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Roughing It

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  4,529 ratings  ·  397 reviews
Though known throughout the world for his fictional novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain was also a skilled chronicler of his own life and experiences. In his youth, Twain traveled extensively throughout the untamed American West with his brother, working his way from town to town in a variety of jobs, including gold prospector ...more
Paperback, Enriched Classic, 560 pages
Published April 29th 2003 by Pocket Books (first published 1872)
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Here we have Mr. Mark Twain's memoirs of his days in the American West, still barely civilized (the West, not Twain), scouring the hillsides for silver, encountering wild gunslingers and traveling by stagecoach, even visiting Hawaii. (Wanna read about Mark Twain trying to surf? This is the book for you.)

Twain revels in the type of story that lies somewhere between fact and fiction. His stories are stranger than both fact or fiction; they are of their own breed. They are all tinted with his own b
The first quarter of Roughing It is really great -- the description of his stage coach trip with to Nevada is great travel writing, laced with irony and sly humor. That it is describing a lost world makes it that much more entertaining. Exquisite.

There's just one 'humorous' episode concerning a bull that interjects during this part of the book and it seems disconcertingly false -- kind of corny and cartoonish in a not terribly clever way. Perhaps the sort of thing he could bring life to in his f
I read someone else's comment that this book is not his best... that it is disorganized and the beginning parts are based on his brother's diary entries and not his own. Regardless, I decided to read this after vacationing in Nevada and visiting Virginia City. As a followup to that vacation, it was a good read. In my opinion, the best part of this book is the beginning. I liked reading about life during that time. It seemed to me that it was better written, but that may have been because its sty ...more
Jon Ingram
This is by far one of the best books I have ever read. I am particularly prone to wanderlust and adventurous pursuits myself, and you cannot find a better book or a more kindred spirit in this regard. This book is also very funny, and I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions. It is true, as other reviewers have said, that the book lags a little bit around the ¾ mark due to including too much detailed information on various subjects. I think Twain himself recognized this, as he is found ...more
Michael Clemens
Very obviously an early work, and a patchwork of Twain's experiences as he opted to mostly miss the Civil War by traveling into the then-territorial west of North America. This is very much a patchwork, and a long one at that: personal recollections are interwoven with tall tales, and occasionally peppered with some political incorrectness that's uncomfortable to read in these supposedly more enlightened days. The Mormon church and native Hawaiians bear the brunt of this, and Twain was not yet a ...more
John Nelson
When Mark Twain was a young man and not yet a published novelist, he spent seven years rousting about Nevada and California, with a six-month side trip to Hawai'i (then known as the Sandwich Islands)mixed in. What I would give for a chance to see the West when it still largely was an empty landscape, and Hawai'i with no tourists, fou-fou drinks, or fake Hula shows. Unfortunately, I was born about 125 years too late . . . . Roughing It contains much of Twain's signature humor and exaggeration, bu ...more
This book is a great read. Being a Nevadan, I could truly appreciate many of the stories Twain related in his book. I especially liked his description of a "Washoe zephyr". And it was a treasure to read his description of Lake Tahoe, before it was "developed", and became the congested mess that it is today. What a gem it must have been to be able to see it before there were roads, and casinos, and houses built right by the lake shore. As I was reading that segment of the book, I thought if I cl ...more
Who would have thought Mark Twain could actually be funny! It's a shame most students' first exposure to him is through Huck Finn, which I found to be much less accessible than this book, which was entertaining and interesting and to me a much more palatable introduction to his style. This book is delightful and episodic, and some encounters (the "Bemis and the Buffalo" tale and the encounter with Slade in particular) are standalone masterpieces of comedy; even just dipping into this book is a r ...more
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.


This book is merely a personal narrative, and not a pretentious history or a philosophical dissertation. It is a record of several years of variegated vagabondizing, and its object is rather to help the resting reader while away an idle hour than afflict him with metaphysics, or goad him with science. Still, there is information in the volume; information concerning an interesting episode in the history of the Far West, about which no books
Catherine Woodman

Mark Twain did a series of memoirs about his travel experiences, and I had never read any of them prior to this year. One of my sons is taking a Mark Twain class, and I have been reading the books with him, so I have had the opportunity to read them.

