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Roughing It

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  4,906 ratings  ·  419 reviews
Mark Twain's humorous account of his six years in Nevada, San Francisco, and the Sandwich Islands is a patchwork of personal anecdotes and tall tales, many of them told in the "vigorous new vernacular" of the West. Selling seventy five thousand copies within a year of its publication in 1872, Roughing It was greeted as a work of "wild, preposterous invention and sublime ex ...more
Paperback, 888 pages
Published February 14th 2011 by University of California Press (first published 1872)
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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
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
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 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 Behle
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
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
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
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
Dec 22, 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
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 ca
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
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
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
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
David Tybor
Holy crap Mark Twain just kills it. This book has some of the funniest stuff I've ever read. 4.49 stars only because it meanders, which we'll forgive him being that this is basically letters about his travels. But Jesus I would give anything to have a friend travel The West and write me letters like this.

“At noon I observed a bevy of nude young native women bathing in the sea, and I went and sat down on their clothes to keep them from being stolen.”

"The floor room unoccupied was not extensive.
This is the eighth book of my American History series. After reading a new Brigham Young biography (Young died in 1877) I wanted to find a book that discussed the Gilded Age and would bring me into the 20th century. (As it happens I'm still in the 19th century as of April 4th and 3 books later). I started reading Twain's novel, The Gilded Age, but could not get into it. So I quickly changed to this book of his Twain's recollections of touring the Wild West and Hawaii from 1861-1867. I have been ...more
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
Kristi Richardson
This was the first time I have read this book by Mark Twain and it certainly captures the spirit of the West in the 1860's. He also makes a side trip to Hawaii which is fun and interesting to know what Honolulu was like when still under a King.

My favorite parts of the whole book was his take on Mormons and their religion. He writes an anecdote about Brigham Young having over a hundred children and some man gave one of them a whistle. If you are a parent you will thoroughly understand Mr. Young'
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
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.
FINISHED: Still loved it but a lot about mining for minerals
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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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“I am not given to exaggeration, and when I say a thing I mean it.” 20 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.” 13 likes
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