Top Ten Must Read Public Domain Books

This is a guest post by Brianna Davis. Brianna maintains Bachelor of Arts, a website that is dedicated to helping students find the right college that offers arts programs.

If you are as big a fan of the literary arts as I am, there are some classic books that just have to be read. Thanks to sites like Project Gutenberg and Google Books, you can now download and read many classic works with just a click for absolutely free. Public domain books are those which didn’t go through the usual copyrighting process and therefore belong to the public. But which to read? To help give you a nudge, we have gathered ten of the public domain books every literary fan should read.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain’s classic appeals to readers of all ages. The tale is set in the earlier days of America and follows a boy on his adventures down the Mississippi River. Slices of life, the issues of the day, and a strong message are all worth the read.

2. Pride and Prejudice – Far more than a mere romance novelist, Jane Austen brought not only women, but society to life in her best loved work. Elizabeth Bennett is dealing with the in’s and out’s courtship in old England when she meets Mr. Darcy. What it means to truly be in love and the views and misconceptions surrounding it are all explored.

3. Beowulf – Check out the first recorded novel in history here. Set in the days of the Vikings, the hero Beowulf must battle a set of challenges to save his people and prove himself. The author is unknown, but many books since have modeled themselves after it.

4. The Great Gatsby – Would you buy a house next to the girl you loved, even if she was married? That is the premise for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book about a former military officer who seeks to become rich and win back the woman he lost years earlier. He returns to find her married and seeks to gain wealth as a means to get her back. The book was memorable then as it is now for mirroring the American obsession with wealth and the price for said obsession.

5. Moby Dick – Herman Melville spins this tale about a sea captain and his elusive prey, a great white whale. Known only as Moby Dick, the whale destroyed the previous ship of the notorious Captain Ahab and cost him his leg and sanity.

6. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy does the opposite of short story in this epic novel. It tells the story of Russia during the Napoleon era and follows many characters through many years. Topics of youth, age, marriage, and death are all explored in detail, with the book itself being over 560,000 words and 1,800 pages long.

7. Frankenstein – Check out one of the first entries to the horror genre in this book. Mary Shelley uses the creature, its creator, and the love of his life to illustrate the many facets of humanity with horrifying results. It is also a good read for examining the roles and challenges of men and women.

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Done and redone in various films, the book follows the adventures of Alice, a curious girl who leaps into a virtual wonderland full of rich characters and odd places. Lewis Carroll is said to have written the book in response to all of the interesting math that was happening at the time.

9. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Get one of the first mystery books of all time here. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based the title character on a real life surgeon who used logic to diagnose and analyze his patients. The books have spawned films, television series, and an entire genre.

10. The Divine Comedy – Ever hear someone talk about the circles of hell? Then you have heard a reference from this book. The poet known as Dante Alighieri tells the tale of a journey through Hell itself. Written in poetic form, it is also where we get the phrase “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”


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