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1. Mark Twain Humor Contest

mark twain imageThe Mark Twain House & Museum’s Inaugural “Royal Nonesuch” Humor Writing Contest for writers of all ages from all corners of the globe!

Recognizing that Samuel Clemens (aka: Mark Twain) began writing at an early age and to encourage other young authors, we welcome submissions for two categories:

  • Adult (age 18 and over at time of submission) at $22 per submission, and
  • Young Author (age 17 and under at time of submission) at $12 per submission.

Celebrity Judges for Adults are: Roy Blount, Jr., Colin McEnroe, and Lucy Ferris.

Celebrity Judges for Young Authors are: Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever, and Jessica Lawson, author of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher.

Submit your original humorous essays and stories for a chance at a cash prize, the opportunity to meet bestselling authors at our annual “Mark My Words” event, and best of all - bragging rights!

“If Mark Twain were alive, he’d be happy about this contest, because he’d win it.” – Andy Borowitz

DEADLINE: June 30, 2014

FEE: $22.00 “Adult/18 and over” categories 

FEE: $12.00 “Young Author/17 and under”

Writing Contest: The Guidelines

•  Submit 10,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. (Entries longer than 10,000 words will be disqualified.)
•  Submissions must be in English.

•  Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. We want to hear your voice. And we want you to make us laugh!

•  Submissions will be judged by our award-winning Mark Twain House staff writers and scholars, Trinity College faculty, and celebrity judges: Roy Blount, Jr., Colin McEnroe, and Lucy Ferris. Celebrity judges for the 17 & under contest are Tim Federle and Jessica Lawson.

•  Submissions are due by June 30th, 2014.

•  Winners may be asked to provide age verification regarding submission category.

•  You may submit more than one entry; a separate fee is required for each entry.

•  Winners will be notified by September 5, 2014.

•  Winners will be presented to the public at the 4th Annual “Mark My Words” event at which bestselling authors appear onstage October 21, 2014 to benefit The Mark Twain House & Museum. (Past authors have included John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Sandra Brown.)

•  Winners will retain ownership of their work. The Mark Twain House & Museum reserves the right to publish winning pieces in a public forum with credit to the author. 

PRIZES (winners in both categories):

•      1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult & Young Author)

•      2nd Prize: $500 (Adult& Young Author)

•      3rd Prize: $250 (Adult& Young Author)

•      Three Honorable Mention Prizes: $100 Gift Certificate for the Mark Twain Museum Store (Adult & Young Author).

•  All 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Prize winners in both the “Young Author/17 and under” and “Adult/18 and over” categories will be invited to attend “Mark My Words” and go backstage to meet bestselling authors. (Winners are responsible for their travel and accommodations.)

•  Staff and immediate family members of the Mark Twain House are not eligible.

The mission of The Mark Twain House & Museum is to foster an appreciation of the legacy of Mark Twain as one of our nation’s defining cultural figures, and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life and times. The Mark Twain House & Museum operates as a non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation. Mark Twain built the house in 1874 and lived here with his wife and children until 1891. This is where he wrote such masterpieces as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and is located at 351 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, CT. We appreciate your participation in this inaugural writing contest as it supports our preservation efforts.

By clicking ‘Submit’ you acknowledge that this is your original work and you agree to all contest rules and guidelines.

Here is the link to submit: https://twainhouse.submittable.com/submit/26632

Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Contest, opportunity, Places to sumit, Win, writing Tagged: Contest for Audlts and young authors, Humor Contest, Mark Twain, Samel Clemens

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2. Kupperman Kartoon: Twain’s Garbage River Rambles


Cartoonist Michael Kupperman is, as we all know one of the world’s funniest humans. Tales Designed to Thrizzle proves that. He’s also obsessed with Mark Twain, something also proved by Thrizzle. And now, he’s made a cartoon about Twain’s wacky adventures aboard a raft made of garbage, now available on Adult Swim. If you poke around on his Tumblr, you’ll also see some pretty hilarious outtakes of things that he couldn’t animate in the basic style used. Warning: Contains pants dropping.
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3. PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Top 10 YA/Crossover Books with a Religious Theme, by Rukhsana Khan

