The Best Free Books on the iPad

Great novels you can download to iBooks for free

Project Gutenberg brings public-domain books into the digital age, providing downloadable copies of classic titles. You can use the Project Gutenberg website to download select books onto an iPad or e-reader.

From the hundreds available, we've compiled a selection of some of the best and most popular titles. Here's our list of the best free books on the iPad.

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A Study in Scarlet

Sherlock Holmes style detective's hat, pipe, magnifying glass and pen

Steve Gorton / Getty Images

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the first book in the Sherlock Holmes series is not The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It is A Study in Scarlet. Whether you're a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch's rendition or Arthur Conan Doyle's original version of the famous detective, the first book in the series is a worthy read. It is the starting point for one of the most lasting fictional characters in film, TV, and literature.

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Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen's "novel of manners" is one of the most beloved reads of all time, easily worth a download if you've seen one of the many movie adaptations. 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 modern idea of pirates, Treasure Island is a fun romp whether you're 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 tale just as Treasure Island defined that of pirates. Doubtless, many other stories have used it as a template. Even so, 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 actually 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 classic must-read. 

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Forget everything you think you know about Frankenstein. Too often, the movies butcher the story by dumbing down Frankenstein's monster. 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. While those two classics are great political yarns, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is truly a masterpiece. It's no wonder so many out-of-time books and stories have followed in its wake. 

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The Republic

Reading the philosophy of Plato may sound daunting, but you may be surprised at how quickly the text flows. Not that it is an easy read, but the Socratic dialogue creates a story from the underlying philosophy. Accordingly, it is much easier to read than, say, 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. 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 (the others being Dracula and Frankenstein), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have become synonymous with split personalities. A relatively quick read compared to others on this list, the book we know is speculated to have been the second attempt by Robert Louis Stevenson. The first version was apparently burned by the author after he received notes from 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 in the late 19th century was not yet a cliche. 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. The original tales are a lot darker—brutal and delightfully 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. Of course, you could 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 may be worth the time to download and enjoy it again.

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Peter Pan

We've been to Oz and through the rabbit hole, so we might as well go to Neverland. This is the story of a little boy who never grows up and who has grand adventures flying around with pirates and mermaids. 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 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 dislikable human beings you will have trouble rooting for. 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!) things do eventually get better. The definitive novel written from the point of view of a pooch, The Call of the Wild is a coming-of-age story—of sorts. 

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The Jungle

A classic of social realism, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle starts slow, but eventually turns into a harrowing journey through the evils of unchecked industry. Sinclair was a journalist who researched the conditions suffered by low-wage workers, eventually turning his research into this novel, which was panned at the time for being the product of a socialist. 

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