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Mark of a writer: Top 5 books of Mark Twain

books Updated: Nov 30, 2011 09:55 IST

Hindustan Times
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Today is the 176th birth anniversary of Mark Twain, the man often referred to as ‘the father of American literature’. Many are familiar with his immortal creations—Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn—those irreverent teenagers whose adventures tell the story of every adolescent, in any corner of the world. What is less familiar is that his real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and that he adopted his pen name from a practice often deployed by boats men on the Missouri river, called ‘marking the twain’.

Twains most famous work is of course The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Sawyer’s experiences draws on Twain’s life, and his escapades with friend Huck Finn and his first taste of love are staple reading in high schools around the world. Incidentally, Google’s doodle commemorating Twain’s birth anniversary takes off from one of the episodes in the book, where Sawyer tricks a friend into painting the fence, a chore he was assigned by his aunt.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) concentrate on Huck’s tramp-like life and his efforts to liberate Jim from slavery (remember those were pre-abolition days). Regarded as one of the most influential works that has influenced generations of American writers, it throws light on the abdominal practice of slavery, and a young boy’s lone effort to do right.

Much of Twain’s writings also concentrate on his wide travels. Innocents Abroad (1869) is the account of his journey aboard a vessel called Quaker City through Europe and the Holy Land.

Roughing It (1872) was a prequel to Innocents Abroad, and it narrates the story of Twain’s travels through the wild west American country during the years 1861-1867.

A very different kind of reading experience is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, written in 1889, where Hank Morgan is transported back in time from the 19th century to King Arthur’s legendary court. The book is meant as a satire on contemporary society, but generates good laughs even if you are not reading between the lines.