 

Rukhsana Khan’s award-winning novel Wanting Mor (Groundwood Books, 2009) was one of the books on Corinne’s YA Top 10 posted last week (and it would be on mine too!).  One of the themes that runs through the book is the main character Jameela’s faith, and Rukhsana evokes great depth of feeling and understanding about Jameela’s culture growing up in post-Taliban Afghanistan.  Her other YA novel Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile (Stoddart Kids, 1999) focuses on a Muslim Canadian teen Zainab’s journey towards self-acceptance in the face of peer pressure.  Rukhsana has also written  several acclaimed picture books, including Big Red Lollipop (illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Viking Children’s Books, 2010) and The Roses in My Carpets (illustrated by Ronald Himler).

You can find out more about Rukhsana’s books on her website and keep up-to-date with her news on her Khanversations blog; and do also read our interview with her.

 

Top 10 YA/Crossover Books with a Religious Theme, by Rukhsana Khan

1.   The Autobiography of Malcolm X — This book absolutely moved me as a teen! It’s about a man who succumbs to a sort of personality cult (Nation of Islam)—but emerges as a truly noble man! I wanted to be like Malcolm X!

2.   Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson — A real classic! Absolutely adored this book! It’s full of quotations from the Bible and there’s a really mean and sanctimonious grandmother!

3.   A Single Light by Maia Wojcieschowska — Read this as a girl and found it haunting!

4.   Mansfield Park by Jane Austen — Fanny Price is no Elizabeth Bennet! I loved that Edward chooses Fanny for her faith and good moral character.

5.   Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare — A story about tolerance but also about differences in faith. I’d never heard of the Quaker religion before this!

6.   Does My Head Look Big in This? Randa Abdel Fattah — The first book I ever read that made you root for the girl to keep wearing her hijab.

7.   Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte — Read this book as a kid and it actually confirmed my belief in Islam—Mr. Rochester and Jane would have had no problem marrying if they were Muslim!

8.   The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain — Loved how Mark Twain explored the ways in which the status quo—slave ownership—was justified by the establishment. And I wrestled alongside Huck as he struggled to do the *right* thing!

9.   The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson — A lyrical beautiful book about a woman who falls in love with Egypt and the Muslim faith.

10.  The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham — I only recently read this book and realized how way ahead of its time it was! It’s about a guy who goes and finds himself, and particularly about him exploring his faith.

I know a lot of the books aren’t exactly kids’ books. I couldn’t help it. I do really like all these books! Although Randa Abdel Fattah’s book annoys me a little because it’s about a girl you’re rooting for, who has the courage to wear hijab, and yet she, as an author, no longer wears hijab; and there’s a spot in that book when they go to the cinema during Ramadan while they’re fasting and there’s no mention of prayer!!! *grrr*

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4. Mark Twain via Silberberg

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Desert Baths by Darcy Pattison

Desert Baths

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends November 10, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Here’s a treat from Alan Silberberg. If you are NaNoWriMo-ing, he is planning a series of short inspirational (sorta) videos for writers.


If you can’t see this video, click here.

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5. More Waves of Consciousness

I eagerly await the hard rains of winter on the Oregon coast. Life always becomes leaner and my writing begins to move in mysterious, fluid directions. I feel a new book coming on. But, for now, fall lingers, pumpkins ripen, high school football teams clash spiritedly in the night, and I habitually visit my beach [...]

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6. Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn Could Get Steampunk TV Sequel

Mark Twain‘s famous characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn could star in a steampunk sequel to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. ABC has ordered a script for the possible show titled Finn & Sawyer.

The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop: “The drama hails from Detroit 1-8-7 duo Jason Richman and David Zabel and is described as an adventure-themed reinvention that revolves around the two famed literary characters who re-meet as young men in their 20s and form an investigative firm in a bustling and steampunk New Orleans.”

