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Life on the Mississippi
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Life on the Mississippi

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  7,736 ratings  ·  398 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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Bill  Kerwin

I first read this book fifty 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 them,
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.
Oct 30, 2011 DuckieMorroe 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
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
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
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
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
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
Well, this has been on my To Read list for a while, and a recent perusal of my bookshelves turned it up so i picked it up. Having spent a fair amount of time in Missouri, i'm glad i read it. The book is a conglomeration of different pieces, patched together into a volume containing much information related to the Mississippi River from the perspective of the famous author Mark Twain. I enjoyed his insight into the skills and knowledge required of the steamboat pilot, an occupation he had earlier ...more
Karen Chung
May 10, 2014 Karen Chung rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody who enjoys Mark Twain or who has a serious interest in American literature.
This is my favorite Twain work so far. I find with Twain that the more he is telling the truth, the more I like a work. I'm just not as crazy about his outlandish fictional concoctions.

This book has helped me make better sense of Twain's frequent unflinching treatment of death. This was certainly the result of years of brooding over certain experiences of his early life, as revealed in many passages in this book. The final chapters confirm that Tom Sawyer is indeed to a great extent autobiograph
Mostly I really enjoyed this book which is a combination of autobiography, history and tall tales. I love reading about the early steamboat days on the Mississippi. What an amazing and challenging job it must have been to pilot one of these boats before all the "improvements" to the river such as making cuts to make it shorter and electric lights to see where one is going. Well I suppose they were improvements in the sense of bringing the river and boating into the modern age and making it a who ...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
Grover Gardner did an excellent job narrating this memoir. However there were a few section that I just couldn't focus on in audio and had to read in my Kindle edition (the section about Vicksburg, for example).
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!
John Valesano
The first half of the book is an enjoyable autobiographical sketch of Mark Twains early life in traing to become a river boat pilot. It relates the peak of the steamboat commerce on the Mississippi river prior to and during the Civil War. He tells the reader many facts and figures about the river and steamboat piloting and also how he acquired his pen name. The reader also gets to read a rough excerpt of a new novel Mark Twain is working on, namely Huckleberry Finn.
The second half of the book i
Ahmad Sharabiani
عنوان: زندگی بر روی می سی سی پی؛ مترجم: ابوالقاسم حالت؛
Jean Poulos
Of the first fifteen chapters of the book, twelve are reprinted from “The Atlantic.” In the three introductory ones which precede these, the physical character of the river is sketched. The book was published in 1883. The book begins with a brief history of the river beginning with the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto then on the French Marquette and La Salle.

The most engrossing section describes the author’s education as a steamboat pilot. Vivid details and anecdotes link the story of life on
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
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
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
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
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
Stanley Bloom
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
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
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
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
Margaret 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
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
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
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
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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 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 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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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.” 268 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.” 7 likes
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