The books are fantastic and bothand have a constant rotation of excellent inexpensive reads for under $ 10. But do you know what’s better than a cheap book? A free delivered. Thanks to the magic of the public domain, there are plenty of books you can read for exactly $ 0 on Amazon’s and Apple’s reading services.
Apple Books is a real star here, as it has a comprehensive list of “books you are meant to read” which is full of books that you can download for free. Many of these are also free on Amazon, but some will set you back a few dollars (or maybe just a few pennies). If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you’ll have many, many more books to read for free.
There is a huge world of cheap and free books out there on these platforms, but here are 15 classics to get you started.
Peter Pan (JM Barrie)
Here’s one for parents looking for something to read their kids or for Disney enthusiasts wanting to read the play that inspired the novel that inspired the 1953 classic. Peter Pan, also released as Peter and Wendy, is the story of Neverland, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and the infamous Captain Hook. A worthy warning though: it contains a depiction of Native Americans that is very … 1904.
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Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Like most classics, it is possible that you suffered from Frankenstein during English class in high school. We’ve all been there. You just have to take any book apart in school to shut down anyone, but Frankenstein has always been an exception to me. Frankenstein is not only considered the first science fiction novel, but it is also a timeless parable, one of the finest examples of Gothic literature and a true product of the Romantic movement.
If that sort of thing doesn’t sell you, you can still laugh at whining Victor Frankenstein as he reaps what he sows.
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Dracula (Bram Stoker)
Another one for the Goths! If you’re a fan of our undead friends, it’s worth checking out one of the books that started it all. The story is great for those looking for good suspenseful gothic horror. It’s easy to think of Dracula as another hard-to-read classic, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The writing holds up really well (after 100+ years that’s quite an achievement) and it’s really scary in places.
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The Republic (Plato)
Greek philosophers are still remembered all these centuries later, which means they are unlikely to go out of fashion anytime soon. Plato is arguably the most famous Greek philosopher – after Socrates and Aristotle – and The Republic is his most famous work. What is most striking about much (but fortunately perhaps not all) of ancient Greek writing is how relevant it is today.
Reading ancient Greek literature can also help you appear more pretentious at parties, which is good.
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The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)
There are a lot of long reads on this list, so here’s a short one. The metamorphosis follows the sudden and inexplicable transformation of a man into a huge insect and, although it spans less than 100 pages, has been the subject of rigorous psychological examination and interpretation over the years. 116 years since its first publication.
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare)
If you really want to challenge yourself, Shakespeare is the way to go. The language and format may take some getting used to, but it’s very rewarding once you’ve done that. There is a room for everyone: for those who love romance, tragedy, comedy or even absolutely wacky fantasy. Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet are some of the most famous, so they would be good starting points. Almost everyone knows the stories at least a little bit – and trust us, familiarity with the plot helps a lot if you’re new to Shakespeare.
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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sherlock Holmes was cool long before Robert Downey Jr. played him on the big screen. This collection of stories was published over 120 years ago, but the mysteries have a timeless quality: the plot does not die with age. Sherlock Holmes might not be the most important book on this list, but it might be the most fun.
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Pride and Prejudice, Emma (Jane Austen)
We know what you are thinking: wouldn’t Jane Austen just be more wordy and boring? What are they saying? What’s even going on? And yes, Jane Austen’s books can look very intimidating and almost bland when you look at them through a modern lens. Reading Austen’s books, however, is like a cheeky window into the past: Jane Austen’s books parody Regency society and poke fun at the ridiculousness of certain social mores at the time. If you want to start on Austen, we recommend that you start with Pride and Prejudice or Emma.
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The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx)
Let’s say right away that including this is not an endorsement of communism. That being said, The Communist Manifesto is one of the most influential writings of recent centuries. Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it would inspire a movement and a philosophy that would eventually take hold of half of Europe within a century of its publication date in 1848. It is also much easier to read the work. much more in-depth from Marx, Capital, but it’s also available for free if you’re willing to read thousands of pages of nineteenth-century savings.
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
There are several novels which are known as “The Great American Novel” – Catcher in the Rye, Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird and many more. But perhaps the most title-claiming novel is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain is considered America’s greatest comedian and is one of his most famous writers of all time. Huckleberry Finn is the book he’s best known for and a must-read for anyone looking to learn about American literature.
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Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
Alas, Huck Finn isn’t the only great American novel that you can read for free. Moby Dick gave the world the idiom of the “white whale,” as well as one of the most famous opening phrases. The book is almost 170 years old, but it’s still a staple of “books you should read” lists everywhere.
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The Federalist Papers (Alexander Hamilton)
You may have experienced these texts at first as extremely boring history lesson texts, butbreathed new life into them. The Federalist Papers are a collection of essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay (but mostly Hamilton) in which they encourage ratification of the United States Constitution and also advocate for a more centralized state. These will be dry backgrounds for many, but useful for die-hard fans of the Hamilton musical.
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War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
We saved the biggest for last. War and Peace is such a monster that its name has become an adjective used to describe works of an intimidating size. And make no mistake, War and Peace is a lot to do. But it will be to get you acquainted with “the lion of Russian literature” as the book was called. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s free on Apple Books.
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