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Public Domain Recommendations

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Showing 1-25 of 210 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 11, 2009 8:18:25 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jul 7, 2009 8:02:57 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
I've noticed several times people listing how to exclude public domain books from the search results, but I like them. :) Yes, I also like black and white movies. ;) People know some of the big names, but what are some other pd freebies you'd suggest?

I'll start with A Prisoner in Fairyland by Algernon Blackwood A Prisoner in Fairyland. It's one of those books that, on the surface may seem like it is for children, but has a lot to say about the way adults think and live their lives. It's about a successful businessperson who reconnects with the fantasies of youth.

Other suggestions?

Bufo Calvin

EDIT: Please consider using Insert a product link to link to the title.

Bufo Calvin
Amazon Author Central page:

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2009 8:40:00 PM PST
badeggsalad says:
Beautiful Joe is a great book. The free public domain version shows up as Beautiful JoeAn Autobiography of a Dog. The Joe & the An run together, there's no space. I think if you do the search it still shows up in the free books, maybe domain is missing from the description. There's another version that's $4.79, I think. It's well worth reading.

Posted on Feb 11, 2009 8:44:17 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 11:58:01 AM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
Thanks, Purdueav8r! Here's the link:

Beautiful Joe An Autobiography of a Dog

Posted on Feb 11, 2009 10:54:57 PM PST
I have read 23 of the Tarzan of the Apes books. They are short. I wanted to see if the original book as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs was close to the comic strip or the movies. The comic strip won, but in reading the first one, I got hooked and read all the others but one, which I cannot find. It turns out he not only wrote the Tarzan books, which were published in serial form in magazines and read that way, but also SciFi and Westerns. These are available at Feedbooks.

My other recommendation is an Eric Flint book, "1632" which is a Sci-Fi/Alternate History book that spawned many more in its wake. You can get that at Baen Free Library. I am still reading some of those.

Posted on Feb 12, 2009 4:45:37 AM PST
CTMom says:
I read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from the public domain. I think Amazon in charging 0.99 for it though. I got it from many books I think. A really interesting story. I haven't seen the movie yet but I'm looking forward to it. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald & I read this back in high school around the same time we had to read T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland but I had forgotten most of it. So interesting how your brain washes away those stories that are supposed to be "good for you."

Posted on Feb 12, 2009 5:21:45 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 12:24:09 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
I've read all the Tarzan books as well, and many more Burroughs books (the Barsoom series is another one of the most popular, but there are many others including others that have been made into movies).

I did see the movie before I read Benjamin Button, and it was a fascinating contrast. I thought the movie was a great example of script adaptation, suiting the material for a different medium. Why am I listing FeedBooks and not Amazon on these? Because they are free at FeedBooks, and that's one of the parameters of this thread. :) Amazon does have over 7000 free books listed right now, and does have these, but not free currently.

EDIT: I notice Amazon still doesn't seem to have the Tarzan books for free. However, this is a great buy:

Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Huge collection. (50+ Works) Includes the Tarzan series, the Barsoom series, Jungle adventure novels and more. FREE Author's ... version. Published by MobileReference (mobi)

It's $4.79 right now...less than ten cents a book! Hey, dime novels! ;) They also have some really good selections: Tarzan, Barsoom, Pellucidar...and some that are less well known, like The Monster Men (sort of like the Island of Dr. Moreau), and The Efficiency Expert...which is not fantasy at all. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2009 6:46:28 AM PST
milostrong says:
Try these authors, all on FeedBooks. Great writers, great stories, IMO.
Alexandre Dumas (pere)
Rafael Sabatini
Henry Rider Haggard
Joseph Fletcher

Posted on Feb 12, 2009 8:16:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 12:27:32 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
Worth noting that the Baen books are not public domain, but are distributed free by choice of the copyright holder.

Thanks Milostrong! Dumas most famous books include The Three Musketeers series and The Man in the Iron Mask. Amazon has one book (as I write this for Sabatini), The Historical Nights Entertainment (Second Series). Haggard (who is usually written as "H. Rider Haggard" has a couple of multiply filmed works. Amongst the most famous are She (with a memorable Ursula Andress version), and the Allan Quatermain books. Sean Connery played Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The books are adventure stories. Joseph Fletcher (often rendered as J. S. Fletcher) currently has six books for free at Amazon.