Twain's brother is appointed to a government position in Nevada, and he takes his little brother along as his secretary. The west is still pretty wild at this point in time--the two travel some by train, but they also travel by stage coach. My son c
This is a rambling, entertaining, beautifully written travelogue about places (and ways to get to them) that no longer exist. Twain travels by stagecoach across the plains to what is now Utah and Nevada; his casual references to "back in the States" remind the reader that at the time, these places were frontier territories, barely one step of civilization past wilderness. He works, more or less, in a frontier town, and tries his hand at what passes for silver mining. He takes passage to the Sand ...more
Mark Twain is one of the main reasons I went into the English Literature field. For many of my students, that probably is cause enough for desecration to his remains, yet it is undeniable that the man hit a chord with me that has never gone away. So, I figured I ought to hark back to the old man for some good ole' nostalgia.

Perhaps these high expectations led to mediocre results; or perhaps, because this was more a collection of mini-essays in chronological order, it lost some of its appeal; or
I feel inadequate to finding the words to recommend this book. It is one of those books that I have read so many times I can nearly recite it.

Here is the young Sam Clemens heading from Missouri to the unknown territories "out west" by the fastest transportation of the day -- the Overland Stage where horses were changed every 10 miles to keep up the pace. The railway connection from east to west was still years away. His first person account of the trip will resonate with travelers today (he and
The memoir itself: Rough. Racist. Much prone to exaggeration. Sometimes funny, but sometimes slang & other issues got in the way of comprehension. Lots of uncredited contributions from others, and even more that were credited. Of special interest to those familiar with the regions he spent time in (I've lived in Carson City for 15 years so it was neat to see the references to this region). Obviously an early work.

This edition: Heavy. Lots of notes & references & pictures. I wasn't t
Cathy Douglas
The good, bad and ugly, all wrapped into one. I loved about a quarter of this book, liked another quarter, and yawned through the rest. The parts about Hawaii seem especially forced, like something by a hired-gun travel writer.

But the good parts make this very much worth reading. I mean, we have here a first-hand account traveling the American frontier by stagecoach. We have Twain getting his feet wet as a writer. The politics and culture of Nevada silver mining, again first-hand. This genius of
Amelia C
So far, all I can say is the critique of the Book of Mormon is worth it. I laughed out loud: "chloroform in print."

It is so enjoyable to take a stagecoach ride with a person who lived in the time but had such a modern sensibility.
Jo Butler
I love Mark Twain, and Roughing It is great! His descriptions of crossing the Great Plains in a stagecoach and working in the Virginia City mines put you underground at his side, and keep you laughing. Twain writes of becoming a millionaire - on paper - and reminds us that losing one's pants in speculation is not a 21st century phenomenon.

Roughing It is best when Twain is describing his travels in the American West. He goes on to Hawaii and Europe, but these tales are more perfunctory, and left
Rachel Jackson
As big of a fan of Mark Twain as I am, I was fairly disappointed in Roughing It, one in a series of Twain's great travel books. I've read it before, but perhaps it was esteemed better in my memory, because it turns out I still much prefer his other books to his travel books.

Most of the story could have been interesting if it wasn't so slow. The idea behind traveling cross-country in a wagon, desperately searching for a gold rush, being stranded multiple times in the wilderness — all of those th
I bought this when I was travelling in Beijing a few years ago and the only English-language bookstore I could find was something churning out endless public domain texts, presumably for students. Mark Twain is by far the most readable of any 19th century author, so I picked this up, but didn’t get around to reading it until recently.

