Our Top 10 Free Books for Armchair Adventure

Download our top 10 free online books for Armchair Adventure. Starting with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, where he spent two years living in a self-made cabin on Walden Pond.

Ss the virtual vs real book debate continues, we thought we’d give you a further reason to support electronic media and present you with a list of some of our favourite books in the public domain for self-reflection and growth.

Below we have compiled a list of our favourite classic literature with links to downloads in ebook format (Mobi & Epub). You can also read online if you choose the HTML option. We hope you enjoy our selection.

– #1 –

Walden by Henry David ThoreauWalden
By Henry David Thoreau – 224 Pages
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Thoreau spent two years living in a self-made cabin on Walden Pond and during that time, he took down his thoughts on the value of solitude and self-reliance. This is a wonderfully thought-provoking book on what it means to be an independent and self-reliant person, mixed in with some great tales of independence and nature. Walden is, above all, the account of Thoreau’s own exploration of his capabilities and his search for spiritual understanding.

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake . . . by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.”

  – #2 –

the-picture-of-dorian-gray-oscar-wildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray
By Oscar Wilde – 176 Pages
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Oscar Wilde’s only novel, this horror story is the portrayal of the human condition exposed to an extreme phenomenon. There is much to learn here on the darker side of our nature, as Wilde questions morals and meaning when the usual rules don’t appear to apply. Humorous as it is Intelligent; it’s difficult not to feel a connection within this cruel tale.

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. After he kills a young woman, “as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife,” Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. “The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden.”

“Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams. You may fancy yourself safe and think yourself strong. But a chance tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once loved and that brings subtle memories with it, a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play… I tell you, that it is on things like these that our lives depend. ”

– #3 –

By Hermann Hesse – 160 Pages
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Hermann Hesse tells the tale of Siddhartha, a young Brahmin, living in India at the time of the Buddha, and his spiritual journey in search of enlightenment. He starts off by becoming an ascetic in giving up his worldly possessions and heads off to understand how life works until he has an awakening, when, like Buddha, he sits under a mango tree and fasts,  and reflects on what he has become, what he has lost.  His worldly self dies, and he sets out on the road again, wandering in the forest, until he comes back to the river, the same one he had crossed as a young man when he first set out on his journey. He remembers the sacred syllable, OM, and falls asleep. When he awakes he sees the world “as a new man”.

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

 – #4 –

robinson-crusoe-novel-by-william-defoeRobinson Crusoe
By Daniel Defoe – 158 pages
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First published on 25 April 1719 under the full title of The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates, Defoe gave Robinson Crusoe the credit for the book, leaving many to believe this was a travelogue of true incidents, and is often credited as marking the beginning of realistic fiction as a literary genre.

As with much literature of this time, Defoe presents a stark parable to highlight the human condition and pose questions on society. Robinson Crusoe, a man who lives for twenty eight years marooned on a tropical island, surviving cannibals and attacks by mutineers, while also building some semblance of a life for himself. Defoe shares a powerful novel of self-reliance and adventure.

“I could not forbear getting up to the top of a little mountain, and looking out to sea, in hopes of seeing a ship : then fancy that, at a vast distance, I spied a sail, please myself with the hopes of it, and, after looking steadily, till I was almost blind, lose it quite, and sit down and weep like a child, and thus increase my misery by my folly.”

 – #5 –

twenty-thousand-leagues-under-the-sea-jules-verneTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
By Jules Verne
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Often referenced for some reason as a children’s book, this wonderful armchair voyage follows Professor Pierre Aronnax, a French marine biologist and narrator of the story alongside Captain Nemo, whose technological mastery outstrips that of nations. Settle down to journey back in time, for a beautifully written lesson in natural history. This is Verne’s masterpiece.

During the year 1866, ships of several nations spot a mysterious sea monster, which some suggest to be a giant narwhal. The United States government assembles an expedition in New York City to find and destroy the monster. Professor Pierre Aronnax, who happens to be in New York at the time, receives a last-minute invitation to join the expedition which he accepts. Canadian whaler and master harpoonist Ned Land and Aronnax’s faithful servant Conseil are also brought aboard.

“The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the Living Infinite. ”

 – #6 –

By Ralph Waldo Emerson – 58 Pages
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In September 1836 Emerson published his long essay Nature. The book outlined his ideas about the manifestation of the universal spirit in nature. Emerson argued that man needed no church to connect to the divine – he had only to go out into nature, God’s true canvas, to hear the truthful voice within. “In the woods, we return to reason and faith,” Emerson wrote. “There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

Emerson describes true solitude as going out into nature and leaving behind all preoccupying activities as well as society. When a man gazes at the stars, he becomes aware of his own separateness from the material world. The stars were made to allow him to perceive the “perpetual presence of the sublime.” Visible every night, they demonstrate that God is ever-present. They never lose their power to move us. We retain our original sense of wonder even when viewing familiar aspects of nature anew. Emerson discusses the poetical approach to nature — the perception of the encompassing whole made up of many individual components. Our delight in the landscape, which is made up of many particular forms, provides an example of this integrated vision.

