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Following the Equator

Any reader who loves a good book will relish the vicarious experience of traveling with Mark Twain, his wife, Livy, and Clara, one of their three daughters as they tour the world on the lecture circuit. It's important to understand the necessity of the trip: Twain was 60, facing bankruptcy, and signed on for the lecture tour in order to pay off his debt. The grueling schedule and unpredictable travel accommodations take no toll on his writing, however. Prepare to laugh - hard and often. Was it hot in India? "I believe that in India 'cold weather' is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy." Geography, history, culture, language, climate, language arts (oh, his choice of words and phrases!), politics, time zones, botany, geology, biology, religion - all are explored and described and relevant today. Jimmy Buffett's "Remittance Man," "That's What Living is to Me," and "Take Another Road" all spring from this book (especially the remittance man, a character you'll meet early in the book). In "Following the Equator," readers get the opportunity to travel from Vancouver to Hawaii to Fiji to Australia to New Zealand to Ceylon to India to South Africa. The book chronicles Twain's travels in such a way that you can pick it up and focus on one region without losing anything. But don't let that stop you from reading the whole book. See the Southern Cross and the Blue Mountains. Get rousted out of your comfortable train berth to change cars in Australia because the gauge of the tracks changes from wide to narrow. Meet the dingo and the Aboriginals, eavesdrop on Twain's conversation with "Satan" and "God" in India, explore the diamond mines of South Africa near the Trappist Monastery, and steer clear of the sharks in the Great Barrier Reef. There is more adventure in this one book than a whole year's subscription to National Geographic.
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About the Author

Mark Twain (1835 -1910) was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel," and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion's newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling. He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty. However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility. Born during a visit by Halley's Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age," and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."

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