If you want to read Twain’s most famous novels, visit our Free eBook Flowchart to download free copies of the digital books. What is steampunk, you may ask? Follow this link to find out more about the genre. (E. W. Kemble illustration via the 1884 edition of Huckleberry Finn; link via i09)

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7. Free eBook Flowchart

What’s your favorite kind of book? We’ve created a giant flowchart to help you browse the top 50 free eBooks at Project Gutenberg.

Click the image above to see a larger version of the book map. Your choices range from Charles Dickens to Jane Austen, from Sherlock Holmes to needlework. Below, we’ve linked to all 50 free eBooks so you can start downloading right now. The books are available in all major eBook formats.

Follow this link to see an online version of the flowchart, complete with links to the the individual books.

continued…

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8. ‘Gone Girl’ Library

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn rocketed to the top of the Indie Bestseller List this week following some great reviews and BEA buzz.

The summer thriller is filled with enough suspense and twists to keep any beach reader happy, but it is also a book about writing. The main characters are avid readers, and they write letters, articles, journals, kid’s books and memoirs. The novel references other books, little Easter eggs nestled in the plot.

We’ve rounded up our five favorite book references in the thriller, building a spoiler-free library for anybody who wishes they could keep reading Gone Girl

continued…

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9. John Updike’s Childhood Home to Be Museum

The John Updike Society has finalized a contract to purchase John Updike‘s home for $200,000.

Located in the Pennsylvania town of Shillington, Updike lived in the home for thirteen years as a child. John Updike Society president James Plath announced that the organization plans to make the house a historic site and convert it into an operational museum.

Here’s more from Reading Eagle: “Out of respect for the residential neighborhood, Plath said, he expects the historic site to be open only by appointment and not list regular hours. Plath said he has researched the operations of similar historic sites that were once authors’ homes, including the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Ga., and the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala.”

continued…

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10. Gift Books Guide: Classic Literature & Fairy Tales

Classic Treats That Never Grow Old

By Bianca Schulze & Phoebe Vreeland, The Children’s Book Review
Published: November 6, 2010

You love to give books as gifts, but you want to give a book that will be cherished and kept to be shared with future generations. Right? What you’re looking for is a classic. Something well-written, tried and tested, but perhaps with updated illustrations that will tantalize any young mind. Feast your eyes on the following delights …

Snow White: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm

by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (Author), Charles Santore (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 6-9

Hardcover: 48 pages

Publisher: Sterling (October 5, 2010)

Source: Publisher

Complete with a beautifully patterned ribbon marker, this is a nice retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, Snow White, illustrated by award-winning artist Charles Santore. Santore has also illustrated an Aesop’s Fables, The Wizard of Oz and  The Little Mermaid.

Add this book to your collection: Snow White: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm

Rapunzel

by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (Authors), Dorothée Duntze (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 24 pages

Publisher: North-South Books (September 1, 2005)

Source: Publisher

A softer version of the original Grimm tale. The illustrations are happy and sunny.

Add this book to your collection: Rapunzel

Aesop’s Fables

Selected and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: North-South Books; illustrated edition edition (April 1, 2006)

Source: Publisher

This is not the ultimate collection of Aesop’s Fables, however, it is a cleanly illustrated compendium carefully selected by the uber-award-winning artist Lisbeth Zwerger.

Add this book to your collection: Aesop’s Fables

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11. Stop the clocks: how Twain celebrated Thanksgiving

This cartoon — found in Mark Twain Himself: a Pictorial Biography, thanks to Macy Halford — exposes my beloved Twain as a fellow noise-intolerant freak. Evidently he rose on Thanksgiving night at the cartoonist’s house “to stop the clocks that were interfering with his sleep.”

I myself have gotten out of bed to silence clocks in other people’s houses. I do this so customarily, in fact, that by now my sister would probably be surprised if I left the batteries in her guest room ticker intact. Even in my own apartment, I keep my midcentury-atomic model unplugged more often than not because once I become aware of its ticking I can’t concentrate on eating, talking, writing, or sleeping. Or anything else. I start to feel like a Poe character — I believe it was his timepiece. Yes, his timepiece!

