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Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1:

The Complete and Authoritative Edition

  • Edited by: Harriet Elinor Smith and the editors of the Mark Twain Project
  • Runtime: 24.8 Hours
  • Recording: Unabridged
  • Release date: 10.26.2010
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio
  • Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
  • 24.77 hrs10/26/2010Unabridged
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-4708-0110-6
6 reviews 0 5 4.5 4 out of 5 stars 4.5/5

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45 day rental Learn more

A New York Times Bestseller

A USA Today Bestseller

A 2010 Barnes & Noble Best Book

A 2010 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction

Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

One of SoundCommentary.com’s The Best of the Best in 2010

A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction

“I’ve struck it!” Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. “And I will give it away—to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.”

Thus, after dozens of false starts and hundreds of pages, Twain embarked on his “Final (and Right) Plan” for telling the story of his life. His innovative notion—to “talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment”—meant that his thoughts could range freely. The strict instruction that many of these texts remain unpublished for one hundred years meant that when they came out, he would be “dead, and unaware, and indifferent,” and that he was therefore free to speak his “whole frank mind.”

The year 2010 marked the one hundredth anniversary of Twain’s death. In celebration of this important milestone, here, for the first time, is Mark Twain’s uncensored autobiography, in its entirety, exactly as he left it. This major literary event offers the first of three volumes and presents Mark Twain’s authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave, as he intended.

Editorial Reviews

“Dip into the first enormous volume of Twain’s autobiography that he had decreed should not appear until one hundred years after his death. And Twain will begin to seem strange again, alluring and still astonishing, but less sure-footed, and at times both puzzled and puzzling in ways that still resonate with us, though not the ways we might expect.”

New York Times

“Mark Twain, always so blithely ahead of his time, has just outdone himself: he’s brought us an autobiography from beyond the grave: a hundred-year-old relic that yet manages to accomplish something new. It anticipates the Cubism just taking form in Samuel Clemens’ last years by exploding the confines of orderliness, sequence, the dutiful march of this-then-that. In so doing, it gives us not simply Mark Twain’s life—that is the prosaic work of biographers—but the ways in which he thought of his life: in all the fragmented recollection, distraction, creation, revision, and dreaming that make up the true, divinely jumbled devices we all use to recapture experience and feeling. If this prodigious and prodigal pastiche were a machine, it would be the Paige typesetter—except that it works.”

Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life

“Mark Twain dictated much of this book—now it is a book at last—from a big rumpled bed. Reading it is a bit like climbing in there with him.”

Roy Blount Jr., American author and humorist

“To say that the editors have done an extremely good job is a little like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel does a good job of keeping the rain off the Pope’s head. It is true but it doesn’t give even a whiff of the grandeur of the thing.”

Robert D. Richardson, author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire

“[Twain’s] vision of America—half paradise, half swindle—emerges with indelible force.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Twain’s writing here is electric, alternately moving and hilarious. He couldn’t write a ho-hum sentence.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“Promises a no-holds-barred perspective on Twain’s life and will be rich with rambunctious, uncompromising opinions.”

Herald (Glasgow)

“Grover Gardner’s reading of Mark Twain’s autobiography is something of a marvel, considering how little he relies on the Mark Twain manner made so famous by Hal Holbrook. Easy, natural, unaffected, but cued to every element of Twain’s subtle and exacting prose, Gardner’s delivery makes it easy to imagine you’re listening to the author himself…This fine audio production has immense scholarly value. Gardner’s skilled reading of a dictated text brings us as close as we might come to the author’s natural voice—and reveals how much more he achieved when he applied himself at his desk. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.”


“This first of three volumes of Twain’s autobiography, published as part of the Mark Twain Project, blows away all previous editions…Veteran narrator Grover Gardner adeptly presents the material; his delivery of the German tongue-twisters in particular are a treat.”

Library Journal audio review

“A rambling walk through history with a man uniquely situated to recount it…Whenever Twain takes off on one of his creative flights, Gardner has no difficulty keeping up with him.”

