#339 ~ Autobiography of Mark Twain

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 by Mark Twain

Published by: University of California Press

Published on: November 2010

Page Count: 760 pages

Genre: Autobiography

My Reading Format: audiobook copy won via a Twitter contest from Blackstone Audio

Audiobook Published by: Blackstone Audio

Narrator: Grover Gardner

Audiobook Length: 24 hrs and 50 mins

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook and audiobook

My Review

If memory serves me correctly, I haven’t read any Mark Twain since high school. I’m not sure why since I devoured The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn multiple times. When I heard about the first volume of his unedited autobiography was being released, I put it on my Christmas list. Luckily for me, since no one in possession of my Christmas list picked it up for me, I won a free audiobook from Blackstone Audio and they had recently published Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 1. I scooped it up. While reading it, I fell in love all over again with the man I am dubbing the American King of Snark. He truly is a national treasure.

The Mark Twain Society played a huge role in editing and releasing the Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 1 . As such, the book opens with an extensive scholarly Introduction. I will admit right off the bat that I fast-forwarded through a good portion of the first 8 discs in this book. It’s not that it wasn’t educational. It provided a great deal of background on the life of Samuel Clemons and why and how he ended up writing his autobiography in the way that he did. It wasn’t because of the production, either. It’s just not why I wanted to read the book. I wanted to read his autobiography, not critical analysis. Had I had a print copy, I would have skipped it entirely, so that is an advantage to reading via audio. I have an idea of what I was missing.

Before Autobiography of Mark Twain, I had never had the pleasure of listening to a book narrated by Grover Gardner. I had no idea what a treat I had coming. He voice is smooth,  expressive and somehow familiar. His narration gave off the impression that he was enjoying Twain’s stories as much as I was. His reading was spot on during the humorous sections as well as the most touching sections, such as when Twain’s daughter Susy passed away while he was abroad. I couldn’t imagine experiencing this book with another narrator. He was the perfect Mark Twain for me.

If you’ve ever read Mark Twain, you know what a brilliant story teller he was. His autobiography is no exception. On top of some of the best stories you’ll ever hear, this book provides insight into his personality and character, making it priceless. I was just as enthralled with his descriptions of the places he stayed over seas as I was about the people he met there. Oh, and he met some very interesting characters. What I loved was that he conveyed his sentiments about these characters with humor and humanity. He is never cruel. He doesn’t have to be. He says what needs to be said with finesse. Snark need only be mean-spirited when you don’t have the talent this man had. Today’s comedians have much to learn from Mark Twain.

From the moment the actual autobiography began, I was enthralled. Twain dictated his life story and did not by any stretch of the imagination tell it in chronological order. His belief was that it was most important and interesting to talk about what was interesting to him each and every morning. As he suspected, this kept the reader involved and interested. I loved hearing about his daily business as much as I did about his memories. In fact, what was on his mind often led to memories. The way he conceptualized and executed the autobiography lent it a comfortable, friendly feeling. For its length and with Grover Gardner’s expert narration, it was so easy to keep listening. My ears eagerly await Volume 2.

I’m posting this review today to participate in Jen at Devourer of Books‘ weekly Sound Bytes meme. If you have an audiobook review to post, why not participate with us?


  • At 2011.07.01 10:08, Julie @ Read Handed said:

    Sounds fascinating! Though I would probably prefer to read the print version. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • At 2011.07.01 10:09, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

      I’ve been tempted by this, but I think I had better approach it in audio, or it probably will never happen. Bonus: I could FINALLY listen to Grover Gardner narrate something!

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      • At 2011.07.01 12:04, Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading said:

        Is it bad that I am amazed that you listened to a 24 hour audio book?!?! Impressive!

        • At 2011.07.01 12:34, Jennifer said:

          I think that this book will read well both in print and audio. I did love having it read to me, though.

          Jen, you must listen to a Grover Gardner book! His voice is wonderful. I think he’ll be Mark Twain for me for a long time.

          I definitely didn’t list to the full 24 hours. I would guess closer to 19 or 20 given how much I fast forwarded through the Introduction. Well worth it, though.

          • At 2011.07.01 13:08, Pam said:

            Very interesting and something I would totally love to listen to. Thanks for the review!

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            • At 2011.07.01 19:42, jenn aka the picky girl said:

              You know, I’m not intimidated by long books, but I am intimidated by long audio.

              But this – yes, I need to read. I teach Huck Finn to college sophomores in my American Lit class every year, and inevitably they are shocked – it’s such a different story when they read it at 20 or 30 or 50 than when they read it at 15. It’s not a continuation of Tom Sawyer, and in my opinion, it’s brilliant.

              So to see the man behind that, yes please.

              • At 2011.07.01 20:28, Fyrefly said:

                I love Grover Gardner’s voice and narration style, but the only thing I’ve listened to him read are the Vorkosigan Saga books. He may be your Mark Twain, but he’s my Miles Vorkosigan, and after thirteen books, it’s hard even imagining him reading something else. 🙂

                (P.S. Shards of Honor – the first Vorkosigan book – might be labeled as sci-fi but is actually a romance in disguise and is SUPER good, if you’re looking for another GG-narrated book to pick up.) 😀

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                • At 2011.07.01 21:47, Michelle said:

                  I listened to just portions of the autobiography and loved it. His humor and his snark really come through. I can only imagine how much fun he was in person.

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                  • At 2011.07.02 08:38, Beth Hoffman said:

                    I have this book in hardcover but haven’t had the time to read it. You’ve really tempted me to buy the audio!

                    • At 2011.07.02 11:42, Alyce said:

                      I got my husband a copy of this book for Christmas, and he’s read it but I haven’t. I hadn’t even thought about listening to this one on audio – it must be a very long audio if it’s unabridged.

                      • At 2011.07.05 20:59, Jennie said:

                        I have wanted to pick this one up for a while now but have been slightly intimidated by the sheer weight. Audio could be the way to go for me. Thanks!

                        • At 2012.06.25 06:01, My Audiobook Year ~ Audiobook Week Post #1 said:

                          […] Autobiography of Mark Twain […]

                          • At 2012.12.14 06:38, Grover Gardner ~ Baby, It’s Cold Outside said:

                            […] audiobooks that it is difficult to narrow down my suggestions. Here goes. Reading the Autobiography of Mark Twain is no small undertaking. I know I wouldn’t have finished it were it not for Grover’s […]

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