The aversion runs in the family; my father once became so agitated at the sound of a clock in a hotel room that he tore the cord from the wall with such force, we couldn’t get it to restart the next morning. This kind of intolerance is often said to be learned rather than hereditary, but I am actually very distantly related to Twain through both of my dad’s maternal grandparents, who were his fifth cousins once-removed (grandmother) and twice-removed (grandfather), and maybe on my mom’s side too, so who knows?

As for Thanksgiving, Twain described the holiday as “a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for–annually, not oftener–if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.”
 

See also: Jenny Diski on noise; Dana, Ed Park, and me on teeth grinding; Thanksgiving menus from Twain’s day; and Donald Barthelme on Thanksgiving (“Thank you, O Lord, for what we are about to receive. This is surely not a gala concept”).

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12. The Reputations of Mark Twain

By Peter Stoneley


The last couple of years have been an up-and-down period for the reputation of Mark Twain (1835-1910). It started well with a special issue of Time Magazine in 2008 which reminded readers of Twain’s goodness, and of the fact that the “buddy story of Huck and Jim was not only a model of American adventure and literature but also of deep friendship and loyalty.” This was followed in 2010 by many celebrations to mark the centenary of his death, including a volume in the prestigious Library of America series. Headlining Twain as the most “beloved” and “cherished” author from “around the world,” the Library of America volume was an anthology of “Great Writers on His Life and Work.”

But there has been another Twain waiting for his turn in the public eye. Laura Skandera-Trombley brought this Twain into view with her book of 2010 on “the hidden story of his final years”, revealing just how vain, bad-tempered and vengeful he could be. Far from the world of children and their buddies, a key fact about the revealed Twain was that his secretary had presented him with a sex toy. Then earlier this month the University of California Press published the first volume of their three-volume edition of Twain’s autobiography. This made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. The autobiography had supposedly gone unpublished because it was so full of harsh truths about Twain’s contemporaries, his nation, and life generally that he himself had ordered that it not be published until 100 years after his death. Here Twain is in full spate, calling his secretary a “salacious slut,” settling many scores with business-partners who he thought had fleeced him, and referring to United States soldiers involved in imperial wars as “uniformed assassins.”

How can we go on seeing Twain as “the quintessential American” once we know that he had echoed Johnson’s comment that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”? How can we see him as about “deep friendship and loyalty” when he conceived intense enmities for so many of his closest associates? It turns out that the Twain we had known was, as the New York Times put it, a “scrubbed and sanitized version,” and here in the autobiography was the truth. Similarly the Daily Telegraph assured its readers that the autobiography was “likely to shatter the myth that America’s great writer and humorist was a cheerful old man.”

We might seek to temper the coverage of the publication of the autobiography, as the outstanding editors responsible for the California volume have themselves done. Although it is a great event in Twain scholarship to have a full and reliable edition, substantial parts of the autobiography had been published before, including most of the truly interesting parts. The parts dealing with the “salacious” secretary were not part of the autobiography, but are to be published as an appendix to the California edition, and the material had been discussed in some detail in earlier scholarship. And the sex toy? As an editor at the Mark Twain Project, Benjamin Griffin, has pointed out on the University of California Press website, this was a “massager” that was marketed to men and women as treatment for “rheumatism, headaches, neuralgia, and other ailments,” and Twain recommended the device to friends with seemingly no awareness that it might also serve as “a masturbation aid for women.”

Now, with the 175th anniversary of Twain’s birth on 30th November 2010, I have no further revelations to add. Nor do I wish to try to adjudicate between the “good Twain” and the “bad Twain.” What strikes me is how these fluctuations and polarizations in the image of Twain in the past year or so are but one mo

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13. Where the actual and the imaginary meet

From Hawthorne to Twain to White to Roth: if American fiction and personal essays “are at times nearly impossible to distinguish,” it’s “because they share a common ancestor.” (Thanks, NYRB.)