SoundCommentary.com (starred review, Editor’s Pick of the Month, December 2010)

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5 out of 6 (83%) recommend this product

Write a review
    • 1/5

    Not for me.

    Laurie October 4, 2014
    This book was not what I expected. I didn't like it. It was too much facts and not story.
    No 0 | Yes 0
    • 3/5

    Hardcore fans will get the most enjoyment from this

    oliver June 24, 2013
    What I learned from listening to the Autobiography of Mark Twain is that he had many failed and abandoned attempts to write his autobiography. All of these versions are presented here so there is a lot of overlap and repeated sections - not verbatim but many re-writes of the same stories.

    What he does write about is, rather unsurprisingly, interesting and engaging but I was hoping he'd go into his bankruptcy issues a little deeper.

    I probably will go back to this occasionally, but I can't imagine I'd listen to the whole 25 hours over and over. An edited version would have been *immense*
    No 0 | Yes 0
    • 5/5

    Into the Mind of the Greatest American Writer...

    Alan March 20, 2013
    I just want to start out by saying that this is not a typical autobiography as in it does not flow chronologically like most. That being said, Mark Twain would be proud of this work.

    This is a great autobiography of the greatest American writer ever. It takes you quickly into his world, thoughts, loves, and feelings. It is filled with humor and some sadness as well.

    Grover Gardner does an excellent job at bringing Mark Twain to life for the listener. I couldn't imagine any other narrator being able to do as well of a job.
    No 0 | Yes 0
    • 5/5

    A wonderful insight to a brilliant man!

    Jared G. December 13, 2012
    Every word wonderfully written or dictated by Samuel Clemens. It doesn't read like a story, beginning, conflict, struggle, resolution,but rather bounces around his life at HIS leisure.
    Listening to this book, is like sitting on a porch in the summer, drinking sweet-tea and listening to a relative recount tales of loved ones gone but not forgotten. Mr. Gardner does an excellent job narrating, savoring every nuance of the memory written and telling it with feeling and affection. If you listen to one book all year, this is the one you want.
    No 0 | Yes 1
    • 5/5

    Best autobiography of the year

    Keith December 13, 2012
    This was a true insight into the heart and mind of Mark Twain. Set as a collection of books, short stories, and experiences by Twain, you are given a very near complete accord of the author, the husband, the friend, and of the man that he was. I was surprised to find out he was much more than an author of children's books. Through the swears, jokes, nitpicking and intellectual challenges of his life, I must have spent the whole book laughing and smiling.
    No 0 | Yes 0

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Author Biography

Mark Twain, pseudonym of Samuel L. Clemens (1835–1910), was born in Florida, Missouri, and grew up in Hannibal on the west bank of the Mississippi River. He attended school briefly and then at age thirteen became a full-time apprentice to a local printer. When his older brother Orion established the Hannibal Journal, Samuel became a compositor for that paper and then, for a time, an itinerant printer. With a commission to write comic travel letters, he traveled down the Mississippi. Smitten with the riverboat life, he signed on as an apprentice to a steamboat pilot. After 1859, he became a licensed pilot, but two years later the Civil War put an end to the steam-boat traffic.

In 1861, he and his brother traveled to the Nevada Territory where Samuel became a writer for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, and there, on February 3, 1863, he signed a humorous account with the pseudonym Mark Twain. The name was a river man’s term for water “two fathoms deep” and thus just barely safe for navigation.

In 1870 Twain married and moved with his wife to Hartford, Connecticut. He became a highly successful lecturer in the United States and England, and he continued to write.

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Reader Biography

Grover Gardner (a.k.a. Tom Parker) is an award-winning narrator with over eight hundred titles to his credit. Named one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, he has won three prestigious Audie Awards, was chosen Narrator of the Year for 2005 by Publishers Weekly, and has earned more than thirty Earphones Awards.

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