, because he probably embellished some of the tall stories that fill its pages. Even though Twain’s first book, “Roughing It,” looks a little rough around the edges when compared to his later works, it was where he really started to improve his skills. Many of his later traits can be seen in this book, from his witty observations about seemingly insignificant things to the presence of a galloping, fun plot. A young Mark Twain and some gold miners in the 1860s would look like this.

Roughing It - Wikipedia

The Gilded Age (1873)

After their wives made a wager, Twain and Charles Dudley Warner wrote The Gilded Age in 1873. It was Twain’s first book. When did the Gilded Age start? The book that started it is called The Gilded Age: A History of the United States. It’s a great satire of the politics and corruption in Washington D.C. in the post-war years. It features a group of crooked politicians, gaudy rich people, pretentious bankers, and naive bystanders, all of whom Twain happily skewers with colorful prose in this book.

In order to read only Twain, you should only read the first eleven chapters. When Twain talks about something that’s still important, maybe even more important than ever, today, his wit shines through. (Twain once said: “Reader, what if you were an idiot? And if you were a member of Congress, then that would be even better. There are times when I say the same thing again.” The Gilded Age is, above all, a big, ambitious project to write about a whole time period. It ended up defining it in the English language.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)

This is the story of Tom Sawyer, a young man who wants to be a troublemaker, a romantic, a devilish orphan, and a young dreamer. He does all of his crazy things under the watchful eye of his aunt, Polly. At the same time, he is trying to get Becky Thatcher, the daughter of the local judge, to fall in love with him. Tom tricked a group of kids in the neighborhood into painting his aunt’s fence for him in one of the most famous scenes in American literature. But even a murder and a funeral – his own, by the way – can’t stop him from making trouble.

Not even The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can top this unrepentantly funny book. It is still a great American book. Tom Sawyer is even more witty than the first book (in part due to the creative license that itsthird-person point of viewaffords Twain). Perhaps the best thing about Twain was that he could read the minds of kids. Having so much energy, Tom Sawyer perfectly shows both the innocence and irreverence of youth, as seen through the eyes of a boy who represents boyhood the best of all, in this book.

A Tramp Abroad (1880)

In 1878 and 1879, Twain went on a second 15-month trip through Central Europe and the Alps, this time for the second time. This is the story of Twain’s next book, The Innocents Abroad. This is the story of that trip. As you can see, Twain used to be a good person, but now he’s a tramp. However, he is one of the most endearing tramps in this book, which is both a travelogue and a social critique of the world all in one. Besides that, he doesn’t look away from anyone who is German, Swiss, American or English. He wrote this book in his later years. A Tramp Abroad is more introspective than his other travel books. But it’s still a great piece of travel writing, and it’s also very important in its own right.

Amazon.com: A Tramp Abroad (Penguin Classics): 9780140436082: Twain, Mark,  Bruce, Robert Gray, Hill, Hamlin: Books

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

For a book that doesn’t need to be talked about, many people rush to look at it. American literature starts and ends with “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Ernest Hemingway said. Most people call it the Great American Novel. If you’ve already read the main point of the story, let’s go over it again for old times’ sake. His father, a local drunk, takes him out of town and takes him to a place where he can’t go home. It turns out that Jim, a runaway slave, helps him get away. As they drift down the great Mississippi River on a rickety raft, they get into a series of comic mishaps, from con men and fake deaths to a family feud that’s been going on for years (nineteenth-century style).

People say The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the peak of Twain’s genius. It has kept people laughing for more than 100 years. Twain’s protagonists, Jim and Huck, are both runaway slaves and the son of a town drunk. Jim and Huck are either at the bottom of the social ladder or very close to it. Their fight against society leads to a wonderful story about a boy’s adventures as a child. But beneath the fast-paced story is a deeply subversive study of racism, morality, and humanity, and it’s this sum of the parts that makes Huckleberry Finn one of the best books of all time.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

Twain came up with the idea for this book while reading Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. He is said to have written: “Dreamt of being a knight errant in armor in the Middle Ages.” Have the ideas and habits of thought of today mixed with the things that you need. It doesn’t have pockets. There is no way to deal with some of nature’s rules. Can’t scratch myself. It is cold in the head and I can’t blow. I can’t get a handkerchief, I can’t use an iron sleeve.

There was a time in 528 AD when King Arthur was in power. Hank Morgan, an engineer from Connecticut, was taken back to that time. Shenanigans are expected to break out when Morgan gets along well with King Arthur. But A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court isn’t just a fun “time travel” book. It’s a reality check for us: a chance for Twain to speak out against our tendency to romanticize the past.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Bantam Classics): Twain, Mark:  9780553211436: Amazon.com: Books

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