Life on the Mississippi
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Life on the Mississippi

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  6,255 ratings  ·  330 reviews
'I am a person who would quit authorizing in a minute to go to piloting,' Mark Twain once remarked. 'I would rather sink a steamboat than eat, any time.' And in 1882, Twain did just that: he returned to the river of his youth as a mature writer determined to expand seven articles which he had serialized in The Atlantic Monthly in 1875 into the definitive travelogue on the...more
Hardcover, 481 pages
Published October 31st 2000 by Modern Library (first published 1883)
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Aaron
Twain on the river as a kid. Twain back on the river again as a sneaky pete writer. I wanted to like this book, which is why, I suppose, I hung in for 350-odd pages before setting it aside. The book is entertaining intermittantly and occasionally sharp and funny but it meanders. I should probably have my keyboard revoked for using the word 'meander' in a review about a book about a river, but clearly I can't help myself. Seriously, tho, Twain needed an editor with a heavy hand for this one.
HuhWhat
Oct 30, 2011 HuhWhat rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Anyone willing to read only half of it; the 1st half.
I had such high hopes for this book. It started out being a 4/5 star and held its own about halfway through. There were moments of 'where's he going with this?' but when confronted with his sense of humour, all was forgotten. After all, it was just yesterday I was laughing out-loud in a crowded cafe, with an emphasis on loud ! He's probably just taking a little detour around the bushes or something, I told myself.

However; around the halfway mark, the whole story just seemed to spiral out of cont...more
Thom Swennes
Starting with a humorous and informative history of the river, Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain continues to describe piloting that waterway. In the same home-down style established by all of his more well known works, Twain paints a brightly-colored portrait of that long river with all its twists, turns, rapids, shallows and landmarks. The book traces river travel from the time that the river pilot was almost a god to their downfall with the building of levees, dykes and the placing of lig...more
Daniel Silveyra
I didn't finish this book - I stopped around page 220 in my edition.

As much as I love Mark Twain, and as much as he can write...the book is about a river. The first few chapters are about Twain's days as an apprentice steamboat pilot, and they are interesting and fun to to read.

After them, however, begin a series of chapters regarding how the towns on the Mississippi have changed, what European travelers of old said of them, what the different prices of shipping through rail or train were, and...more
Christopher
What I wish: Oh!, to live my life as a steamboat captain on the Mississippi in the nineteenth century of the year of our Lord!

How I'm living: Alas!, to have been born in Kentucky in the 1980s!

WIW: To float down the Mississippi, smoking a corn cob pipe, piratical, unruly, and barbarous!

HIL: Sitting at a desk, cultivating carpal tunnel as a professional button pusher and microwaving leftovers for lunch.

WIW: To take my turn at the helm, dodging rocks and aiming for smaller crafts, yelling out "qua...more
Lyn
Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain was first published in 1883 and describes his apprenticeship and success as a Mississippi River pilot and then returning to the river more than twenty years later. At its heart this is a travel book, but really more than that this is a portrait of America in the 19th century. Told with Twain’s inimitable wit and charm, this contains histrionic and speculative facts, half-truths, wild exaggerations and tall tales. Written by anyone else, this would have been...more
Ryan Lawson
I love Mark Twain, I really do. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as well as the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are just classic. He was a satirist (a brilliant one at that). He was a story-teller. He was so good at being a satirical orator that he made a living of it! He travelled the world. He was a celebrity if there ever was one.

Maybe it was because I read his fiction first, maybe it was because I idolized him, but good god this was a hard book to get through for me. This wasn't his first book. I...more
Katy Harris
This book sparked my love for the Mississipi River a few years back. As a person whose eyes glaze over when someone talks about science, Twain's very detailed description of geological aspects of the Mississippi River was surprisingly fascinating. His stories about the people on the steamboats of the river are hilarious, and there is a great appendix of a few beautiful Native American stories that I will never forget. I also love the historical bend to the book, but I love so many things...
One l...more
Mike
The semester finally ended and I'm free to read what I want. So what do I do? Start reading books in anticipation of the studio project for next semester: planning and designing for a river town. Ruth and I got this book at the Becky Thatcher House in Hannibal, MO a few years ago when we went for a visit and even got it inscribed with a seal indicating so. Being from Missouri, I'm required to be both skeptical (it is the "Show-Me" state after all) and proud of Mark Twain. With this book, it's ea...more
Kaleb
I read Life on the Mississippi. It is about this boy who wants to be a steamboatman. Throughout the story he expresses his love for it and how he thinks it is amazing. He is very detailed about it and you can tell he enjoys it.

