Few authors had a more significant role in shaping the uniquely American literary voice than Mark Twain. Born in Missouri in 1835, the man formerly known as Samuel Clemens witnessed America’s growing pains and documented them in novel and non-fiction forms. Given the importance of his bibliography, it’s worth wondering how many books Mark Twain wrote.
The man who created the Great American Novel wrote 28 books, including novels, non-fiction volumes, short story collections, and essays. He is arguably best-known for his book series on the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
If you’ve taken even a single unit of Literature 101 (or its equivalent in your area), chances are Mark Twain doesn’t need much introduction. Still, it may be worth getting a bird’s eye view of his impressive authorship. Keep reading for a more detailed overview of Mark Twain’s books.
Twain published 18 novels over the course of his 43-year career. His fiction is collected into two series: The Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn collection and the Adam and Eve books.
He also has seven stand-alone novels, which are:
- The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today
- The Prince and the Pauper
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
- The American Claimant
- Pudd’nhead Wilson
- Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
- A Horse’s Tale
Most Americans have likely encountered Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, or both in high school English class. Though their respective adventure books are the most likely to spark recognition, you may not be aware that these characters are often featured in each other’s stories.
In fact, Twain also wrote his two most famous heroes into supernatural sagas and murder mysteries. Between 1876 and 1900, Twain wrote nine Sawyer-Finn novels:
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Adventure of Huckleberry Finn
- Tom Sawyer Abroad
- Tom Sawyer, Detective
- Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians
- Huck Finn
- Schoolhouse Hill
- Tom Sawyer’s Conspiracy
- Tom Sawyer’s Gang Plans a Naval Battle
Both characters have been adapted across a variety of mediums. Tom Sawyer appears in movies, stage plays, ballets, comic books, video games, and even theme park attractions.
As for Huck Finn, his reach is more limited, perhaps because he courted more controversy. Still, he appears in movies, television shows, and a Broadway musical.
While Mark Twain certainly did not create Adam or Eve, he recreated the characters with a deft and humane touch. Twain wrote the diaries of Adam and Eve in the first person — which were humorous and romantic retellings of the Biblical first couple’s love story.
No stranger to controversy, Twain didn’t sweat the scandalous lightning rod Eve’s Diary turned out to be. Lester Ralph provided 55 illustrations for the book, including Adam and Eve in the nude.
Not surprisingly, the natural drawings caused outrage. While Adam’s nudity failed to offend delicate sensibilities, the public considered naked Eve pornographic. (I’m sure modern readers find that rather prejudicial to the “fairer” sex, but that’s a different discussion altogether.)
In any case, Twain was unbothered by the scandal and the Charlton Library’s decision to ban the book. He wrote the series in homage to his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens. The Adam and Eve series includes:
- Extracts From Adam’s Diary
- That Day in Eden
- Eve Speaks
- Adam’s Soliloquy
- Autobiography of Eve
- Eve’s Diary
David Birney turned the works into a stage play.
Twain also wrote short stories prolifically, churning out 33 pocket-sized tales in his lifetime. In fact, it was a short story that gave Twain his first great literary success and set the course for his career — The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Written in 1865, the story established Twain’s trademark wit and irreverent voice.
Twain published nine short story collections in his lifetime. Three more were published posthumously.
These volumes include:
- The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches
- Mark Twain’s (Burlesque) Autobiography and First Romance
- Sketches New and Old
- A True Story and the Recent Carnival of Crime
- Punch, Brothers, Punch! and Other Sketches
- Mark Twain’s Library of Humor
- Merry Tales
- The 1,000,000 Pound Bank Note and Other New Stories
- The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories
- The Curious Republic of Gondour and Other Whimsical Sketches
- The Washoe Giant in San Francisco
- Mark Twain’s Fables of Man
Twain wrote his works during some of the most historically formative years in America. He was a keen, politically minded observer who wrote satire with a poison tongue.
His literary contributions aren’t limited to novels and short stories. In addition to an autobiography and two collections of letters, Twain wrote many satirical political essays and tracts.
Twain’s essays covered everything from a serious rumination on racism in the United States to an ironic dissection of James Fenimore Cooper’s literary output to a tongue-in-cheek commentary on trying to learn German as an English speaker. As you can imagine, Twain tackled every subject that captured his fancy.
The author’s 16 essays are collected across six volumes, four of which were published posthumously:
- How to Tell a Story and Other Essays
- Europe and Elsewhere
- Letters from the Earth
- A Pen Warmed up in Hell
- The Bible According to Mark Twain
Twain wrote extensively on travel. He incorporated incisive political commentary into his travelogues, using local geography and culture to illustrate his points. Mark Twain undertook some of his international writing in an attempt to mitigate extensive debts.
His works covered the Mississippi River, England, and The Holy Land. Twain’s travel books include:
- The Innocents Abroad
- Roughing It
- Old Times on the Mississippi
- Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion
- A Tramp Abroad
- Life on the Mississippi
- Following the Equator
Twain also wrote several autobiographical books that were technically not “official” autobiographies. Two were released posthumously.
The entire collection is:
- Is Shakespeare Dead?
- Moments with Mark Twain
- Mark Twain’s Notebook
- Letters from Hawaii
Twain dipped his toes into a wide variety of writing mediums. While novels and short stories gave him the most fame, Twain also wrote poetry, a play, and even a speech for the Stomach Club. These works are:
- Is He Dead? (play)
- The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Updated (parody lyrics)
- King Leopold’s Soliloquy (pamphlet)
- Little Bessie Would Assist Providence (poem)
- Slovenly Peter (children’s book)
- Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism (speech)
Mark Twain helped create American literature. Writing at a time when the nation had no distinctive voice associated with its books and stories, Twain carved out a humorous, wry niche in the literary world. His 28 books were novels, short story collections, travelogues, and essays that gave a nation its voice.