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14. Is Mark Twain Rolling Over in His Grave?






Political Cartoon by Nate Beeler, Washington Examiner






There are no less than 454 news stories for today alone on the intended release of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in a new edition in which the words “nigger,” "Injun," and "half-breed" are replaced with the more politically correct "slave," "Indian," and "half-blood."  NewSouth Books, an Alabama Publisher, has drawn criticism from many fronts and has opened up debate that is ongoing and passionate.

Is this rewriting history, taking a revisionist approach, or is it making a great piece of American literature accessible to students who would otherwise not be able to study this book because schools are reluctant to use it?

The Rhode Show (Fox Providence) has done an excellent job of outlining what the buzz is all about.


One thing that all sides seem to agree on is that the word "nigger" makes us uncomfortable.  Some scholars defend Twain's language, believing that his readers should feel uncomfortable since it shines a light on the historic treatment of blacks.  People differ on whether the word should be used if it is within its historical context or whether it should be removed to soothe modern sensibilities.  Professor Alan Gribben, a Twain scholar and editor of the NewSouth edition believes he is helping schools to be able to get this classic book back into the curriculum.   According to Publishers WeeklyTwain himself defined a classic as "a book which people praise and don't read."  Gribben believes that the offensive "n-word" is causing a generation of school children to be deprived of this important American book and that the sanitized edition would make it easier for parents and teachers to accept.

However Twain was angry even when changes in punctuation were made by an editor.  Below is the forward from the original Huckleberry Finn. 

IN this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary ‘Pike County’ dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a hap- hazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech. I make this explanation for the reason that without it many

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15. Huckleberry Fi

When I first heard about it, I thought maybe it was an Oulipian exercise: remove all the n-words from Huckleberry Finn.

But no, apparently the new edition only removes THE n-word. And replaces it with the word "slave".

Thus, the book will be more palatable to school boards, curriculum committees, parents, and students. They'll all be able to look past those 200+ uses of that word and pay more attention to the things that really matter in the book, because it's really a wonderful book ... except for that that word.

I really liked what novelist and teacher Nicole Peeler had to say on the subject:

...I would argue that Gribben, in choosing “slave,” does what so much of our media and our popular culture do every day: We act like racism is our history rather than our present. It’s like we’re trying to convince ourselves, as a nation, that the 13th Amendment was a cure-all for both slavery and racism. We know there are “problems,” still. We know the KKK still exists, and we’ve heard all of the statistics stating how African-American communities endure excessive rates of crime, poverty, and disease. But we are no longer a racist country, like we used to be “back then.” Right?

Wrong. While it’s true that many of its most disgusting symptoms, such as lynchings, are far, far less prevalent, racism obviously still exists. Oftentimes, it’s been replaced by other, more palatable and easily disguised incarnations. In high school, I watched white classmates sing along to gangsta rap, or call each other “nigga.” While Kakutani claims such lyrics, when used by the actual rap artists, “reclaim[…] the word from its ugly past,” there was nothing being reclaimed in the halls of my high school, by those resoundingly middle-class Caucasians.

Indeed, as I think about my teaching of “The Artificial Nigger” at LSUS, I have to confront a lot of hard truths. I think I had a hard time saying “nigger” in front of my class because I was afraid I would be misinterpreted. I think I was afraid that my students would assume I was a racist. Because, if I’m honest, I think I’m afraid that I am a racist. I’m afraid that because I grew up in a nation that no longer talks about race, except to roll its eyes and say, “Oh, that’s history,” I don’t spend enough time questioning ideas, stereotypes, actions, and cultural messages that are racist. I tell myself, “Some of my best friends are black,” and then I laugh, mostly out of exasperation, at the impossibility of it all. The fact that I’m proud to have black friends disgusts me, even as I’m proud to have black friends. “Look at me!” I think, “I’m not a racist!” As if I deserve some kind of reward. Then again, considering my grandfather was a member of the KKK, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

Which leads me to my final point about such obfuscations of our past and of our present that Gribben’s censoring of Huckleberry Finn represents, and that is of confrontation. We must confront our own assumptions about race, as a nation, or we risk a dangerous complacency.
And that's just a taste of a long and thoughtful essay on the subject, the whole of which is well worth your time.