The Three Musketeers
The Historical Nights Entertainment, Second Series
Allan Quatermain

Posted on Feb 14, 2009 6:30:59 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 12:28:31 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
I'd also recommend The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley

While again putatively for children, this one has a bit of an edge. Cryptozoology fans may know it from a quotation used in On the Track of Unknown Animals. It has social commentary, and especially commentary on science. Here's a quick quote to give you a sense of the feel:

"Now running your head against a wall is not pleasant, especially if it is a loose wall with the stones all set on edge, and a sharp cornered one hits you between the eyes and makes you see all manner of beautiful stars. The stars are very beautiful, certainly, but unfortunately they go in the twenty-thousandth of a split second, and the pain which comes after them does not."

This is also the start of the quotation used in On the Track of Unknown Animals:

"And no one has a right to say that no water-babies exist, till they have seen no water-babies existing; which is quite a different thing, mind, from not seeing water-babies..."

EDIT: This book was withdrawn after I let Amazon know it was incomplete.

Posted on Feb 14, 2009 7:16:33 AM PST
Thank you thank you, my K1 memory card was delivered this morning and I just ordered The Water Babies, entirely based on the 2 quotes Bufo Calvin sent and Prisoner in Fairyland, neither of which I'd ever heard of (the other suggestions here I've read already)...this is a great discussion...Thanks so much!

Posted on Feb 14, 2009 10:29:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 12:01:58 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
I'm glad this thread is useful for you, and I appreciate you telling us so. :) If you wouldn't mind posting afterwards what you thought, that would be great! If you've got suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

I'm also hoping people will start posting more reviews on the individual pd books, so people can get a better sense of them. Of course, I know most people don't post reviews...I've sold about 500 copies of my article, and only had one review (or even rating) posted. :(

Anyway, Liz, I hope you enjoy them! It's a real added value for Amazon to have them available...even though they've been available through other sources, this should really help other people find them.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009 2:19:54 PM PST
StaceyU says:
This is a great discussion. I just bought the Blackwood book after reading the description of the hardcover. I can't wait to read it. I'm currently reading Robert Louis Stevenson's The Black Arrow and I also have quite a few Sir Walter Scott books waiting to be read.

Posted on Feb 14, 2009 2:52:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 12:33:06 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
Thanks, Stacey!

Isn''t it great to be able to say "bought" when it was free? ;)

Stevenson is probably best known as the author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I believe the 1950 version of the former is why we think pirates say, "Arrrr", and "Arrrr, matey". The latter, of course, has been made into movies (and TV series), and has even led to an Oscar for acting in a science fiction/horror/fantasy movie, a rare honour indeed. The Black Arrow is set during the War of the Roses.

Treasure Island
The Black Arrow

Ivanhoe would have to go at the top of best known books by Sir Walter Scott, although there are several (Amazon lists 21 freebies). Not as well-known (but available from Amazon as a pd freebie) is his historically interesting non-fiction Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft.

Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft

Let's keep them coming! There are a lot of categories for public domain books, including science, history, and philosophy...what are some of the great reads there?

Posted on Feb 16, 2009 3:34:36 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 1:08:46 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
An Inland Voyage
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Published 1878

An Inland Voyage

Stevenson is best known for fictional adventures, especially Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This travelogue is about journeying by canoe through Belgium and France. Basically, in his mid-twenties, he was bumming around Europe, hoping to make some money writing about his trip. Keep that in mind, parents, when your kid wants to do the same.

Here he introduces us to the town of Boom, Belgium:
"Boom is not a nice place, and is only remarkable for one thing: that the majority of the inhabitants have a private opinion that they can speak English, which is not justified by fact. This gave a kind of haziness to our intercourse."


StaceyU, have you read this one?

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 6:22:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 1:10:24 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
This was an interesting find! Going through the pd books on Amazon feels a little bit like archaeology. :) The categories don't seem to match up very well, as has been noted in other threads, and they changed the author's name to include the life span. This confuses Amazon when it is trying to show you the versions of the book.

