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The best free books for Kindle (and other ebook stores)

It’s often tough to fathom that Amazon’s Kindle, the predominant e-reader of the decade thus far, has been around for more than eight years. It seems like yesterday my mother was unboxing the slick, white device from underneath the Christmas tree, her smug smile and giddy excitement in tow. She had never been one to welcome consumer technology with open arms, but the device’s portability, along with the sheer number of books it could hold, made book-loving aficionados everywhere rejoice. Never before was it so simple to cram thousands of books in your backpack, purse or travel luggage.

More: Looking to read your Kindle books on a non-Amazon device? Here’s how to convert them to PDF

amazon kindle trial bounty bannerThe eBook marketplace is overwhelming, with more than a million books and publications available at your fingertips within a mere 60 seconds, ranging in cost from 99 cents up into the thousands of dollars. However, there’s also a myriad of titles available through Amazon, Google Play, and other sources that are available entirely free of charge. The bulk of the titles include those that have fallen into public domain over the years, but there’s also a healthy dose of self-published and over-the-counter titles you’d likely pick up on your way through the checkout line at your local supermarket. Below are a few of our favorites, from Secret Adversary to Sloppy Seconds.

Note: Google Play does not offer books using Kindle’s proprietary format in the way Amazon and Project Gutenberg do. Instead of AZW and KF8 files, users are going to want to directly download Google Play books as PDF files, thus rendering the books compatible with Kindle. To do so, navigate to your Google Play Book library, click the three squares in the upper-right corner of any title and select “Download PDF” from the resulting drop-down list. Afterward, select your desired save location and drag and drop the resulting file from your computer to your device once finished downloading.

Children’s Books

Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Peter Photo

Inspired by Barrie’s friendship with Llewelyn Davies family, Peter Pan Wendy is essentially the classic tale of Peter Pan, a boy who can fly and whisks a group of young children away to Neverland. All the usual suspects make their debut (Tiger Lily, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook, etc.), but it might not seem as blatantly offensive to Native Americans as the 1953 Disney film.

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Oz Photo

There are very few people who are oblivious to Dorothy’s cyclone-fueled romps in Oz with Wicked Witch of the West, yet revisiting the Kansas native’s harrowing quest for the Emerald City is always somehow reassuring. The Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow all add to Baum’s descriptive and vivid world. Victor Fleming’s music doesn’t quite do the novel the justice it deserves.

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Garden Photo

A touchstone in the realm of children’s literature, Burnett’s classic has been adapted time and time again for both the stage and the big screen. It revolves around heroine Mary Lenno, an orphan who’s shipped off from her colonial India to live on a dingy county estate in Yorkshire. There she learns the healing power of friendship through plant cultivation in her, ahem, secret garden. So heartwarming, yet insightful.

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Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm

Grimm Photo

The brothers Grimm wrote fairy tales that were aptly, rather grim, but many of the beloved tales have undergone edits and numerous alterations to the point where they’ve become suitable for children rather than the grotesque, violence-laden stories they once were. You know the tales — Rapunzel, Cinderella, Hansel, and Gretel — but there are also plenty of great standouts that weren’t made into animated films.

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Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver Photo

Swift’s classic tale is both a satire on human nature and simply one man’s fantastical voyages to uncharted lands. Among the many journeys along the way, Lemuel Gulliver meets a race of horses, an island inhabited by 6-inch people and the Emperor of Japan. It’s teeming with political undercurrents, albeit fictional, and has never gone out of print since making its initial debut in 1726. Talk about enduring.

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Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling

Rikki Photo

It should go without saying, kids love animals. Kipling’s tale, culled as a standalone story from The Jungle Book, follows a valiant mongoose who works to defend his adopted family of British colonials from a menacing pair of cobras upon their arrival in India. Sure, you may need to explain some of the subtle Victorianisms to younger audiences, but the harrowing story exhibits some of the most vibrant and sharp personification of any novel in existence.

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The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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As one of my favorite childhood books, it makes me all warm-and-fuzzy inside knowing Grahame’s classic is readily available free of charge. It’s about four anthropomorphised animals — Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger — and their various escapades in the English countryside. It’s chalk-full of adventure, companionship, and moral reasoning, written by the former secretary of the Bank of England as bedtime stories for his son Alistair.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Photo

English-born Lewis Carroll was known for coining a great deal of things, but his most well-known is undoubtedly Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s a familiar story, filled with witty wordplay and satire, about a young girl who follows a white rabbit down his hole into a world of absurd scenarios and memorable characters. Carroll may have been a pedophile in his personal life, but could weave one hell of a trip in his off time.

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Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Pinocchio has tantalized audiences since the book was first published in 1883. Woodcarver Geppetto, carves the puppet, Pinocchio, and soon after his creation comes to life. Geppetto raises Pinocchio as his son, but Pinocchio is increasingly difficult to control, and routinely shows a penchant for finding mischief. We follow Pinocchio on a series of enchanting adventures, but will he change his beguiling ways?

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The Ghost Files by Apryl Baker

The Ghost Files

Mattie Hathaway is a 16-year-old girl with a terrible secret. Ever since her mother tried to kill her when she was five, she’s been able to see dead people of the spectral variety. When the ghost of her foster sister turns up, Mattie enlists the help of a young policeman to investigate her disappearance, but they better tread carefully because there’s a serial killer at work. This is smart teen fiction with plenty of twists and turns.

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