Twain Talk to Launch CU Reading Program

With a talk entitled “The Genius of Mark Twain,” Dr. Elliot Engel will kick off a month of free events for CU Reading, a reading program encouraging everyone in Champaign-Urbana to read — or rediscover — Mark Twain’s first novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Dr. Engel’s scholarly and entertaining presentation will help set the stage for a deeper appreciation of Twain and his classic work.

The event will be at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., on Sunday, September 30, at 2 p.m., and will include refreshments and door prizes.

Dr. Engel lectures about literary greats across the U.S. and internationally. He has taught at Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State, and has earned North Carolina’s Adult Education Award. His articles have appeared in national magazines including Newsweek.

CU Reading is cosponsored by the Champaign Public Library and The Urbana Free Library. More than a dozen events for all ages will be held throughout October at both libraries, including music by dulcimer virtuoso Mike Anderson; stories by Gladys Caines-Coggswell, storyteller in residence for the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum; and dramatic readings by actors from Urbana’s Station Theatre.

A discussion of race and stereotype in Twain’s work will be led by Bruce Michelson and Robert Warrior. The grand finale on Sunday, October 28, at 2 p.m., will feature folk singer Jim Post appearing as Mark Twain himself. Complete event details are at

An exhibit at The Urbana Free Library will highlight Mark Twain items from the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is available to check out in paperback, as an audiobook and as a downloadable eBook. Book club kits of 10 copies are available at the Champaign Public Library. Readers can also follow Tom’s adventures on Twitter during October at

Mark Twain had a brief personal connection with Champaign-Urbana. Sponsored by the Young Men’s Social Club and billed as a “Prince of Good Humor,” Twain spoke in Champaign on a lecture tour in December 1871.

Unfortunately, he found his Champaign hotel room lacking. Writing to his wife shortly before his talk, Twain noted his displeasure and said he would leave town that night to seek better accommodation at his next stop, Tuscola.

CU Reading is made possible with support from the Champaign Public Library Friends and the Friends of the Urbana Free Library. For more information, contact the Champaign Public Library at (217) 403-2070 or The Urbana Free Library at (217) 367-4405.