Most Excellent Free Reads

Posted on February 7, 2012

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~ Pride and Prejudice

I recently extolled my love of the Kindle. We talked of how insanely convenient it is for travelers/expats/etc. This is true whether we’re talking about Kindles, Nooks, ipads, or whatever your e-reader of choice may be. My Kindle, for example, is an old version my dad bought used from a coworker who was upgrading her own. I don’t need upgrades; the basic model makes me perfectly happy.

What ALSO makes me perfectly happy is the huge selection of free public domain books. I.e., books without copyrights, i.e., classics. Being able to pack these onto my Kindle makes it an uber-practical tool. The free books please me to an even greater extent than the books you pay for. That’s probably because I haven’t actually paid for a book yet. But with all the free options, I figure, why bother? I’ve got enough material to keep me busy for a lonnnng while. And I though I’d share my favorite freebies with you.

Without further ado, here is JJ’s List of the Most Excellent Free Kindle Reads:

  1. Jane Austen.  You’ve read Pride and Prejudice.  Now, go back and enjoy all the other novels you didn’t get to in high school.  Particularly recommended: Persuasion and Emma.
  2. North and South, by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell.  Though I haven’t read this author, she comes recommended.  And as a contemporary of the Brontes (Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are also freebies, btw), I imagine it will sufficiently satiate my longing for period pieces now that I’m through with Austen.
  3. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse.  A journey to self-discovery and discovery of love for others … what could be more appropriate for expat wanderers?
  4. Walden.  Because we all grow by tuning into nature and philosophy.  And because we ought to quote Thoreau having actually read him.
  5. The Art of War by Sun Tzu.  The classic Chinese treatise applies more generally to strategic and managerial thinking.  Or so I’m told.  I just got started.
  6. D.H. Lawrence.  I’m not sure where to begin, with Sons and Lovers or Women in Love?
  7. Joyce.  Next in queue on my reading list is Ulysses.
  8. Fitzgerald.  While Gatsby is quintessential Americana, why not explore other works like Tender is the Night or The Beautiful and the Damned (based on his relationship with Zelda) to see how Fitzgerald treats love and intimacy.
  9. The Russians:  If you, like me, have only skimmed your way through War & Peace, it’s time to revisit the mighty, earthy Russians.  I’d start with Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamozov, though you can find Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Chekhov’s stories, and many others.
  10. The Greeks:  I adored reading Homer’s Odyssey as we walked the Camino de Santiago, and now the Iliad awaits.  There’s also Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics, because you should, and Thucydides, if you dare.
  11. Childhood faves: Revisit Sherlock Holmes, in honor of your mischievous side (and also Robert Downey Jr.); The Secret Garden, in honor of your whimsy; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in honor of quirky adventures; and Treasure Island, because pirates are cool.
  12. Poetry.  There are several anthologies for free, along with the collections of numerous famous poets, from American classics such as Robert Frost and Walt Whitman, to Spain’s Miguel de Unamuno and Antonio Machado (who I’ve praised elsewhere) to Brit romantics like Keats, Byron, and Shelley.  Oh and don’t forget Goethe.  In short, you’ll find most late, great poets for free!
And this is only just the beginning. Other public domain gems include Emerson’s essay collections, basically all of Dickens, pre-20th century philosophy like Kant, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, up to even Bertrand Russell, and so so many other classics like William Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage), Thomas Hardy (Return of the Native), H.G. Wells (Invisible Man), Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), and more. And of course Les Miserables to prep for the upcoming movie remake.

Beyond the classics, there are a good number of other free books on amazon, if you do a little digging (get started). For self-help lovers the little “Brilliant Little Ideas” will probably entertain. I have found a couple decent business and management books by browsing the limited-time offers.

Voila. No more complaining about not having books, right? This is enough to keep my expat eyes occupied. Happy reading!

Cover image: Old Library at Trinity College

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Posted in: Expat living