Download Life on the Mississippi Audiobook

Life on the Mississippi Audiobook, by Mark Twain Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Mark Twain Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2010 ISBN: 9781483090184
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,988 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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The Mississippi River, known as “America’s river,” and Mark Twain are practically synonymous in American culture. The popularity of Twain’s steamboat and steamboat pilot on the ever-changing Mississippi has endured for over a century.

A brilliant amalgam of remembrance and reportage, by turns satiric, celebratory, nostalgic, and melancholy, Life on the Mississippi evokes the great river that Mark Twain knew as a boy and young man and the one he revisited as a mature and successful author. Written between the publication of his two greatest novels, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Twain’s rich portrait of the Mississippi marks a distinctive transition in the life of the river and the nation, from the boom years preceding the Civil War to the sober times that followed it.

Samuel Clemens became a licensed river pilot at the age of twenty-four under the apprenticeship of Horace Bixby, pilot of the Paul Jones. His name, Mark Twain, was derived from the river pilot term describing safe navigating conditions, or “mark two fathoms.” This term was shortened to “mark twain” by the leadsmen whose job it was to monitor the water’s depth and report it to the pilot.

Although Mark Twain used his childhood experiences growing up along the Mississippi in numerous works, nowhere is the river and pilot’s life more thoroughly described than in Life on the Mississippi.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mark Twain was the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs.”

    William Faulkner

  • “I believe that Mark Twain had a clearer vision of life…than any other American…I believe that he was the true father of our national literature, the first genuinely American artist of the royal blood.”

    H. L. Mencken

  • “There are at least half a dozen audiobook versions of Mark Twain’s greatest work of nonfiction, his account of his time on the Mississippi River as a riverboat apprentice and pilot, and, later, as a witness to change. Veteran narrator Grover Gardner, with his fine exuberant voice, comic pacing and sense of mordant irony, gives us the very best rendition. The book begins with its constant theme—the Mississippi’s lawless ways, its mobility and perversity—and goes on to its “discovery” by Europeans, paying caustic attention to the invaders’ appetite for other people’s land. From then on, the book rambles through Twain’s often chastening experiences, the rise and decline of steamship riverboating, and the manners, mores and eccentricities of river towns and people. Above all, this is a book about travel. Setting out as a young man, a high-spirited Sam Clemens feels the exhilaration of every traveler: ‘I became a new being, and the subject of my own admiration. I was a traveler! . . . and I was able to look down and pity the untraveled with a compassion that had hardly a trace of contempt in it.’”

    Washington Post

  • “Listeners who enjoyed Grover Gardner’s narrations of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer will savor this journey…Gardner’s easy familiarity with Twain’s style is evident once more: He captures all of the author’s wit and wordplay as well as his colorful descriptions of the era just before the Civil War. Gardner gives some rollicking performances as he brings to life the book’s memorable characters, with their gruff voices and varied accents. The text can be as meandering as the river itself, but Gardner’s first-rate narration keeps the listener on course.”


  • An AudioFile Editors’ Pick for Best Audiobooks for Travelling
  • A Washington Post Pick of Best Audiobooks for Your Summer Travels

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annette | 2/20/2014

    " Nice for a historical view of the Mississippi River. My family is also from Hannibal, MO, like Mark Twain. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharman | 2/1/2014

    " This book is Twain's telling of the history of the Mississippi River. Although I enjoyed many of his "tales" there were several long tedious sections as well. I actually caught myself whispering, "blahdy, blahdy, blah" through those sections. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrick | 1/30/2014

    " p.31 "All I desired to ask Mr. Bixby was the simple question whether he was ass enough to really imagine he was going to find that plantation on a night when all plantations were exactly alike and all of the same color. But I held in. I used to have fine inspirastions of prudence in those days." "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rick | 1/30/2014

    " The first third of the book was great. The stories about the Mississippi river pilots were very interesting. The second two thirds were verry slow. There were a few interesting side stories, but the rest was boring. I guess if you lived in some of areas mentioned it would be of interest. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jean | 1/24/2014

    " A great combination of droll humor, information, and a glimpse into the past. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cathy | 1/23/2014

    " Well, I made it through 200 pages. I just couldn't convince myself to keep trying. It was a little too much detail about riverboat life for me. Although, I certainly admire Mark Twain and find him a fascinating person. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 1/12/2014

    " Who knew that being a pilot on the Mississippi was so complicated an existence? Not me. A wonderful glimpse of life on the river in the 19th century, and a well from which much of Huck's & Tom's lives was drawn. A delight. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Douglas | 1/7/2014

    " Twain is as funny as ever,and once you're in the book you begin to feel you are in a riverboat floating on the Mississippi! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jim | 12/30/2013

    " A great social history about the antebellum south and its social and economic conditions. Presents a unique culture of the riverboat people from the captains, to the gamblers and businessmen and the many small river towns that depend on the trade. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Juliana | 12/29/2013

    " Book my passage now on a Mississippi steam boat cruise. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ritta | 12/12/2013

    " You simply cannot go wrong with a book by Mark Twain. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stephen | 11/30/2013

    " One of my favorite books! I have re-read it several times over the years and think its one of Twain's finest pieces. Get a hold of the audio version as well which is fantastic! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa | 10/23/2013

    " It's not perfect, but I gave it 5 stars because even with its flaws, it's still one of the best books I've ever read and one I can go back to again and again and always find something new. Love this book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Adam | 1/28/2013

    " Interesting and colorful, but the pace is slow as a steamboat going upriver at high water. Still waiting to see if there's going to be a development to all this, or if it's just a series of postcards. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 9/14/2012

    " The first half is the best American nonfiction writing I knew best. The is the art book on Mississippi River paddle wheeler piloting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 4/20/2012

    " This was a fun read! Mark Twain is hilarious, as always. It's nice to know how he got his start (and his pen name!). "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 George | 2/29/2012

    " Mostly autobiographic, this is an interesting and fun read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vera | 1/29/2012

    " A classic which doesn't go out of date. I love Twain, but it takes me a while to read him. It was like live history to read this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 doug | 1/1/2012

    " Must reading if you've ever lived near the Mississippi. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Gretchen | 9/2/2011

    " read this for social studies/us history in 8th grade - incredibly boring. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 andy | 4/21/2011

    " hey this twain is a clever bastard! lolololol. some of the details of the first half drag and some of the anecdotes of the second half are stellar. "

About the Author

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.

About the Narrator

Grover Gardner (a.k.a. Tom Parker) is an award-winning narrator with over a thousand 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.