Roughing It is an account of Twain’s journeys across America’s western frontier when he was a young man in his twenties; it was apparently written in 1872, but the
Sam Klemens
As I see it, the wretched problem with this book is that it's too damn funny. Allow me to explain. Here I was on the subway, reading Twain and maintaining the unwritten etiquette of public transportation; don't make too much noise and no unusual emotions. Well sure enough, I come to the scene where the camel is eating his papers and I start crying I'm laughing so hard. I'm shaking with mirth, tears streaming down my face and everyone within ten feet thinks I'm disturbed. Well dressed and reading ...more
Will Nett
Roughing It

When his brother lands the plum job of Secretary of Nevada Territory, and a salary of $1,800, America’s greatest comic writer- still- tags along for the ride from San Francisco as his assistant with all the intrepid excitement of someone who, by his own admission, had never travelled, although he was by then an accomplished riverboat pilot. After the early extreme discomfort of barrelling around inside an overcrowded stagecoach, and being accosted by a ‘grim Sphinx’ of a woman who tur
Roughing It, semiautobiographical novel by Mark Twain, published in 1872. This humorous travel book, based on Twain’s stagecoach journey through the American West and his adventures in the Pacific islands, is full of colourful caricatures of outlandish locals and detailed sketches of frontier life.

Roughing It describes how the narrator, a polite greenhorn from the East, is initiated into the rough-and-tumble society of the frontier. He works his way through Nevada, California, and the Pacific is
Terri Timonen
Would rate 3.5 stars if I could, but went with three because the novel tends to go off on tangents and gets bogged down with tedious details at times.

However, it was an entertaining history lesson from Twain's opinionated and unapologetic perspective. If written today, it would take the form of a highly popular social networking site and easily make YouTube's top ten most watched videos.

Part autobiography and part travelogue, this novel is really a collection of short stories separated by chapte
Sep 26, 2014 Julia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I thought that the book was only about Mark Twains' time in the western continental US, so I was surprised when there was also a good amount about time spent in Hawaii. While it was an interesting read, this book was really all over the place and could really use quite a bit of editing. Twain meanders from one thing to another, quotes himself and others at length, and tells stories that have nothing to do with his original point, repeatedly. While sometimes he really had me scratching my head an ...more
Tyler Jones
This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. The fact that it is not more well known (when I told one acquaintance I was reading it, he assured me that I was mistaken and that Jack London, not Mark Twain, wrote Roughing It) may be put down to the fact that the book is neither wholly truth nor complete fabrication. What do we do with such unclassifiable animals is that we put them in an obscure corner of the zoo set aside for curiosities, where they are neglected by history. It is also a v ...more
Jun 20, 2014 Jason rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Twain Fans, see last paragraph of review
Recommended to Jason by: Project Gutenberg
This is another reading-while-working book, so I wasn't able to give it my completely undivided attention, but luckily it didn't require it. (I can't imagine trying Hugo, Hardy, or Dickens, Oh my! in that situation). This is an autobiographical account of Twain's adventures in his late 20s with a lot, and I do mean a lot of color thrown in, but the added seasoning is what makes his work so enjoyable. I'm pretty sure most of the core facts are true, but much of it has been embellished beyond reco ...more
Sep 12, 2013 Jennifer added it
Shelves: abandoned
I try to make myself read the bookclub books because they can get me out of my mystery/fantasy/history rut, but I cannot finish this book. It took three long painful chapters to cover the first DAY. I had to stop.
Rex Libris
Roughing It is a semi-autobiographical story of a two-year year stint Mark Twain spent in the Nevada wilderness and other places. The story shifts back and forth between the most wonderful verbal narrative of some of the most beautiful country in the world and his facetious yarns about his life in the west.

The story begins with the stage coach trip out west and a brief narrative of Mormon country and Mormons who reside there. Twain tries his hand at silver prospecting and some other business ven
I remember this book more from where I bought it than for the writing. I bought it from a free standing used book store on the road to my brother's home in Sterling, Massachusetts. The store was built along Route 12 in a rural setting and you could see it, "USED BOOKS", from the highway, big letters, 5 feet high on the walls. This was back in the 70's and even then the book looked old. After purchasing it, the only purchase I ever made at that store, I had occasion to notice that one edition of ...more
Another memoir by Mark Twain: this time he describes what happens to him In Nevada, San Francisco, and Hawaii. Anything about Nevada, although from another time, reminded me about my stay in that Silver State: gaming and gold matters. Mark Twain twice comes close to winning a million with a mine, and twice loses it thanks to lack of communication with his partner and his own trust in that partner. I also liked, or perhaps I should write dislike, the tales about Hawaii--since I never heard about ...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...
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