The classics. They're the bane of many a high schooler's existence. And yet, we all have one or two (or 20) classic books that we've been meaning to read... eventually. But when you walk into the bookstore, you're instantly distracted by all those shiny new books, and it seems like up and coming YA authors probably need your money a lot more than Charles Dickens does right now. Lucky for you, though, there's this secret, hidden realm known as the "public domain," where you can read all the classics books your literary heart desires. Right now. For free.
Websites like Project Gutenberg have collected tens of thousands of public domain books for your reading pleasure. You can download e-books for your phone or kindle, or just read them right there in your browser. So if you're looking for a free way to read more contemporary works, allow me to direct you to your friendly local library. But if you're looking to read up on the classics, right now, from the comfort of your own phone, laptop, or sci-fi ocular implant, then here are a whole slew of incredible books that can be found and legally read for free in the wilds of the web:
1'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is the rom-com to end all rom-coms. Just try not to fall for the awkward, rich, emotionally repressed Mr. Darcy as he goes about unintentionally ruining Lizzie's life (and finally, awkwardly, sweeping her off her feet).
2'The Count of Monte Cristo' by Alexandre Dumas
The ultimate revenge tale still holds up over 170 years later. In Alexandre Dumas' classic novel, a man is imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, and decides to deal with it by becoming fabulously wealthy and then utterly destroying the men who imprisoned him.
3'Dracula' by Bram Stoker
Every sexy vampire in modern media owes a huge debt to the original Count himself. Bram Stoker's Dracula is rightfully known as one of the greatest horror stories of all time, complete with bloodsucking, shape-shifting, and one very charismatic Transylvanian.
4'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll
The trippiest of classic children's books is still a great read for adults. Join little Alice as she falls down a rabbit hole and deals with all kinds of weird nonsense while continually eating unidentified objects and changing size all over the place.
5'Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' by Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes is everyone's favorite irritating detective, along with his long-suffering sidekick, Dr. John Watson. Read all about their adventures in this collection of mysteries, and put your own deductive powers to the test.
6'Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus' by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
You probably know Frankenstein's monster as that big flat-top fellow with the neck bolts. But if you read Mary Shelley's original novel, you just might discover that the real Frankenstein's monster is a sensitive giant baby-man who speaks French and just wants to be loved.
7'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself' by Harriet A. Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is the collected memoirs of Harriet Jacobs, who survived slavery in North Carolina and seven years of hiding in a tiny, coffin-like room. She eventually escaped to reunite with her children in the North, and wrote this beautifully nuanced account of her life and her perilous road to freedom.
8'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare' by William Shakespeare
Look, you don't really have to read all of Shakespeare. But you do have the option to, with this free edition of The Complete Works. Here you'll find every last Shakespeare play, from the classic tragedies to the forgotten comedies to the very, very long histories.
9'Jane Eyre: An Autobiography' by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre is a great book to read if you're considering getting married to your boss, but you haven't yet checked his attic for any lurking ex-wives. It's a classic coming of age tale, a Gothic romance, and a surprisingly modern take on being a young, independent woman.
10'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray teaches us all a valuable lesson: hot guys are evil and not to be trusted. Sure, there's a little more to it than that, but you'll just have to read it for yourself and find out.
11'Anne of Green Gables' by L. M. Montgomery
One of the top two spunky redheaded orphans named Anne, Anne of Green Gables is that rare, delightful character who never seems dated. She's always there to cheer you up with her various scraps and fantasies and her bucolic Canadian country life.
12'Ulysses' by James Joyce
Ulysses is famous for being long and confusing, but now you can test that reputation for yourself. Sure, Joyce's writing style is a little unconventional, but if you can get past the forty page run-on sentences, you might find that Ulysses is one of the strangest, funniest, most beautifully human books out there.
13'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
Four sisters grow up together in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, dealing with minor trials and devastating tragedies as they go. It's a coming-of-age story that puts sisterhood front and center, in all its joy and frustration.
14'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave' by Frederick Douglass
This is the first of Frederick Douglass' three autobiographies, and by far his most widely read. Douglass recounts his harrowing childhood under slavery and his escape to the North, where he became one of America's greatest orators and a national leader of the abolitionist movement.
15'Les Misérables' by Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo revolutionized the idea of writing fiction for social change with his stunning (and very long) novel, Les Misérables. Hugo tells the stories of various French citizens, all revolving around Jean Valjean, a man who was imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread.
16'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens
One of Dickens' best loved works of fiction, Great Expectations has plenty of Dickensian orphans, reversals of fortune, poverty, crime, and one terrifying spinster in a rotting wedding dress.
17'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' by Jules Verne
Let's clear this up once and for all: the twenty thousand leagues refer to distance traveled while under water, not depth. They are not twenty thousand leagues deep. Also it's one of the greatest hard sci-fi novels ever written.
18'Poems by Emily Dickinson' by Emily Dickinson
Join your new best friend Emily Dickinson for a reclusive journey out into nature, where you might brush up against all manner of flowers and also probably Death itself.
19'The Souls of Black Folk' by W. E. B. Du Bois
If you've heard the phrase "double consciousness" tossed around recently, that's a reference to The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois. One of the seminal works in the history of sociology, this book collects some of the foundational essays about race in America, still all too relevant today.
20'The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1 by Edgar Allan Poe' by Edgar Allan Poe
The Works of Edgar Allan Poe can be found online in several disturbing volumes, complete with all of his creepy poetry, his murderous tales, and everything in between.
21'The Awakening, and Selected Short Stories' by Kate Chopin
The Awakening is often credited as one of the first modern feminist novels. Chopin's heroine gradually "awakens" to the fact that she, and most women, are systemically oppressed by society. So Edna decides to take her life into her own hands, regardless of what her husband or anybody else wants for her.