Walden, and 99 other Free Online Books Every University Student Should Read

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The beauty of the public domain is that after an author’s death, his or her works eventually become freely available to the public. This allows websites like Project Gutenberg to index countless classic texts for people to read online or download.

This is an opportunity no enterprising mind can neglect. To help you find the best of the best, we’ve compiled a list of books that seek to uncover the nature of humanity. Happy reading!

  • Walden; Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau – A remarkable account of a man seeking a more simple life by living in harmony with nature.
  • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin – The book that revolutionized the natural sciences and every literary, philosophical and religious thinker who followed.
  • The Iliad by Homer – The Iliad is one of the two great epics of Homer, and is typically described as one of the greatest war stories of all time.
  • Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson – The perfect volume for readers wishing to explore the works of one of America’s first poets.
  • The Art of War by Sunzi – A book which should be used to gain advantage of opponents in the boardroom and battlefield alike.
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – Its essential contribution to modern political thought lies in Machiavelli’s assertion of the then revolutionary idea that theological and moral imperatives have no place in the political arena.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – A superb evocation of a time and place;Â a complex, detailed character study; a believable and compelling plot; and, more than anything else, a magnificent love story.
  • A Tales of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – This story of the French Revolution brings to life a time of terror and treason, and a starving people rising in frenzy and hate to overthrow a corrupt and decadent regime.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – Perhaps the best-loved nineteenth-century American novel, Mark Twain’s tale of boyhood adventure overflows with comedy, warmth, and slapstick energy.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – One of the greatest tales of revenge of all time.
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – A s Napoleon’s army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture.
  • Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson – The writings featured here show Emerson as a protester against social conformity, a lover of nature, an activist for the rights of women and slaves, and a poet of great sensitivity.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – One of literature’s most disturbing explorations into the dark side of romantic passion. Heathcliff and Cathy believe they’re destined to love each other forever, but when cruelty and snobbery separate them, their untamed emotions literally consume them.
  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s preeminent dramatist.
  • Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Socrates by Plato – The trial and condemnation of Socrates on charges of heresy and corrupting young minds is a defining moment in the history of Classical Athens. In tracing these events through four dialogues, Plato also developed his own philosophy, based on Socrates’ manifesto for a life guided by self-responsibility.
  • Symposium by Plato – Plato explores, through a series of speeches, the nature and origins of love and passion.
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante – A moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the infinite torment of Hell, up the arduous slopes of Purgatory, and on to the glorious realm of Paradise-the sphere of universal harmony and eternal salvation.
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton – Considered to be the greatest epic poem in English literature. Its roots lie in the Genesis account of the world’s creation and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden.
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw – A perceptive comedy of wit and wisdom about the unique relationship between a spunky cockney flower-girl and her irascible speech professor.
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman – “The most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • The Works of Aristotle – Aristotle’s views on the physical sciences profoundly shaped medieval scholarship, and their influence extended well into the Renaissance.
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – The tales, some of which are originals and others not, are contained inside a frame tale and told by a collection of pilgrims on a pilgrimage from London Borough of Sout Canterbury.
  • The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce – Bierce was an iconoclastic literary genius and this compilation of definitions (written for a satirical magazine during the 1880s) is a true American classic. Some may find Bierce sexist, nationalist and racist, but most readers will enjoy his malevolent scepticism and underlying rage against hypocrisy.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne – A group of men set sail to solve the mystery of a sea monster in this amazing underwater adventure.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville – A masterpiece of storytelling and symbolic realism, this thrilling adventure and epic saga pits Ahab, a brooding sea captain, against the great white whale that crippled him.
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – Exploring the workings of consciousness as well as the grim realities of imperialism, Heart of Darkness tells of Marlow, a seaman and wanderer, who journeys into the heart of the African continent to discover how the enigmatic Kurtz has gained power over the local people.
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – This dark psychological fantasy is also a product of its time, drawing on contemporary theories of class, evolution, criminality, and secret lives.
  • Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary – A series of short, radical essays – alphabetically arranged – that form a brilliant and bitter analysis of the social and religious conventions that then dominated eighteenth-century French thought.
  • Candide by Voltaire – In the story of the trials and travails of the youthful Candide, his mentor Dr. Pangloss, and a host of other characters, Voltaire mercilessly satirizes and exposes romance, science, philosophy, religion and government.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo – An epic tale of beauty and sadness, The Hunchback of Notre Dame portrays the sufferings of humanity with compassion and power.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean–a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert–Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.
  • Father Goriot by Honore de Balzac – A masterful study of a father whose sacrifices for his daughters have become a compulsion, this novel marks Balzac’s “real entree” into La Comedie Humaine, his series of almost one hundred novels and short stories meant to depict “the whole pell-mell of civilization.”
