The Best Free Books on the iPad

Great Novels You Can Download to iBooks for Free

Woman reading book on an iPad.

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Project Gutenberg brings public-domain books into the digital age—and many of these titles are now available for the iPad for free. A selection of popular titles, among the hundreds now available, should whet your appetite for some of the classics of world literature.

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A Study in Scarlet

We'll start with Sherlock Holmes for no reason other than Benedict Cumberbatch has turned Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant detective into something of a phenomenon, which completely washes the bad taste of Robert Downey Jr's rendition. Don't make the mistake of starting with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which has an engaging title, but isn't the first in the series.

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Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen's "novel of manners" is one of the most beloved reads of all time, easily worthy of a download even if you've seen one of the many movies made of the novel. The grandmother of all romantic comedies, Pride and Prejudice is sometimes dismissed as the chick-flick version of a stuffy novel, but male or female, anyone can enjoy this engaging tale.

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Treasure Island

The novel that captured the imagination of generations of children and defined our view of pirates, Treasure Island is a fun romp no matter if you are 9 or 90.

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Oliver Twist

On its surface, Oliver Twist sounds like an engaging children's tale centered around the adventures of a little orphan boy, but the dark tone of the novel and its exploration of social morality is the reason it has stood the test of time. In many ways, Oliver Twist defined the modern-day orphan just as Treasure Island defined the pirate, and certainly, many stories have used it as a template. But Oliver Twist has depth often unseen in its progeny. 

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If you've only seen the movie (or movies), you may be surprised to learn that Dracula is written through journal entries. But don't let that dissuade you from reading this masterpiece. It has a way of sucking you in, and in many ways, the prose is quite mesmerizing. If you are a fan of vampires or the horror genre in general, it's a must-read.  

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Forget everything you think you know about Frankenstein. Too often, the movies butcher the story. This tale, at its heart, reflects on what it means to be a person—a timeless lesson.

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

If you only know Mark Twain from Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, you only know half the story. Twain was by far a genius, and while those two classics are great political yarns, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is a true masterpiece. It's no wonder so many out-of-time books and stories have traveled in its wake.  

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The Republic

Reading the philosophy of Plato may sound quite daunting, but you might be surprised at how quickly the text flows. Not that it is an easy read, but the Socratic dialogue creates a story out of the underlying philosophy, which makes it a whole lot easier than tackling the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.  

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

The story of a portrait that ages for a man. It's basically the American dream. Compared to what we read in commercial books these days, it's difficult to fathom just how scandalous the story of the hedonistic Dorian Gray was in England in the late 1800s. But some people actually wanted Oscar Wilde prosecuted for violating the laws of public morality.What would they have thought of Fifty Shades of Grey?

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Rounding out the trio of classic horror tales on this list, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have become synonymous with split personalities. A relatively quick read compared to some of the novels on this list, one legend about the book is that Robert Louis Stevenson burned an early version of the book and started again from scratch, partially due to literary notes given to him by his wife.

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The War of the Worlds

Before the Tom Cruise movie and before the Orson Welles "hoax," there was simply the book. The War of the Worlds depicts the invasion of England by invading Martian forces, an idea that hadn't yet been turned into a cliche in the late 19th century. In fact, most space invasion stories have their roots in the H. G. Wells tale, with many of the myths surrounding Mars and its superior civilization coming from this book.

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Grimm's Fairy Tales

This isn't Disney's version of Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red-Cap), or Briar-Rose, otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty. In the original tales, the stories were darker, more brutal and far more frightening.

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

If you've only seen the movie, there is a whole different world of Oz waiting for you to explore. But, of course, you'll want to start with the novel the movie is based on, unless, of course, you want to go off the yellow brick road and start with Wicked, which isn't free but is well worth the price for any Oz fan. The Wizard of Oz is the first of fourteen Oz books you can enjoy.

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

This version of Alice's bizarre adventure through the rabbit hole is illustrated by Sir John Tenniel, giving the entire story a brand new vibe. Even if you have already read the tale, this one might be worth the time to download and enjoy again.

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Peter Pan

We've been to Oz and through the rabbit hole, we might as well go to Neverland. The story of a little boy who never grows up—and can fly—and who hangs out with pirates and mermaids—and who has grand adventures. What's not to like?  As with most of these tales, Peter Pan is known to all of us as a character in the public imagination, but how many have ever sat down to read the adventure in detail?

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Wuthering Heights

You'll either love Wuthering Heights or absolutely hate it. And even if you hate it, you may secretly fall in love with it. Without a doubt, Heathcliff and Catherine and most of the other characters are deplorable human beings whom you will not root for at all. And for some, that will be a big turn off, but Wuthering Heights is a classic because it is a great read, and many will fall in love with the book, if not the characters.

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The Call of the Wild

After a Saint Bernard named Buck is puppy-napped from his kind owners, things go from bad to worse for poor Buck, but (spoiler alert!) it eventually gets better. The definitive novel written from the point of view of a pooch, The Call of the Wild it is a coming-of-age story—of sorts.  

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The Jungle

This book starts slow, but once it gets to America, it becomes a harrowing journey through the evils of industry left unchecked. Upton Sinclair was a journalist who researched conditions suffered by low-wage workers and turned that research into this novel, which was panned at the time for being the product of a socialist.