I have been meaning to write about this for a while: since I got my smartphone and ereader I have been voraciously downloading and reading books. Because I am cheap, I have been downloading free, out of copyright books – and I’ve discovered some real gems (which I am quite ashamed to say I had never heard of before – this is for the benefit of people like me who like a good read but had a comprehensive education 😉
Here are a few I really enjoyed (they can all be found on project gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/)
Greenmantle, John Buchan
published 1916, a rip roaring British adventure romp – the hero is behind enemy lines, seeking out the mysterious “Green Mentle”, I am halfway through the book and he has already defeated a teutonic god named “Stumm” using only his fists and his plucky English wit, and he has just called a Turkish man “an infernal little haberdasher”.
Rebecca of SunnyDale farm -Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, 1903
ike Anne of Green Gables, but I like Rebecca better. Especially her poems. There is something a bit unsettling going on with Mr Ladd but I guess people didn’t view things so suspiciously 110 years ago.
Three men in a boat – Jerome K Jerome 1889
I am surprised I hadn’t read it earlier, it is just a joy. Three men and Montmorency the dog squabble their way up the Thames, in a leaky fishing boat. One of the first and best travel guides.
The people of the abyss – Jack London 1903
Jack didn’t just write brutal adventure novels involving dogs who like to bite each other, he was also a social commentator – he went slumming around London to try to understand why people were so poor and stunted and miserable and depraved, and then he wrote about it. Very illuminating especially given the current restraints on welfare. I would say it was critical reading actually.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert tressel 1913
You might have read this already, or been bored in the pub by someone who has. It’s a fictionalised study of working life in England in the 1900s and the protagonist seems to be the only person who understands the simple marxist theory that the people who own the means of production, unconstrained by the government, can get everyone else to work for them in awful conditions for barely enough to live on. It does hammer this home a bit but it’s eye opening (zero hour contracts?) and there are a few really beautiful pieces in it. It’s obviously a work of love and it’s been tremendously influential and I should really have read it before.