The book itself is about on character. The character is Mark Twain himself. I do not feel like it is well developed and I feel lost trying to understand him other than he wants to be a steamboatman on the Mississippi. I feel like the story needs to explain him more and not...more
Bill  Kerwin
I first read this book forty-five years ago when I was in high school, and I recalled Twain's account of his days as a Mississippi steamboat pilot's apprentice as a work of great humor and style with quintessentially American themes, equal in power to "Huckleberry Finn." A recent re-reading has left me both gratified and disappointed: gratified because Twain's history and description of the ever-changing Mississippi and his account of his life as a young river pilot are just good as I remembered...more
Oliver Radtke
I just completed “Life on the Mississippi” by Mark Twain. I did not understand the short story version. It rushed through all the scenes and did not go into detail. I understand it more clearly now, after reading through it so many times. Otherwise, it was hard to read.

The main character, Mark Twain, talks about himself as a kid. He says that when he was a kid he wanted to be a clown, because the circus always came to visit, and he admired them. But as he grew older, he spent most of his time o...more
Samuel
I read Life On the Mississippi by Mark Twain. I thought this book was very boring and I lost interest in reading it after the first paragraph.

Plot- The plot is one day on the Mississippi river Twain daydreams on how he wish he could be a clown, when he was a child. Then as he grows up and he realizes he doesn't want to be a clown anymore, he wants to be a steamboatman. He wants to be one because living on the Mississippi, he watches boats come by and harbor everyday. Then he describes how beauti...more
Stanley
Life On The Mississippi

Written in the 1880s, this is nevertheless a topical book in view of the recent flooding along the river. Twain describes its ebbs and flows, its ever-changing nature, inundations, ever changing course, how it straightens or takes new twists and turns which can leave towns and villages formerly by its banks stranded miles from the flowing waters, perhaps even transferred from one state to another.

The book falls basically into two parts. Firstly, there is the period of Twai...more
Greta Nettleton
Another book I've read over and over--It's free on Kindle in the old edition, which is fun to read because of its authentic touches. America's 1880s are my current decade of choice, having spent years mired in research about the period, and Life on the Mississippi captures the rapid change in this country that took place after the Civil War, as it changed from a land of bucolic wilderness filled with independent workingmen to one of safer, duller regulated organized industrialization and automat...more
Alan Jacobs
This book really bogs down around 40% of the way through. Mark Twain starts with a grand description of the history of the river, reminiscent of McPhee describing, say, New Jersey. Then it becomes a memoir or Twain's time as a pilot on the a Riverboat in the 1840s-1850s, and he tells lots of interesting tales. But then he switches to talking about a current (1880s) trip on the river and how all the towns have changed, and how much bigger they all are, and how the nature of boating on the river h...more
Sue
I won't go into the long story of how and why I read very little of Mark Twain's works while in school, and now with the ever-growing list of modern books to read, I don't know when I'll get a chance at another of his. I just happened to stumble across this book on CD at my local library and thought I'd finally give it a shot.

I did enjoy it for various reasons--for a true glimpse back in time to a way of life long gone, for a nice taste of Twain's dry humor that still resonates today (after all...more
Kris Fernandez-everett
really should be two and a half... it's twain writing a travel compendium, so you expect it to be up and down... i enjoyed the parts about the river from natchez to new orleans (an area i know), some of the tall tales, and the final chapters when he reaches the headwaters and talks about the glittering future of st. paul and the maybe glittering future of minneapolis... if he were only here now :-)... some of the jags into the details of rocks and islands and eddies and water depths in the river...more
Hadrian
Mark Twain enjoys the distinction of being one of the wittiest and most charming of American authors, and this book is one of his best, perhaps up there with Huck Finn and Roughing It.

