Mark Twain

Suggested Readings on Mark Twain

Though not a biography of Samuel L. Clemens alone, the best introduction to Mark Twain in Hartford is Kenneth R. Andrews’ Nook Farm: Mark Twain’s Hartford Circle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950). A conscious attempt to portray a community in its social, religious and business life, it succeeds brilliantly as a gracefully written, incisive and witty look at the Hartford of the Gilded Age, while providing much biographical information about Clemens and the men and women around him.

Most of the books in this list are available from The Mark Twain Store. If we don’t have it, we’ll get it for you; if it’s out of print, we can help you find it.


Tip: For insight, Justin Kaplan; for a lively read, Ron Powers; for both, Susan Clemens.

Clemens, Clara. My Father, Mark Twain. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1931.

Clemens, Susan [ed. Charles Neider]. Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain by His Thirteen-Year-Old Daughter Susy. New York: Doubleday, 1985.

Clemens, Samuel L. [ed. Michael Kiskis] Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

Hoffman, Andrew. Inventing Mark Twain: The Lives of Samuel L. Clemens. New York: William Morrow, 1997.

Howells, William Dean. My Mark Twain. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 1997 (reprint of 1910 edition).

Kaplan, Fred. The Singular Mark Twain. New York: Doubleday, 2003.

Kaplan, Justin. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966.

Loving, Jerome. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2010.

Meltzer, Milton. Mark Twain Himself. New York: Wings Books, 1960.

Powers, Ron. Mark Twain: A Life. New York: Free Press, 2005.

Collections of Letters

The Mark Twain Papers & Project at the University of California, Berkeley, has been publishing scholarly volumes of Clemens’ voluminous letters and journals for decades. Much of this work is now available online. Some editors have provided thematic collections, of which these two are good, readable examples.

Day, A. Grove (ed). Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii. New York: Appleton-Century, 1966.

Wecter, Dixon (ed.). Love Letters of Mark Twain. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959.

Other Works on Twain

Although scholarly in nature, these books are good reading for those who want to go a little beyond the biography.

Budd, Louis J. Mark Twain: Social Philosopher. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962.

DeVoto, Bernard. (ed.) Mark Twain in Eruption. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940.

Fatout, Paul. Mark Twain on the Lecture Circuit. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960.

Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African American Voices. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Harris, Susan K. The Courtship of Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hill, Hamlin. Mark Twain and Elisha Bliss. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1964.

Jerome, Robert D., and Herbert A. Wisbey, eds. Mark Twain in Elmira. Elmira, N.Y.: Mark Twain Society, 1977.

Lorch, Fred W. The Trouble Begins at Eight: Mark Twain’s Lecture Tours. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1968.

Powers, Ron. White Town Drowsing. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986.

Schirer, Thomas. Mark Twain and the Theatre. Nurnberg: Carl, 1984.

Steinbrink, Jeffrey. Getting to Be Mark Twain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Willis, Resa. Mark & Livy: The Love Story of Mark Twain and the Woman Who Almost Tamed Him. New York: Atheneum, 1992.

A Quartet: Mark Twain's Last Years

Four differing takes on the years without Livy, particularly his relationship with his secretary, Isabel Lyon. Reading a couple of them back-to-back could provoke great discussion in a book club.

Hill, Hamlin. Mark Twain, God’s Fool. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.

Lystra, Karen. Dangerous Intimacy: The Untold Story of Mark Twain’s Final Years. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Shelden, Michael: Mark Twain, Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years. Random House, 2010.

Trombley, Laura. Mark Twain’s Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

A Pairing: A Famous Controversy

The Brooks-DeVoto squabble in the 1920s-30s took interest in Mark Twain off the children’s literature shelves and into the world of grown-up readers and critics. Brooks’ thesis: Mark Twain was domesticated by his Eastern life and wife and could have been a much better writer. De Voto’s thesis: Nope.

Brooks, Van Wyck, The Ordeal of Mark Twain. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1920.

DeVoto, Bernard. Mark Twain’s America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1932.

His Times, His Contemporaries

Andrews, Kenneth R. Nook Farm: Mark Twain’s Hartford Circle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950.

Applegate, Debby. The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher. New York: Doubleday, 2006.

Baldwin, Peter. Domesticating the Street: The Reform of Public Space in Hartford, 1850–1930. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999.

Blight, David. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Brady, Kathleen. Ida Tarbell: Portrait of an American Muckraker. New York: Seaver/Putnam, 1984.

Canby, Henry Seidel. Turn East, Turn West: Mark Twain and Henry James. New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1965.

Courtney, Steve, Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain‘s Closest Friend. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2008.

Dempsey, Terrell. Searching for Jim: Slavery in Sam Clemens’ World. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003.

Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863–1877. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Goodwin, Francis, II. The Monday Evening Club of Hartford, Connecticut. Hartford: privately printed, 1970.

Hedrick, Joan. Harriet Beecher Stowe, A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Hosley, William. Colt: The Making of an American Legend. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996.

Jones, Howard Mumford. The Age of Energy: Varieties of American Experience 1865–1915. New York: Viking, 1971.

McFeely, William. Ulysses S. Grant: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981.

Morris, Roy, Jr. Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Rugoff, Milton. The Beechers: An American Family in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.

Strachey, Lytton. Eminent Victorians: The Illustrated Edition. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988.

A Glorious, If Gloomy, Fiction

Clinch, Jon. Finn: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2007.