We’re always up for a good adventure. Unfortunately, our most daring escapades these days involve trying to squeeze one more item in the freezer. But even though COVID-19 has us all locked inside, we can still experience danger and thrills in exciting places. All we need is the right book. And there are plenty of great ones to choose from, all for the low, low price of zero dollars. Here are classic action-adventure books you can download for free right now at Project Gutenberg.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
There’s a reason Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island has been adapted hundreds of times across all types of media. His swashbuckling tale of pirates and buried treasure remains one of the most exciting stories ever told. But it’s not just the great action and plot that makes it an enduring classic. The book, which also doubles as a coming-of-age story, features a rich cast of fantastic characters.
The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf by Jack London
You can spend days in quarantine with some of Jack London’s greatest adventure novels. First, you can travel to the frozen lands of the Adirondack with The Call of the Wild, which just recently got yet another big screen adaptation. Then you can run around the Yukon with a wild wolf-dog in White Fang. Finally, you can set out on the water with his psychological thriller The Sea Wolf. And those are just his three most famous novels; you can also download more of the famed author’s works.
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
When he wasn’t busy creating one of the most famous fictional sleuths in history, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was crafting a story that helped launch the sci-fi adventure sub-genre: his 1912 novel The Lost World. His story about an expedition to the Amazon basin where prehistoric creatures still roam has been adapted countless times. And it has inspired even more stories.
The Box-Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
If you’re looking for something exciting to read with your kids you’ll be thrilled to know that the first book in Gertrude Chandler Warner’s timeless The Box-Car Children series is available. The tale of orphans Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny has been entertaining children for almost a hundred years. That’s part of what makes it such a great choice for families to read together right now. It connects generations of readers who grew up with the Alden kids’ adventures.
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Jules Verne is one of the founders of science fiction, and his sci-fi tales are still as thrilling as when they were first published. But the legendary French writer is also responsible for one of the greatest pure action-adventure stories ever: his 1872 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Even if it’s easy to traverse the globe quickly now, the wonder and awe of such a proposition is timeless. Imagine someone setting out to get to Mars and back in 80 days.
The Scarlet Pimpernel Series by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
The Hungarian-born British author Baroness Emmuska Orczy is one of the founders of the superhero genre. Her historical-fiction novel The Scarlet Pimpernel invented the idea of a great hero with a secret identity. It follows the seemingly rich fool Sir Percy Blakeney who, unbeknownst to most, is a skilled swordsman by night who saves people from the guillotine during the French Revolution. The book led to a long and wildly popular series with over a dozen novels and short story collections, many of which are in the public domain.
The Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The great French writer Alexandre Dumas is responsible for two of the most iconic action-adventure stories, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. The two books, both originally published in serial form in 1844, have been adapted again and again in different media. Whether you want a tale of revenge or a story friendship, both novels also offer insights into real historical time periods and famous places. The thrilling adventures in far away places are perfect escapes, something we really need right now. When you’re done with them you can also read his other most famous story, The Man in the Iron Mask.
To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston
American author Mary Johnston’s 1899 adventure tale To Have and to Hold wasn’t just popular; it was the best selling novel of 1900. It’s easy to see why, since it’s so much more than just a thrilling tale. Part love story, part historical fiction, it takes place in Jamestown during the early years of America, as the colony fought for survival and support. Its main character fights for honor, as well as for his new wife, who has her own secrets that must be protected from very powerful figures. It’s a great choice right now, as To Have and to Hold has been called “a wonderful family read-aloud” that captures “the imaginations of young and old, men and women alike.”
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
We’re not too worried that reading all of these action-adventure novels will make you lose your minds and suddenly think you are a great hero who needs to go on a quest of your own. But we do hope you’ll read Miguel de Cervantes’ seminal 17th century epic Don Quixote to see how wonderfully hysterical it can be when that does happen. It’s one of the greatest books ever written. It’s also an ideal choice when you have so much extra time to read. You can get into the lengthy story and not worry about putting it down.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Okay, hear us out: if not now, when? Is Moby Dick truly the great American novel? No. But it’s an important novel. And if you are ever going to get through Herman Melville’s tome it’s going to be during a global pandemic when you’re stuck inside.
Now is the time to actually read it. Because you have so much time.