Joe Bliven

Life On The Mississippi
By Mark Twain

September 1st, 2017

This book is technically non-fiction. It's an autobiographical account of Mark Twain's life as a riverboat pilot before he was an author. His name Mark Twain is actually a measurement of water depth that was used on the Mississippi River which was deep enough for a riverboat to pass. The book is not only an account of his life and career on the Mississippi but of the river port towns of the day and the people he met. I say it's technically non-fiction because he retells many stories that he heard in those days and much of the oral tradition of the riverboat men in a very tall-tale fashion and clearly even embellishes his own stories a bit. The embellishments are done with reason as his thesis is that these men were the stories they told more than the lives that they lived and they carried these stories up and down the largest river in the U.S. The reason I gave it only four stars instead of five is that there are many pages in this book dedicated to rattling off town names, landmarks, and generally describing an area of the river, which to someone with less experience on the Mississippi in Twain's day all of these areas seem to only blend together. From a historic account this is very worthwhile information but if you're just reading for light historical entertainment it gets to be a bit much. The book is a fantastic preservation of the lifestyle lived by the people on the Mississippi in the relatively short life of riverboating and a very entertaining, engaging, humorous read. If you live anywhere near the Mississippi River this book is a must read.