  • The Atheist’s Mass by Honore de Balzac – Bianchon, who was with Desplein all through his last illness, dares not affirm to this day that the great surgeon died an atheist.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – Dostoyevsky’s first masterpiece, the novel is a psychological analysis of the poor student Raskolnikov, whose theory that humanitarian ends justify evil means leads him to murder a St. Petersburg pawnbroker.
  • Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky – Violating literary conventions in ways never before attempted, this classic tells of a mid-19th-century Russian official’s breakaway from society and descent “underground”.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – The story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – A wonderfully entertaining tale of flirtation and folly that revolves around two starkly different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.
  • The Tao Te Ching by Laozi – Reportedly written by a sage named Lao Tzu over 2,500 years ago, the Tao Te Ching is one of the most succinct–and yet among the most profound–spiritual texts ever written.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – A scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful
  • The Complete Works of P.B. Shelley – One of the major English Romantic poets and is widely considered to be among the finest lyric poets in the English language.
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – The old story still stands up as one of the best adventure yarns for children who are interested in tales of shipwreck.
  • Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe – Defoe’s excellence it is, to make me forget my specific class, character, and circumstances, and to raise me while I read him, into the universal man.
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – Shipwrecked castaway Lemuel Gulliver’s encounters with the petty, diminutive Lilliputians, the crude giants of Brobdingnag, the abstracted scientists of Laputa, the philosophical Houyhnhnms, and the brutish Yahoos give him new, bitter insights into human behavior.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Huckleberry Finn had a tough life with his drunk father until an adventure with Tom Sawyer changed everything. But when Huck’s dad returns and kidnaps him, he must escape down the Mississippi river with runaway slave, Jim.
  • Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes – In 1651, Hobbes published his work about the relationship between the government and the individual. More than four centuries old, this brilliant yet ruthless book analyzes not only the bases of government but also physical nature and the roles of man.
  • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche – In the book the philosopher attempts to systematically sum up his philosophy through a collection of 296 aphorisms grouped into nine different chapters based on their common theme.
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche – This book addresses the problem of how to live a fulfilling life in a world without meaning, in the aftermath of “the death of God.” His solution lies in the idea of eternal recurrence, which he calls “the highest formula of affirmation that can ever be attained.”
  • The Lifted Veil by George Eliot – A dark fantasy drawing on contemporary scientific interest in the physiology of the brain, mesmerism, phrenology, and experiments in revification, it is Eliot’s anatomy of her own moral philosophy.
  • Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence – The first modern portrayal of a phenomenon that later, thanks to Freud, became easily recognizable as the Oedipus complex.
  • Women in Love by DH Lawrence – Women in Love examines the ill effects of industrialization on the human psyche, resolving that individual and collective rebirth is possible only through human intensity and passion.
  • White Fang by Jack London – The story of a wolf-dog who endures great cruelty before he comes to know human kindness.
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London – This gripping story follows the adventures of the loyal dog Buck, who is stolen from his comfortable family home and forced into the harsh life of an Alaskan sled dog.
  • The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe – Lamenting the loss of a gentle but passionate woman, the narrator drinks, yet somberly dwells on her name.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe – The horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, with its dungeon of death, and the overhanging gloom on the House of Usher demonstrate unforgettably the unique imagination of Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – A true masterwork of storytelling, Dracula has transcended generation, language, and culture to become one of the most popular novels ever written.
  • Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker – Set in central England, the work is brimming with adventure and excitement.
  • Discourse by Descartes – One of the few works of philosophy that absolutely every educated person needs to read at least once.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes has been one of the most beloved fictional characters ever created.
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – The story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Dickens’ haunting late novel depicts Pip’s education and development through adversity as he discovers thetrue nature of his ‘great expectations’.
  • Aesop’s Fables – Full of humor, insight, and wit, the tales in Aesop’s Fables champion the value of hard work and perseverance, compassion for others, and honesty. They are age-old wisdom in a delicious form, for the consumption of adults and children alike.
  • Beowulf by Anonymous – Warriors must back up their mead-hall boasts with instant action, monsters abound, and fights are always to the death.
  • Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – Few men could compare to Benjamin Franklin. Virtually self-taught, he excelled as an athlete, a man of letters, a printer, a scientist, a wit, an inventor, an editor, and a writer, and he was probably the most successful diplomat in American history.
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine – Thomas Paine’s clear and concise writings make him one of the greatest political authors of his time.
  • The Ambassadors by Henry James – The most exquisite refinement of his favorite theme: the collision of American innocence with European experience.
  • Daisy Miller by Henry James – A novel that plays upon the contrast between American and European society that is common to James’s work.
