I had borrowed this book from Andy a year ago and since he came back to visit, I decided it was high time I read it so I could return it to him.
The book is not a novel, but rather a collection of personal stories and musings from Mark Twain's younger days, when he was still known as Samuel Clemens. There is a lot of stuff about steamboats, which I have to say isn't particularly interesting for me. I guess I'm not much of a shiphead. So some of the 290-some pages do drag on a bit. But as Andy noted, Twain's great writing generally makes up for it.
There are many stories about Twain learning how to pilot a steamboat, and the amount of knowledge a pilot had to keep in his head really was staggering. He includes some quips such as this one on page 29:
"Presently [the pilot training Twain] turned on me and said: 'What's the name of the first point above New Orleans?' I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know."
I have to admit that I even chuckled out loud a few times while reading this book, but if you're looking to get into Twain, I'd certainly say you should check out his novels first, Huckleberry Finn being an obviously good first pick.
Thanks for reading, and have a good weekend!