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”

Both during his lifetime and since his death, Emerson’s reputation and influence have been enormous. Unlike his contemporary and friend Thoreau, Emerson was acknowledged during his own time as a major thinker and author and as the central proponent of Transcendental philosophy. Because Emerson’s efforts straddled a number of disciplines among them literature, philosophy, theology, psychology, education, and social commentary critics and scholars have been anything but unified in assessing the nature of his most important contributions to American thought and letters.

– #7 –

the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-robert-louis-stevenson-4The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
By Robert Louis Stevenson
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As a writer, Stevenson wanted to explore the various facets of human nature. Was civilisation just a very thin veneer? Did you dare to scratch its surface and reveal the truth beneath? We are all capable of committing evil acts – look at the atrocities meted out in wartime.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s story is about a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is a “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty with something of a slyish cast”, who occasionally feels he is battling between the good and evil within himself, thus leading to the struggle between his dual personalities of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde. He has spent a great part of his life trying to repress evil urges that were not fitting for a man of his stature. He creates a serum, or potion, in an attempt to mask this hidden evil within his personality. However, in doing so, Jekyll transforms into the smaller, younger, cruel, remorseless, evil Hyde. Jekyll has many friends and has an amiable personality, but as Hyde, he becomes mysterious and violent. As time goes by, Hyde grows in power. After taking the potion repetitively, he no longer relies upon it to unleash his inner demon i.e., his alter ego. Eventually, Hyde grows so strong that Jekyll becomes reliant on the potion to remain conscious.

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. ”

 – #8 –

jack-london-call-of-the-wild-3The Call of the Wild
By Jack London
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The Call of the Wild is a short adventure novel by Jack London published in 1903 and set in Yukon, Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The central character is a dog named Buck. The story opens at a ranch in the Santa Clara Valley of California when Buck is stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. He progressively reverts to a wild state in the harsh climate, where he is forced to fight to dominate other dogs. By the end, he sheds the veneer of civilization and relies on primordial instinct and learned experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.

London’s story is a tale of survival and a return to primitivism as Buck learns to grow progressively less civilized and evolves back to the point that he is ready to join a wolf pack. London also explores the question of “nature vs. nurture” where Buck, raised as a pet, is by heredity a wolf. The change of environment releases his innate characteristics and strengths to the point where he fights for survival and becomes leader of the pack.

“Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.”

– #9 –

By Rudyard Kipling
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I chose Kim as I believe this to be Kipling’s most spiritual novel and it was regarded by T.S. Eliot and W. Somerset Maugham as his masterpiece. Published in 1901, Kim follows the adventures of a young boy who grows up on the streets of Lahore. His Irish mother died when he was born, and his father, a former color-sergeant of an Irish regiment called the Mavericks, died eventually of drugs and drink. He left his son in the care of a half-caste woman. Young Kimball O’Hara thereupon became Kim, and under the hot Indian sun, his skin grew so dark that one could not tell he was a white boy.

One day, a Tibetan lama, in search of the holy River of the Arrow that will wash away all sin, comes to Lahore. Struck by the possibility of exciting adventure, Kim attaches himself to the lama as his chela (disciple). That night, at the edge of Lahore, Mahbub Ali, a horse trader, gives Kim a cryptic message to deliver to a British officer in Umballa. Kim does not know that Mahbub Ali is a member of the British secret service. He delivers the message as directed and then hides in the grass and watches and listens until he learns that his message means that eight thousand men will go to war.

The novel forms a character study of Kim and the various representatives of the British Empire – colonels, vicars, spies – who endeavour to secure his loyalty to, and his services for, the Empire: Kim manages both to charm and to evade them all. Though universally adored as a ‘Little Friend of All the World’, Kim professes loyalty to no one. This charismatic capacity to enchant despite his refusal to pledge loyalty to the Empire makes Kim a deeply problematic subject of that Empire. Kim is charismatic because he is both exceptionally captivating and highly disruptive, which gives colorful twists and turns along Kim’s path. A beautifully written novel.

“This is a brief life, but in its brevity it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.”

 – #10 –

The Autobigoraphy of Benjamin Franklin
By Benjamin Franklin
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This is a wonderful telling of a truly amazing life. Written by Benjamin Franklin from 1771 to 1790, his memoirs, originally intended to be a guide for his son, are a lively, spellbinding account of his unique and eventful life. Virtually self-taught, Franklin 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. David Hume hailed him as the first great philosopher and great man of letters in the New World.

“If you wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix’d in your present opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error.”

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