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James – A tale of psychological horror as the governess struggles-and ultimately fails-to protect the children from the “corruption” that only she can conceive of…but cannot name.
  • Hero and Leander by Christopher Marlowe – A Greek myth in which Hero is a priestess of Aphrodite who dwelt in a tower in Sestos.
  • Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen – The story of its title character, Hedda, a self-centered manipulative woman who has grown tired of her marriage. To escape her boredom she begins to meddle in the lives of others with truly tragic results.
  • The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen – The play explores the needs of the artist in relation to those of society and the limits of artistic creativity.
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote, errant knight and sane madman, with the company of his faithful squire and wise fool, Sancho Panza, together roam the world and haunt readers’ imaginations as they have for nearly four hundred years.
  • Dubliners by James Joyce – In “Dubliners,” Joyce’s first attempt to register in language and fictive form the protean complexities of the ‘reality of experience, ‘ he learns the paradoxical lesson that only through the most rigorous economy, only by concentrating on the minutest of particulars, can he have any hope of engaging with the immensity of the world.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce – To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful.
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce – The novel’s rich, symbolic language and brilliant use of stream-of-consciousness foreshadowed Joyce’s later work.
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy – Jude Fawley, a poor stone carver with aspirations toward an academic career, is thwarted at every turn and is finally forced to give up his dreams of a university education.
  • Far From the Madding of the Crowd by Thomas Hardy – A young man falls victim to his own obsession with an amorous farm girl in this classic novel of fate and unrequited love.
  • Twice Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne – Allegorical, supernatural and symbolic themes permeate these strange tales.
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – A timeless tale of passion and revenge, guilt and grace, sin and redemption. It cemented Nathaniel Hawthorne’s reputation as America’s greatest writer of fiction.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man’s portrait, his subject’s frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray’s picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent.
  • Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde – Set in London, the play’s action is put in motion by Lady Windermere’s jealousy over her husband’s interest in Mrs. Erlynne, a beautiful older woman with a mysterious past.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – Oscar Wilde’s madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers’ entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance.
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott – The epitome of the chivalric novel, Ivanhoe sweeps readers into Medieval England and the lives of a memorable cast of characters.
  • The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott – Widely considered to be one of the top 100 greatest books of all time.
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – One of the handful of books throughout all of history, perhaps, that have encapsulated the crying voices of the oppressed.
  • The Machine by Upton Sinclair – Another classic tale by Sinclair.
  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – The classic tale of Hawkeye-Natty Bumppo-the frontier scout who turned his back on “civilization,” and his friendship with a Mohican warrior as they escort two sisters through the dangerous wilderness of Indian country in frontier America.
  • The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper – This first of the Leather-Stocking Tales takes us to Lake Otsego in the beginning of the French and Indian Wars. Natty Bumppo, now called Deerslayer, and the Mohican chief Chingachook fight against the Iroquois and discover hidden identities.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy come of age while their father is off to war.
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – For this novel of French bourgeois life in all its inglorious banality, Flaubert invented a paradoxically original and wholly modern style.
  • Salammbo by Gustave Flaubert – The novel Salammbo (published in 1862) interweaves historical and fictional characters.
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Born into a family of slaves, Frederick Douglass educated himself through sheer determination. His unconquered will to triumph over his circumstances makes his one of America’s best and most unlikely success stories.
  • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – A deceptively simple, intense, and lyrical allegorical tale of a man in ancient India striving for enlightenment at the time of Buddha. Siddhartha is a man whose life journey runs in parallel and who may or may not be another version of Buddha himself.
  • This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald’s first novel uses numerous formal experiments to tell the story of Amory Blaine, as he grows up during the crazy years following the First World War.
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – When a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year a.d. 802,701, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment, and peace.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – The moving abolitionist novel that fueled the fire of the human rights debate in 1852 and melodramatically condemned the institution of slavery through such powerfully realized characters as Tom, Eliza, Topsy, Eva, and Simon Legree.
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding – Tom Jones isn’t a bad guy, but boys just want to have fun. Nearly two and a half centuries after its publication, the adventures of the rambunctious and randy Tom Jones still makes for great reading.
  • The Aeneid by Virgil – What made Virgil special was the artisanship behind his work (which was political, but gracefully and passionately evoked the soul) and the way in which he shaped his borrowed material to his–and Augustus’s and Rome’s–purposes.
  • The Education of Henry Adams – One of the few masterpieces to issue directly from a raging inferiority complex.
  • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith – Smith’s enormous authority resides, in the end, in the same property that we discover in Marx: not in any ideology, but in an effort to see to the bottom of things.
  • The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth – He sought to write in the language of ordinary men and women, of ordinary thoughts, sights and sounds, and his early poetry represents this fresh approach to his art.

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