Even during the best of times it’s nice to sit down with a great fantasy novel and escape our world for a few hours. But during a global pandemic the right story about magical lands, fabulous creatures, and legendary heroes can be downright therapeutic. A good book is the perfect way to mentally get away from the world’s problems. And some of the best ever written can be yours without spending a single gold coin because they’re in the public domain. Here are classic fantasy books you can download for free right now at Project Gutenberg.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Most people know about Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole thanks to the beloved animated Disney film and from other kid-friendly book adaptations. But Lewis Carroll’s surreal 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has never been out of publication because it’s still a must-read for people of all ages. It’s weird, silly, and totally engaging. You can also get all of John Tenniel’s original illustrations. And when you finish you can also read Carroll’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass.
The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit
“ One of the pioneers of fantasy fiction for children,” Edith Nesbit’s stories are a perfect choice for families looking for great fantasy stories they can read together. You can start with her collection of tales The Book of Dragons. There are so many different dragons everyone will have their own personal favorite. And plenty of Nesbit’s other stories are also available, including her classic kid’s books The Railway Children and Five Children and It.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
One of the most famous fantasy novels of all-time, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, can still transport readers to other worlds both big and small. Literally. It’s not just a funny and exciting adventure story; it remains one of the best works of satire ever written. And you’ll definitely enjoy the absurdity of Lilliputians arguing over fashion more than anything going on in our world. Then follow it up with Swift’s other seminal work, A Modest Proposal, which unfortunately is just as relevant today as it was when he first “suggested” eating children.
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
Two of the most important works in the history of Western civilization, The Iliad and The Odyssey, might seem like daunting reads. But they’re far more accessible than you might think. And Homer’s Greek epics are still as beautiful, poignant, entertaining, and exciting as they were 2,800 years ago. It’s also remarkable how influential they still are. Many scenes and plots have been re-imagined/stolen by writers ever since.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
We sure would love to know what Mark Twain thinks about America in the year 2020. But at least we always have his humor and insight to help us get through any time, as in his hilarious novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. It follows an American who is magically thrust back in time to England during the reign of King Arthur. There, he tries to use his knowledge of the future to make things better. It doesn’t exactly go as he hoped. When you finish up with that hilarious story you can also download other Mark Twain’s classics. That includes Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Prince and the Pauper.
Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs
You can get away from Earth’s problems by spending a whole lot of time on Mars. The first five books in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series are available. His epic tales of John Carter’s adventures on the Red Planet are among the most influential works ever written for both fantasy and sci-fi. You can download A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, The Warlord of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, and The Chessmen of Mars. The other six books aren’t in the public domain yet.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Not only is L. Frank Baum’s literary classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz available to download for free, you can get it with the original illustrations from W.W. Denslow. Dorothy’s magical adventure has been a staple on children’s bookshelves since it was first published in 1900 for a reason. You don’t have to worry about leaving Oz when you finish, because Baum’s many sequels are also available.
While “there’s no place like home,” sometimes we still want to get away from it. And a great fantasy novel is always a great way to do that. That’s especially true when we physically can’t get away from home.