Here's a case in point, although with a particular twist. The Art of War (written about 1500 years ago) has been considered an important strategy book for business people in recent years. In fact, the Filiquarian edition is ranked #367 in books (not just Kindle books) right now. Additional editions mention a $3.99 Kindle edition and a $10 download. Clicking Sun Tzu (as the author name) shows you 309 results. Sorting those low to high, you find ones for as low as a penny.

However, you can get it for free from Amazon for your Kindle. On the 18th page of free (mostly) public domain books last night, I ran into it. :)

It's here:

The Art of War

Oh, the twist of course is that the author's name is transliterated, of course. I was able to find pd freebie The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells by putting The Invisible Man Wells into the normal search. If I start from the most popular version of the novel, click on H. G. Wells, I could find that one that way. Whew! ;)

Here's the pd freebie for The Invisible Man:

The Invisible Man

That's one I can recommend, by the way. While some people think of it is as anti-science, it's more about the abuse of power. The process is affecting the inventor's mind, but this is him explaining how he feels:


"And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man-the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none. You have only to think! And I, a shabby, poverty-struck, hemmed-in demonstrator, teaching fools in a provincial college, might suddenly become- this."


Is it the formula? Or is it the anonymity? There may be something to say here about some posters on the Internet... ;)

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 8:53:49 AM PST
fbarich says:
For serious horror fans - H.P. Lovecraft at Au Project Guttenberg

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 9:12:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 12:03:48 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
Thanks for posting a recommendation, Frank! :)

Yes, the HPL works are well-written, and can be unsettling. His "Cthulhu Mythos" is alive and well, with movies and games based on it, and people still writing in it. It deals with ancient forces...just encountering them can drive someone mad.

However, Au Project Gutenberg is the Australian version of this wonderful site. Copying those books outside of Australia may be an infringement.

The American version of Project Gutenberg does not list the books.

I am not an intellectual property attorney, and am only an interested layperson. While I own many Cthulhu Mythos paperbacks, I wouldn't download them from PG AU, as I live in the USA. That's just me, though.

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 9:19:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 12:04:10 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
Oh, and this is the "Bookshelf" at PG USA for horror:

When you download a book from PG, you need to then transfer it to your Kindle. With a K1, you can use an SD card or use your USB cord. With the K2, it's just the USB cord for transfers.

Just wanted to let you know I wasn't prejudiced against horror, Frank. :)

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 1:33:26 PM PST
fbarich says:
Point taken and no offence.

I am a big Arkham House fan and actually did end up purchasing all 4 volumes of the Collected Works of H.P. Lovecraft from Amazon before I ran across the Aussie Guttenberg site. They were only $0.80 each....not free but practically.

Read on!

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 1:38:53 PM PST
2Okies says:
I've enjoyed reading all the Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I missed reading them as a child. I read Benjamin Button, and enjoyed it also. Another book I recently found was "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Written by Herself" found on manybooks. It was very interesting. I also read the "Counterpane Fairy" which was another old children's book, but a fun read. The Shepherd of the Hills is another good book. I get almost all my public domain books off manybooks.

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 1:45:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 1:11:50 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
Glad to hear it, Frank. :)

Yes, there are some great buys at Amazon for the Kindle for under a buck, as well as the freebies. :)

Oh, and I like to throw quotations in here, so here goes:


"It is an unfortunate fact that the bulk of humanity is too limited in its mental vision to weigh with patience and intelligence those isolated phenomena, seen and felt only by a psychologically sensitive few, which lie outside its common experience."
--Jervis Dudley/The Tomb (by HPL)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2009 5:34:41 PM PST
StaceyU says:
I haven't read An Inland Voyage, but I will check it out. I just downloaded The Castle of Oranto yesterday but have not started it yet.
Dinah, the "Anne" books are some of my all-time favorites. Have you ever read any of the "Emily" books by L.M. Montgomery?

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 8:04:24 PM PST
J. Seidel says:
Phantom of the Opera.
The Pearl.
Call of the Wild.
King Solomon's Mines (the original "Indiana Jones"!)
Dracula and Frankenstein, in particular, are NOTHING like the movies we all grew up watching. Terrific reading. Although I'm buying plenty of new books, it has been wonderful to find free or almost free classics.