I've taught Huck Finn four or five times (maybe more) at the high school level, and every time it led to some of the best discussions I've had with any of my classes, because every time I have made the presence of the word nigger throughout the text a central part of our early di

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16. Alan Gribben Defends His Edited Mark Twain Volume

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Huckleberry Finn Censorship
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Professor Alan Gribben defended his politically-corrected volume of Mark Twain‘s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in different news outlets. He explained that his version of Twain’s works with two racial slurs removed will provide “a more palatable reading experience,” reaching classrooms and personal libraries where the work had been banned.

Here’s more from an article in The Birmingham News: “The Mark Twain guild has brought pretty universal condemnation, but I hope they might soften their views once the book comes out and they read my introduction and my reasons … I’m not going to apologize for this. I want readers to have this as an option.”

The New York Times rounded up commentary from nine different writers about the controversy. In addition, Stephen Colbert

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17. George W. Bush Memoir Tops College Bestseller List

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, eight out of the top ten titles on college campuses are nonfiction books. Decision Points by George W. Bush topped the list.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson were the only fiction books on the list. Life by Keith Richards and The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 by Mark Twain joined Bush’s memoir on the list. Humor titles by Jon Stewart and Tucker Max also made the cut.

What titles did you read while you were in college? The magazine surveyed university bookstores across the country for the list. Follow this link for the complete list of participating bookstores.

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18. Authors Who Doodled

Flavorpill has collected the doodles of famous authors, including Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace, Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Allen Ginsberg, Mark Twain, Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jorge Luis Borges.

The drawings ranged from insect portraits to nightmare images. Wallace drew one of the funnier pieces, doodling glasses and fangs on a photo of Cormac McCarthy.

Vonnegut (pictured with his artwork, via) incorporated many of his drawings into his books. He even had his own art gallery exhibitions. What author should illustrate their next book?

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19. The Cybils winners have arrived!

It's Valentine's Day--also known as Cybils announcement day. Months of hard work by an army of dedicated committee members has resulted in a list of high quality, highly entertaining books for children and young adult readers in an array of genres. Run, don't walk, to the Cybils site to check out the list of winners for 2010. But before you go! As a member of the Nonfiction Picture Book Panel,

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20. The Importance of Marginalia

Did you know that President Thomas Jefferson, novelist Mark Twain, and evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin all wrote in the margins? According to the New York Times, marginalia was denounced in the 20th century as a form of graffiti. These days, scholars love marked up books.

The article offers these observations from University of Toronto professor Heather Jackson: “Books with markings are increasingly seen these days as more valuable, not just for a celebrity connection but also for what they reveal about the community of people associated with a work…examining marginalia reveals a pattern of emotional reactions among everyday readers that might otherwise be missed, even by literary professionals.”

The Caxton Club and the Newberry Library will host a symposium in March to debate this subject; Jackson will be speaking there as well. The event will spotlight on a new essay collection entitled Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell. This title contains 52 essays and 112 illustrations.

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21. The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

by Barbara Kerley   illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham   In an everything-old-is-new-again twist we get a biographical picture book portrait of Samuel Langhorne Clemens from a fresh pair of eyes... his daughter's.   "According to Susy, people were... well, just plain wrong about her papa."  And so begins both the story of and about Mark Twain's oldest daughter's attempt to capture the man she

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22. Stories Behind the Story: The Case of the Frog-Jumping Contest

There’s a little bit of Mark Twain in this book, mostly from two sources, his short story “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” and, of course, his Huckleberry Finn character.

