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Roughing It

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  6,574 Ratings  ·  595 Reviews
In 1861, young Mark Twain found himself adrift as a tenderfoot in the Wild West, and Roughing It is his hilarious record of his travels come to life with his inimitable mixture of reporting, social satire, and rollicking tall tales.
Published March 1st 2001 by Konemann (first published 1872)
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Yes, take it all around, there is quite a good deal of information in the book. I regret this very much; but really it could not be helped . . .

Tag along on some travels with Twain as he heads way out west, commenting nonstop on all the new flora and fauna he sees along the way.

Chuckle as he beholds the exotic wholesomeness of Mormons:

Salt Lake City was healthy - an extremely healthy city. They declared there was only one physician in the place and he was arrested every week regularly and held
Jul 18, 2011 Lyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Twain's semi-autobiographical work about the American west in the 1860's.

I know that most every student in most every American Lit 301 class is instructed that Melville's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is the great American novel, but Twain's works must be high on the list of great American literature. This was like Forrest Gump a hundred years early.

Twain meets Brigham Young, works as a silver miner, explores the Nevada territory, visits San Francisco during the earthquake, and then goes off t
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
Nov 22, 2012 Harrsion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 26, 2012 Judi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
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
Jon Ingram
Jul 01, 2013 Jon Ingram rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 mark due to including too much detailed information on various subjects. I think Twain himself recognized this, as he is found ...more
John Nelson
Aug 04, 2013 John Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 07, 2013 Vicki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 17, 2008 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 22, 2008 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Take a young Sam Clemens and put him in the Wild West with a bunch of Yahoo gold prospectors and this is what you get. I especially like the Lake Tahoe scene where they're playing an innocent game of euchre when all Hellfire breaks loose.
May 21, 2014 Jason rated it liked it  ·  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
Dec 20, 2011 wally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: twain
seems like a cheerful bit of writing...heading west w/his brother the secretary and a mr george bemis. i think my mail lady is a bemis....or maybe that's bettis? they had to travel light...just 25 pounds. imagine if the ober-groppen-fuhrers were around at the time? maybe they have their roots here? so no swallow-tail coats and white kid gloves to wear at pawnee receptions.

brief description of their arms...there must be something universal about the idea of an animal (in this instance a cow) stan
May 29, 2015 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book fortuitously.

While driving down the Great River Road in Iowa, one of my windshield wipers snapped. Three supercell storms (do we call them supercell storms, or just supercells?) appeared on the horizon in the direction that I was heading, South into Missouri. I took a few turns to 'thread the needle' as they say. I ended up in Illinois and worked my way South from there, working slowly back towards the mighty Mississippi. I crossed into Missouri at the town of Hannibal.
Catherine Woodman
Feb 17, 2013 Catherine Woodman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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 ca
Jan 31, 2017 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marty Reeder
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
Nov 21, 2010 Isis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, history, ebook, travel
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
Feb 04, 2017 Shelli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Done! That was a race to the finish with little enjoyment and a whole lotta skimming. I give it 3 stars based on its historical significance and source material (not historical facts, mind you, as one was never certain where fact ended and fiction began), but things like popular phraseology of the time period and the actual language. It was gold in that regard. But my enjoyment of it was so so, as aforementioned. I can always judge how much I'm truly enjoying a book based on how long it sits on ...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
John Behle
Jan 16, 2015 John Behle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Twain wrote personal narratives as well as his famed river saga stories. Roughing It is his compilation of his West trips of 1861-1867. His career as a riverboat pilot stalls, curtailed by the Civil War, so he heads out to Nevada with brother Orion by overland stagecoach. Samuel Clemens was 26.

The book was written several years later and it carries his youthful zest and wanderlust of those days. Here is an excerpt of a morning somewhere in Nebraska..."Even at this day it thrills me through
Jul 30, 2012 Margery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
These are Mark Twain’s recollections of his three-months pleasure trip to the Nevada silver mines which actually turned into a seven-year stay.

Twelve years before the completion of the railroad he and his brother Orion did the trip in stage-coaches and with his keen powers of observation, humour, knowledge and brilliant prose he brings this bygone era back to life.

Being incurably restless, during those years Mark Twain held a variety of jobs, lived in lots of different places and under very dif
May 06, 2015 Trelesa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed following the rambling journey Mark Twain takes across the old west. However, I was surprised and disappointed at the prejudiced way he treated many groups of people. He was condescending to Chinese immigrants and Hawaiians, extremely derogatory to blacks, Mormons and Jews, and flat-out unforgivable to the American Indian. Yes, he was a product of his time, but from the man who is quoted as saying:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of ou
Vladimir Boronenko
Instructive book. The reader will learn much about: the beginning of the American postal service (truly fascinating, if you just imagine that postmen on horseback covered up to 2000 miles in as few as 9 days, and so-called "stages", i.e. horse-driven postal wagons with passengers and parcels and mail - in only 18 days, and the organization of such tight schedules managed with an iron hand); silver mining in Nevada, down to minutest details of its extraction from ore, and crazy "flush years" of t ...more
Roughing It, written by Mark Twain, the greatest name for American Literature, is not as famous as his other works such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but this is for sure another testament for his one-of-a-kind literary greatness, full of humor and cynicism. Twain's witty ingenuity shines in this self-autobiographic tales that feature the untamed American West that shapes up the very day of Twain's contemporary. Masterful and funny to the core, Twain turns t ...more
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
Tyler Jones
Aug 12, 2014 Tyler Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-fun-stuff
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
Jo Butler
Feb 22, 2011 Jo Butler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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“I am not given to exaggeration, and when I say a thing I mean it.” 24 likes
“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be?--it is the same the angels breathe.” 20 likes
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