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This Monday, November 30, is the 180th anniversary of the day Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) arrived in the world, and the occasion is being celebrated at two literary sites associated with the writer.

Mark TwainTwain’s distinctive facial feature is being touted during a birthday bash at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum (above left) in Hannibal, Missouri. Part of the festivities include a Mustache Contest with categories such as the “Mark Twain” for the one that bears the greatest resemblance to the writer’s own (dubbed the Walrus) and the “Dapper Stache,” the one most full of character and originality (styling aids are encouraged). November 28, 1 p.m. There is a $5 fee to enter the contest, and prizes will be awarded to the winners.

The Mark Twain House & Museum (above right) in Hartford, Connecticut, is hosting a reading of “Colonel Sellers: Reanimated,” based on one of the writer’s forgotten pieces—with a twist. Steampunk and zombie stories like The Walking Dead are currently in vogue, but Twain was well ahead of the trend. In 1883, he and a friend penned a play, Colonel Sellers as a Scientist, that contained elements of both but was panned by critics. In “Colonel Sellers: Reanimated,” playwright and Mark Twain House staffer Jacques Lamarre has refashioned the original into a Steampunk-zombie mash-up comedy. November 30, 7 p.m. Tickets are $10; $5 for members.

At both events, revelers will be served birthday cake and given a sneak peek at the designs of Mark Twain commemorative coins in gold and silver to be released by the U.S. Mint in early 2016. A portion of the purchase price of the coins will benefit four sites: The Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, New York; the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley; the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal. We’ll share more details about the coins soon.

Are you related to Harriet Beecher Stowe? As part of its celebrations this year to commemorate the writer’s 200th birthday, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut, is hosting a get-together for her family members. “Branching Out: A Gathering of Stowe’s Family” is scheduled to take place in June.

Even if you can’t claim the writer in your family tree, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Stowe Center. One is to take a tour of Stowe’s last residence, a Gothic-style house where she lived for more than two decades. It’s located in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood, an enclave of writers and intellectuals that included Mark Twain (his mansion is next door).

Although Stowe once described herself as “retired and domestic,” her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin caused a furor across the country and overseas. She was inspired to write the book after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which made it a crime to assist runaway slaves. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852 and selling 10.000 copies its first week, changed how Americans viewed slavery and is credited with galvanizing the abolitionist movement. In its first year, 10,000 copies were sold in the U.S. and 1.5 million in Great Britain.

The tour does an excellent job illuminating the impact and legacy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it also goes beyond the success of Stowe’s best-known book to reveal the different aspects of her career and her personal interests. She wrote numerous other works, including the domestic guide The American Woman’s Home with her sister (“the Martha Stewarts of their day,” according to our guide). Adorning the house are some of Stowe’s paintings, along with decorative pieces brought back from her European travels.

The Stowe Center regularly hosts a robust schedule of events, including a monthly book club discussion on classic and contemporary works, a walking tour of the historic neighborhood, and themed seasonal tours such as “Stowe and Women’s Rights” in March. See the full calendar here.

[Photos © Harriet Beecher Stowe Center]

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“Ford followed him through the central hall of the Library to the East Room, whose walls were covered with bookshelves. There were two upper tiers with promenades of frosted glass and polished brass balustrades so that any book could be easily removed from its place no matter how high. Morgan walked up to the far wall, pressed the spine of a certain book, and part of the shelving swung away to reveal a passageway through which a man could pass.” ... I changed the order of the five NYC-set novels I added to my TBR, delving into Ragtime first. A guest I had in town wanted to visit the Morgan Library, which is a setting for a scene in the story, so it seemed only fitting to start with this one. The story is an homage to NYC, an intriguing blend of fictional characters and real people, set in the tumultuous years leading up to World War I and told in a style that is both dreamlike and gritty. I’m a little more than halfway through, and I already know I’m going to be reluctant to finish because I won’t want it to end. ... #nyc #nycreads #morganlibrary #ragtime #eldoctorow #literarylandmarks #noveldestinations #booksofig #igreads #classicbooks #bookstagram #book @themorganlibrary
I love browsing at the library with no specific titles in mind, just seeing what catches my eye. Like these three novels, all of which I’m excited to read. But I may have been a bit overzealous because first I need to finish the three other books I have going right now. #readingresponsibilities #booksbooksbooks #milkman #annaburns #theparagonhotel #lyndsayfaye #unmarriageable #soniahkamal #bookstack #bookstagram #booksofig #igreads #bookwormproblems #library #librarybooks #hobokenlibrary @hobokenlibrary #springreads @graywolfpress @penguinrandomhouse @putnambooks @lyndsayfaye @soniahkamal
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