It starts off with history, then meanders through biography, anecdotal stories of his youth and travels on the Mississippi, descriptions of steamboats and the countryside, the Civil War, New Orleans, cemeteries, Mardi Gras, and all in between. If I may make a bold and yet now-hackneyed comparison, this book IS the...more
Margaret Kell Virany
Mark Twain, the inimitably funny, exuberant creator and describer of American characters and scenes, is also a serious documenter of American commercial history and cultural pressures. His alias comes from the nautical expression meaning two fathoms deep. This autobiography recounts the expertise and memory power needed to steer a steamship on the Mississippi River from Saint Louis to New Orleans and back up to Saint Paul in the days before railroads existed. I recommend it highly, think it's a...more
KOMET
By turns, this book served as a travelogue, a history of the Mississippi, and as a source for Twain's reminiscences of his life as a steamboat pilot on the same river in the antebellum era. Of all these functions, I enjoyed most reading about Twain's return to the Mississippi in the early 1880s and his younger days working on steamboats from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans. Only the latter part of the Appendix I felt was a little superfluous and out-of-place. It pains me to say that as a Mark Twa...more
Will
The parts I enjoyed, I enjoyed greatly. The parts I did not, I very much did not. My only criticism of this book is it's amazing propensity to ramble. Where Twain rambles into a story, it's captivating. Where he rambles to describe some endless feature of a forgotten passage of the great river, not so much. He keeps the reader from ever really sinking into the narration, from ever finally succumbing to the great man's storytelling, but like continually waking someone on the verge of slumber, eve...more
Margot Carroll
What a satisfying book to read! This edition included an afterword that called the piece uneven, which i suppose has some validity. But as it says, Twain lived in a changing era from natural river to conduit of commerce. Im not going to critique his writing, it rocked! A couple of big giant picture windows into another time and way of life, and way of writing.
(..always avenue of commerce, quickening pace of industrialization)
Jennifer Walker
I really loved this book. It gives a fascinating look at life in the mid-late 19th Century via Twain's memories and musings. The book takes you on a journey from his days as a youth apprenticed to a pilot on a steamboat to latter years when he revisits the sites of his youth. It is educational, yet exciting, sentimental, yet droll. A worthy addition to your bookshelf!
James
In my bedroom is hung a giant piece of paper. The image on the paper is of a steamboat on the Mississippi. The image is black & white and comprised of shaded text from this work. A friend who works at a KINKO's back in MKE made it for me a while back. I stare at it a lot and feel cool. I love Mark Twain's writing.
Aaron Fields
For whatever strange reason, the writings of Mark Twain have alluded me to this point in my life. I chose quite an interesting book to start with. One of the first things that struck me was the time frame in which the book was written. In an early chapter Twain talks about and provides an excerpt of a story he was working on about Huckleberr Finn. How cool it was to get a "sneak peak".
The book was a good read. I appreciated it more since I live within 10 miles of the Mississippi and get to see...more
Dick
This book was loaned to me by Lisa Arrindale-Anderson and is surely a prize. It was published originally in 1874 with this copy being published in 1883. This is a hardback book with 481 pages. It was signed by Mr. Clemens/Twain with the following inscription . . . " This is the authorized uniform edition of all my books."

It is a great "picture" of his times as he saw them during the mid to late 1800's. It not only covers life on the Mississippi, but has within it his own policital and social vie...more
Sherry (sethurner)
I read Life on the Mississippi as an undergrad, and I taught snippets from the beginning to freshmen, but I had never read this wonderful book while on a steamboat. We were traveling from Cincinnati to St. Louis, reading about young Twain traveling with dreams of becoming a steamboat pilot, from Cincinnati to St. Louis, and then onto New Orleans. The setting made rereading this book almost a perfect experience for me. I could read Twain's descriptions of sunrise on the water, and see it. Read hi...more
Catherine Woodman
This is not so much as a book but as a series of the author's experiences and thoughts about the Mississippi river. He originally published a bulk of the book as individual articles in The Atlantic magazine, and when you read it as a book, you notice right away that it really doesn't tell a story from front to back--or really in any kind of order.

The opening chapters are very technical, explaining in what for me was far too much detail how ships navigate up and down the river. I quickly bored of...more
Adam
Aug 30, 2009 Adam rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: No one really. . .other than retired steamboat captains
Shelves: classics
As a huge fan of the Mississippi river and, well, New Orleans in particular, I really really wanted to enjoy this book! I was so excited to find it in the classics section of What the Book in Seoul, namely because I usually would never explore this area of a used bookstore. Having not read Twain since he was assigned to me as a teenager, I had high hopes for this acclaimed author. Unfortunately, it took every ounce of patience I could muster to make it through this never ending tale of nothing i...more
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1244
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also work...more
More about Mark Twain...
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn The Adventures of Tom Sawyer The Prince and the Pauper A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Pudd'nhead Wilson

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“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” 236 likes
“The Mississippi River towns are comely, clean, well built, and pleasing to the eye, and cheering to the spirit. The Mississippi Valley is as reposeful as a dreamland, nothing worldly about it . . . nothing to hang a fret or a worry upon.” 6 likes
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