Did you know thousands of classic literature titles are available free of charge and they’re right at your fingertips? Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works. Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, the project is the world’s oldest digital library, and most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer, including plain text, PDF, HTML, Kindle and EPub. As of 3 October 2015, Project Gutenberg reached 50,000 items in its collection. Since choosing from 50,000 titles can be somewhat overwhelming if you don’t already know what you’re looking for, instead try choosing from these top 20 free e-books offered by Project Gutenberg:
20. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
First published in 1812 by the Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, Children’s and Household Tales
is a collection of German folk tales that has produced hundreds of classics, as well as influenced other collectors for more than 200 years. Many of these tales are a far cry from the classic bedtime stories with which you may be familiar. In the first edition, only recently published for the first time in English, Rapunzel is impregnated by the prince, Cinderella’s stepsisters chop off the ends of their feet and one boy slices the throat of his brother.
19. The Picture of Dorian Gray
In the 1890 philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde
, the beautiful Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil. Through the artist Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is enthralled by the aristocrat’s hedonistic worldview: that beauty and sensual fulfillment are the only things worth pursuing in life. When Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul so that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade, Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied and amoral experiences, while staying young and beautiful; all the while his portrait ages and records every soul-corrupting sin.
18. The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
First performed in 1895, the Oscar Wilde play
is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae to escape burdensome social obligations. The play repeatedly mocks Victorian traditions and social customs, marriage and the pursuit of love.
17. The Romance of Lust: A Classic Victorian erotic novel
A Victorian erotic novel written anonymously in four volumes between 1873 and 1876, The Romance of Lust
tells the tale of Charlie Roberts, possesses a large penis, much virility and a seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. The protagonist catalogs his sexual experiences, including incest with his sisters, his governesses, arious male and female friends and acquaintances. Besides incest, the book deals with a variety of sexual activities, including orgies, masturbation, lesbianism, flagellation, as well as various other taboo sexual activities and topics.
Considered one of the most important works of modernist literature, the novel by James Joyce chronicles an ordinary Dublin day in the life of Leopold Bloom. encounters of Leopold Bloom Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, and the novel establishes a series of parallels between the poem and the novel. In 1998, the American publishing firm Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
15. The Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella
has been called one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is studied in colleges and universities across the Western world. When traveling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself transformed into a large, monstrous insect-like creature, he must try and adjust to his new condition as he deals with being burdensome to his parents and sister, who are repelled by the verminous creature Gregor has become.
14. Great Expectations
Charles Dickens’ 13th novel depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip. Dickens’s themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, as well as the eventual triumph of good over evil. Great Expectations
remains popular both with readers and literary critics, and the novel has been translated into many languages and adapted numerous times into various media.
13. Il Principe
The 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli translates in English to The Prince
. Il Principe
ahs been called one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning how to consider politics and ethics.
12. The Yellow Wallpaper
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 6,000-word short story is regarded as an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating attitudes in the 19th century toward women’s health, both physical and mental. First published in 1892, The Yellow Wallpaper
is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband has rented an old mansion for the summer. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper and descends into psychosis.
11. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
The 1845 memoir on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass is considered the most famous narrative written by former slaves. An American Slave
describes the events of Douglass’ life and is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century United States.
10. A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, as well as the brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution. A Tale of Two Cities also describes unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same period.
9. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain’s 1876 novel tells of the misadventures of Tom Sawyer
, a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, inspired by Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Mo.
8. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus
The novel written by the English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley tells the story of a young science student, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Infused with elements of a Gothic novel and the Romantic movement, Frankenstein
is considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction.
7. Moby Dick; Or, The Whale
Herman Melville’s 1851 novel is considered to be an outstanding work of Romanticism and the American Renaissance. In Moby Dick
, a sailor called Ishmael narrates the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, a white whale that destroyed Ahab’s ship and severed his leg at the knee. Although the novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of Melville’s 1891 death, it has since gained the reputation of belonging to an elite collection of great American literature.
6. The Kama Sutra
Vatsyayana’s The Kama Sutra
is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature. While part of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse, Kama Sutra
is not exclusively a sex manual. Instead, it presents itself as a guide to a virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family life and other aspects pertaining to pleasure oriented faculties of human life.
5. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain’s 1885 novel is one of the first major American literature works to be written throughout in vernacular English, characterized by local color regionalism. Told in the first person by Huck Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels, the book is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
is noted for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River in Southern antebellum society, which ceased to exist about 20 years before the work was published, including an often scathing satire on entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.
4. War and Peace
Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 novel is regarded as one of the central works of world literature. War and Peace charts the history of the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, through the stories of five Russian aristocratic families. One of the longest novels ever written, the book has been ranked by Newsweek as one of its Top 100 Books and as number 20 on the BBC’s survey, The Big Read.
3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1892 book is a collection of twelve short stories featuring the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. The stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
identify and try to correct social injustices of the day, while Holmes is portrayed as offering a new, fairer sense of justice.
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The story plays with logic, leading to its lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.
1. Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of manners follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. Pride and Prejudice continues to place near the top of lists of “most loved books” and has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, selling more than 20 million copies.
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