Posted on Feb 18, 2009 5:15:25 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 18, 2009 5:16:08 AM PST
The Blade says:
The works of Robert E. Howard (Conan, Almuric, westerns, horror, etc.) can be fun. While they are not yet listed on Amazon as free, they are in the public domain and can be found on among other places.

Posted on Feb 18, 2009 5:58:22 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2009 5:38:24 PM PDT
Bufo Calvin says:
Phantom of the Opera.
The Pearl.
Call of the Wild.
King Solomon's Mines (the original "Indiana Jones"!)
Dracula and Frankenstein, in particular, are NOTHING like the movies we all grew up watching. Terrific reading. Although I'm buying plenty of new books, it has been wonderful to find free or almost free classics.

J., I really agree. Dracula has a really important plot element that I've never seen in the many, many adaptations I've seen. Dracula is Vlad Tepes, a reknowned military strategist (in addition to being really violent). Although he isn't named as such, the description of him matches this real historical figure (who was called Dracula). Van Helsing, his adversary, is a man of science. Dracula has only recently reawakened, and with each day, his senses are returning. For the vampire hunters, then, there is a real time factor. It's a race; Dracula is relatively stupid in the beginning, but becomes more clever as time goes on. When he regains his full senses, he will be so much better at tactics than Van Helsing...and there will be no stopping him.

Here is the link for Dracula:


In the quotation I have here, Dr. Seward is talking about Renfield, who was played brilliantly by Dwight Frye in the Bela Lugosi version:


"We found him in a state of considerable excitement, but far more rational in his speech and manner than I had ever seen him. There was an unusual understanding of himself, which was unlike anything I had ever met with in a lunatic, and he took it for granted that his reasons would prevail with others entirely sane."


You've never run into anything like that, right? :)

There was also a less successful sequel, Dracula's Guest:

Dracula's Guest

Frankenstein is far more philosophical than you might think. The Boris Karloff interpretation was great, but the "monster" has long soliloquies, not the barely speaking version most people know. The movies are a visual medium, generally: the same thing happened to Tarzan.

Here's the Frankenstein link:


Here, the "monster" entreats Dr. Frankenstein:


"Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."


If you're read that, try Shelley's The Last Man:

The Last Man

The Phantom of the Opera is also probably very different than you know it. There's a great scene which I won't describe that hasn't been in the movies.

Here it is:

The Phantom of the Opera


"The voice without a body went on singing; and certainly Raoul had never in his life heard anything more absolutely and heroically sweet, more gloriously insidious, more delicate, more powerful, in short, more
irresistibly triumphant. He listened to it in a fever and he now began to understand how Christine Daae was able to appear one evening, before the stupefied audience, with accents of a beauty hitherto unknown, of a superhuman exaltation, while doubtless still under the influence of the mysterious and invisible master."


I assume the Pearl is the Steinbeck book. :) While I live fairly near Monterey, and have read some Steinbeck (would you believe I was assigned to read The Red Pony as a child? Teachers, don't do it!), I haven't read this one.

This one doesn't appear to actually be in the public domain. It was released in 1947, and I'm guessing they renewed the copyright. :) It also doesn't look like it's been formatted for the Kindle, even for a price.

This is the second vote for King Solomon's Mines and H. Rider Haggard. Indiana Jones is definitely a good comparison! Allan Quartermain starred in a series of books, King Solomon's Mine being the best known. It was followed by prequels, and since the character has fallen into the public domain, been used in a number of works.

As far as I can tell, Amazon doesn't have it as a pd freebie, although it's clearly in the public domain in the US.

Here, the fictional adventurer is writing his introduction, and gives us his thoughts on writing:


"And now it only remains for me to offer apologies for my blunt way of writing. I can but say in excuse of it that I am more accustomed to handle a rifle than a pen, and cannot make any pretence to the grand literary flights and flourishes which I see in novels - for sometimes I like to read a novel. I suppose they - the flights and flourishes - are desirable, and I regret not being able to supply them; but at the same time I cannot help thinking that simple things are always the most impressive, and that books are easier to understand when they are written in plain language, though perhaps I have no right to set up an opinion on such a matter. "A sharp spear," runs the Kukuana saying, "needs no polish"; and on the same principle I venture to hope that a true story, however strange it may be, does not require to be decked out in fine words."

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Initial post:  Feb 11, 2009
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