What’s the only thing better than a cheap book? That’s right, a free book. There are many fantastic books you can download and read through Amazon’s Kindle store and Apple Books that won’t cost you a dime. This is mostly thanks to the wonders of the public domain, which allow classics from Shakespeare to Kafka to be available to all.
Apple’s reading platform has an extensive list of free “books you’ve meant to read”, while Amazon offers a library of classics that are either free or very close to it. (Almost all of these are free if you’re an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscriber.) These range from kids books to plays to more modern classics.
There’s a big, wide world of cheap and costless books to be found on these platforms, but here are 15 classics to get you started.
Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)
Here’s one for parents looking for something to read to their kids, or Disney enthusiasts wanting to read the play that inspired the novel that inspired the 1953 classic. Peter Pan, also published as Peter and Wendy, is the story of Neverland, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and the nefarious Captain Hook. A worthy disclaimer though: It contains portrayal of Native Americans that’s very… 1904.
Download Peter Pan free on Apple Books or for $2.23 on Kindle.
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Like most classics, there’s a chance you may have suffered through Frankenstein during English classes in high school. We’ve all been there. Picking apart any book in school is enough to turn anyone off a book, but Frankenstein has always been an exception to me. Not only is Frankenstein seen as the first science-fiction novel, it’s also a timeless parable, one of the finest examples of gothic literature and a true product of the Romantic movement.
If that kind of thing doesn’t sell you, you can still laugh at Victor Frankenstein whining as he reaps what he sows.
Download Frankenstein free on Amazon Kindle or free on Apple Books.
Dracula (Bram Stoker)
Another one for the Goths! If you’re a fan of our undead friends, it’s worth experiencing one of the books that started it all. The story is terrific for those after a good, suspenseful gothic horror. It’s easy to think that Dracula is another hard-to-read classic, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The writing holds up really well (after over 100 years, that’s quite a feat) and it’s genuinely spooky in parts.
Download Dracula for free on Apple Books or for free on Amazon Kindle.
The Republic (Plato)
Greek philosophers are still harkened back to all these centuries later, which means they’re unlikely to fall out of style any time soon. Plato is arguably the most famous Greek philosopher — next to Socrates and Aristotle — and The Republic is his most famous work. What’s most striking about much (though thankfully maybe not all) of ancient Greek writing is how relatable it is today.
Reading ancient Greek literature can also help you sound more pretentious at parties, which is nice.
Download for free on Amazon Kindle or free on Apple Books.
The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)
There are plenty of long reads on this list, so here’s a short one. The Metamorphosis follows a man’s sudden and inexplicable transformation into a huge insect and, despite it’s spanning less than 100 pages, has been the subject of rigorous psychological scrutiny and interpretation in the 116 years since it was first published.
Download for free on Apple Books or 77 cents on Amazone Kindle.
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare)
If you really want to challenge yourself, Shakespeare is the way to go. The language and format can take a while to get used to, but it’s richly rewarding once you do. There’s a play for everyone: for those who like romance, tragedy, comedy, or even absolutely unhinged fantasy. Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet are among the most famous, so they would be good places to start. Almost everyone is at least a little familiar with the stories — and trust us, familiarity with the plot helps a lot if you’re new to Shakespeare.
Download Romeo and Juliet for free on Apple Books or for 80 cents on Amazon Kindle.
Download Hamlet for free on Amazon Kindle or free on Apple Books.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sherlock Holmes was cool way before Robert Downey Jr. played him on the silver screen. This collection of stories was published over 120 years ago, but mysteries have a timeless quality to them: Intrigue doesn’t die with age. Sherlock Holmes may not be the most important book on this list, but it might be the most fun.
Download The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for free on Apple Books or on Amazon Kindle for $2.01.
Pride and Prejudice, Emma (Jane Austen)
We know what you’re thinking: Wouldn’t Jane Austen just be a more wordy and boring Bridgerton? What are they saying? What is even happening? And yes, Jane Austen books can feel very daunting and almost bland when you look at them through a modern lens. Reading Austen books, however, is like a cheeky window into the past: Jane Austen books parody Regency society and poke fun at how ridiculous some social mores were at the time. If you’re wanting to get started on Austen, we recommend going with Pride and Prejudice or Emma first.
Download Emma for free on Apple Books or for 87 cents on Amazon Kindle.
Download Pride and Prejudice for free on Apple Books or $1 on Amazon Kindle.
The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx)
Let us state straight up that including this isn’t an endorsement of communism. With that out of the way, The Communist Manifesto is among the most influential pieces of writing in the last few centuries. Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it would inspire a movement and philosophy that would ultimately takeover half of Europe within a century of its 1848 publish date. It’s also much easier to read that Marx’s significantly more thorough work Capital, but that’s also available for free if you’re up to reading thousands of pages of 19th century economies.
Download The Communist Manifesto for free on Apple Books or 78 cents on Amazon Kindle.
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 novel with greatest claim to the title is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain is regarded as America’s greatest humorist and he’s one of its most celebrated authors ever. Huckleberry Finn is the book he’s most known for and it’s must-read for anyone wanting to familiarize themselves with American literature.
Download The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for free on Apple Books or $4 on Amazon Kindle.
Alas, Huck Finn isn’t the only Great American Novel you can read for free. Moby Dick gave the world the “white whale” idiom, as well as one of the most famous opening sentences. The book is nearing 170 years old, but it remains a staple of “books you should read” lists everywhere.
Download Moby Dick for free on Apple Books or $1 on Amazon Kindle.
The Federalist Papers (Alexander Hamilton)
You may have first experienced these as extremely boring history class texts, but the worldwide phenomenon that is the Hamilton musical has breathed new life into these. The Federalist Papers are a collection of essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay (but mostly by Hamilton) in which they encourage the ratification of the United States Constitution and also argue for a more centralized state. These will be dry for many, but worthwhile background for diehard fans of Hamilton the musical.
Download The Federalist Papers for free on Apple Books or for 79 cents on Amazon Kindle.
War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
We’ve saved the biggest for last. War and Peace is a monster, so much so that its name has become an adjective used to describe intimidatingly large pieces of work. And make no mistake, War and Peace is a lot to get through. But doing so will be to familiarize yourself with “the lion of Russian literature,” as the book has been called. If you’re up to the challenge, it’s free on Apple Books.
Download War and Peace for free on Apple Books or for 80 cents on Amazon Kindle.