The story begins with a standard thriller device, the ticking bomb. Throw a deadline into a standard mystery and you immediately ratchet up the tension. In this case, look at the book’s opening paragraphs:

“My frog is missing,” croaked Stringbean Noonan. “And I MUST have him back by this Sunday at noon.”

“Sunday at noon?!” Mila exclaimed. “That’s only twenty-four hours from now.”

Stringbean stuffed two dollars into my coin jar. “There’s more where that came from,” he sniffed. “Just find that frog.”

Adonis, the missing frog, was no ordinary frog. (Love that name, btw.) He was a champion jumper with hops to spare, and there was a big frog-jumping contest coming up — with a $20 cash prize for the longest leap.

So already we’ve added motive to the mystery.

“Twenty dollars,” I whistled. “That’s a lot of money.”

I borrowed the first Twain idea in Chapter Five, “Want to Bet?” Most famously, there’s a character in Twain’s “The Notorious Jumping Frog from Calaveras County,” a noted gambler named Jim Smiley, who loves to bet. On anything. And everything. Twain describes him thus in the story:

“If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to — to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road.”

Anyway, I reread the story during the brainstorming stages of the book, when I was casting about for ideas, so I decided to give that character trait to a minor character, Jigsaw’s classmate, Eddie Becker, who I had established in previous books as being highly motivated by money.

Eddie loved to bet — and there wasn’t anything in the world he wouldn’t bet on. Two birds might be sitting on a telephone line. Eddie would bet which one would fly away first. He’d bet on a ball game or the color of the next car that drove down the street. The weirder the bet, the happier he was. Eddie was just one of those guys who needed to keep things interesting. Regular life wasn’t quite enough for him. Nah, there had to be something riding on it.

Jigsaw and Eddie enjoy a friendly bet. Later Eddie casually mentions a new suspect, Sasha Mink (another name I love). With Adonis now out of the way, Sasha stands to win the frog-jumping contest with her entr

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23. Mark Twain’s Library & Other Pleasures

I won’t make you wait for it. My apologies for the spillover into the sidebar, but it would require actual skill to adjust the size of the photo. So, like, that’s not happening!

This is Mark Twain’s first-floor library in his Hartford, Connecticut, home. How cool is that?

You can thank Emily Temple of Flavorwire for that shot, since she recently compiled a hot batch of photographs featuring the libraries of famous writers, inspired, in part, by the recent publication of Leah Price’s new book, Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books.

Below, a few more of my favorites . . .

Joan Didion, John Dunne, daughter Quintana Roo, and dog.

William Faulkner collected old books, apparently. Oh, wait.

Anne Sexton’s shelves look so . . . normal.

Norman Mailer lived in Brooklyn Heights, not far from my brother. But Norman had more books, and a better apartment. He also liked lamps.

This Rolling Stone gathers no moss, but collects books, obviously. If you are really in a Keith mood, go here for my ultimate “Keef Sings” mix.

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24. Playing with Famous Author Dolls

Over at UneekDollDesigns, artist Debbie Ritter sells handmade dolls of famous authors and celebrated literary characters.

The collection includes the trio of ghosts who haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. Ritter has also created dolls of Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte‘s famous novel and Mrs. Haversham from Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit come as a matching set. Flavorpill made a list of other dolls, including Shel Silverstein, J.R.R. Tolkien and Joyce Carol Oates. Above, we’ve embedded a Mark Twain doll. What’s your favorite?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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25. John Updike’s Childhood Home to Be Museum

The John Updike Society has finalized a contract to purchase John Updike‘s home for $200,000.

Located in the Pennsylvania town of Shillington, Updike lived in the home for thirteen years as a child. John Updike Society president James Plath announced that the organization plans to make the house a historic site and convert it into an operational museum.

Here’s more from Reading Eagle: “Out of respect for the residential neighborhood, Plath said, he expects the historic site to be open only by appointment and not list regular hours. Plath said he has researched the operations of similar historic sites that were once authors’ homes, including the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Ga., and the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala.”

continued…

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