National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.


Mark Twain, 1867 (Library of Congress)

In his nearly three-decade relationship with public television, filmmaker Ken Burns has told Americans their own story. Whether The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001), Mark Twain (2001), or Prohibition (2011), Burns's documentaries evoke our collective past. Burns lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

Sam Elliott began his film career as a cowboy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and has played mostly strong masculine roles ever since. Notable performances include Lifeguard (1976), Conagher (1991), and The Big Lebowski (1998). In 1984 he married Katharine Ross, co-star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Writer Anne Fadiman has won National Magazine Awards for her reporting (1987) and essays (2003), as well as a National Book Critics Circle Award for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (1997). From 1997 to 2004, she was Editor of The American Scholar. She is a Writer in Residence at Yale University.

Director of Stanford's American Studies program, Shelley Fisher Fishkin has written on a wide array of topics, but Mark Twain remains her specialty. She has authored, edited, or co-edited more than forty books, including: Was Huck Black?: Mark Twain and African-American Voices (1993), Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture (1996), and the 29-volume Oxford Mark Twain (1996). In 2002 she edited a copy of the mislaid Twain play from 1898, Is He Dead?

Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (2001), won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992; 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004).

Born in Chicago, David Ives was educated at Northwestern University and the Yale School of Drama. A Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting, he is probably best known for his one-act comedies collected in two anthologies, All in the Timing (1994) and Time Flies and Other Short Plays (2001). His young adult novels include Monsieur Eek (2001), Scrib (2005) and Voss (2008). Ives adapted Mark Twain's 1898 play Is He Dead? for Broadway in 2007.

P.J. O'Rourke is a political satirist, journalist, and writer. In 1973 he began an eight-year run with humor magazine National Lampoon, where he served as both Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief. He is the author of more than fourteen books, including The Bachelor Home Companion (1987), Give War a Chance (1992), and Don't Vote--It Just Encourages the Bastards (2010).

Born in Hannibal, Missouri, author Ron Powers has written more than fourteen books, including two acclaimed biographies of Mark Twain, Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain (1999) and Mark Twain: A Life (2005). Equally at home on television and in print, Powers has won both a Pulitzer Prize and an Emmy Award. Flags of Our Fathers (2000), co-authored with James Bradley, was made into a feature film by Clint Eastwood in 2006.

Richard Rodriguez may be best known for his trilogy of memoirs: Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982), Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father (1992), and Brown: The Last Discovery of America (2002). For more than ten years, Rodriguez appeared as an essayist on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

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