Unexpected fun things from Project Gutenberg?
August 9, 2013 5:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm setting up an e-reader for my sister. I'll be giving her a gift card to buy books, but am also filling the reader with some selections from Project Gutenberg. Of course, she can use Gutenberg herself if inclined, so I want my choices to be a little fun and quirky. Things I've put on it so far: The Secret Garden and A Little Princess; some books by Ford Madox Ford and Conrad; Edith Wharton's Summer and some of her short stories. My sister is brainy and whimsical and will read anything, so Metafilter is the perfect place to ask: What things have you been tickled to find as epubs on Project Gutenberg? (Or elsewhere in epub form?) Thanks!
posted by BibiRose to Writing & Language (43 answers total) 135 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: All the Sherlock Holmes stories, The Turning of The Screw.
posted by empath at 5:13 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know if this fits in with what you want, but this still cracks me up so much:

The Story of Crisco by Marion Harris Neil

although, actually, some of the recipes sound delicious
posted by Katemonkey at 5:13 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Edward Lear.
posted by Xalf at 5:19 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome.
posted by usonian at 5:20 AM on August 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Flatland on Project Gutenberg
The Complete Works of HP Lovecraft (not on project Gutenberg, but carefully curated)
posted by jquinby at 5:27 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: My SO and I have been reading 'The Life of the Spider', by Jean-Henri Fabre - it's hilarious! We have high hopes for 'The Life of the Fly' by the same author :)
posted by PlantGoddess at 5:36 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Algernon Blackwood stories

Amazing, gripping stuff. I've read most of them myself.
You can try Three John Silence stories for a start. It includes "Ancient Sorceries' which is the story Murakami lifted as 'Cat Town' in 1Q84.

There's Chesterton's Father Brown stories. Here's one. Supremely entertaining as well.
posted by vacapinta at 5:38 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was surprised to see all of Jane Austen on there, particularly two I'd never read before.
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:42 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: P G Wodehouse!
posted by kandinski at 5:55 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was delighted to find not just the usual Anne of Green Gables, but some of the less famous L. M. Montgomery. I was particularly happy to get Kilmeny and the Story Girl off American Project Gutenberg.

And for whatever copyright reason I do not know, Australian Project Gutenberg has some other ones - Blue Castle, Tangled Web, etc. I passed a very happy week or so rereading some of those favorites.
posted by Stacey at 5:55 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Does she know any languages other than English?
posted by humph at 5:55 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and I found more books of hers through Gutenberg - The Bent Twig I read and enjoyed.

They have lots of Wodehouse. I love the Psmith stories.

EM Forster.

Agatha Christie's first two books.

Not my favourite Delafields, but there are two of hers.

Mrs Beeton is, in places, an interesting read.

I love Robert Louis Stevenson's essays and letters. And sermons and whatnot.

If you're in the right mood, Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau are delightful.

And speaking of books I was introduced to by Elizabeth Peters, they've got the H. Rider Haggards.
posted by you must supply a verb at 6:04 AM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: "Wired Love" a kind of proto cyber romance (see also http://boingboing.net/2013/07/25/wired-love-a-novel-from-1880.html )
posted by ironicon at 6:07 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are some plays by George Bernard Shaw (e.g. Pygmalion, Arms and the Man) and tons of Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband) that fall somewhere on the brainy/fun scale.
posted by drlith at 6:10 AM on August 9, 2013

Response by poster: Oh, I am a happy camper today, and my sister will be too!

Does she know any languages other than English?

French! (Thanks for asking that.)
posted by BibiRose at 6:16 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I second "Anne of Green Gables." That series changed me forever. (And not just because I have red hair.)
posted by flyingsquirrel at 6:19 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: If she ever read the What Katy Did books, Project Gutenberg has the lesser known final two - Clover and The High Valley.

(also, all the Anne of Green Gables series as previously mentioned by others. But yes, Windy Poplars must be tracked down at Australian Gutenberg and needs to be converted to ebook format (use Calibre!))
posted by halcyonday at 6:24 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tarzan of the Apes. It holds up surprisingly well.

"...Upon a low-hanging branch sat Tarzan directly above the majestic, supple body as it forged silently through the thick jungle. He hurled a pineapple at the ancient enemy of his people. The great beast stopped and, turning, eyed the taunting figure above her."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:26 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: The Golden Slipper, and Other Problems for Violet Strange (1915) by Anna Katharine Green is the first example of the "girl detective" - Violet is a society girl with a double life as a sleuth. Green herself was one of the first authors of detective fiction in the US - they have many of her other books as well.
posted by clerestory at 6:36 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Wilkie Collins for some 19th century potboiler fun - The Woman in White is probably the way to go, although The Moonstone is also a good option.

I'm also partial to Trent's Last Case, by E.C. Bentley, which is an early Golden Age detective novel that goes off the rails a little (its alternative title is Woman in Black, so there's a symmetry there).
posted by yarrow at 6:46 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Excuse me, but nobody has said Alice in Wonderland yet. I find that a shame.
posted by theichibun at 6:55 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was pretty solidly into Conrad for a while, and these are some other books I read around that time:

"Sailing Alone Around the World" by Joshua Slocum. He was the first recorded person to accomplish that feat.

"The Riddle of the Sands," by Erskine Childers. A nautical spy novel (1903-ish, when the spy genre was very young) set in the German Frisian Islands (north coast of Germany).

Strongly seconding "Three Men in a Boat," a very funny series of stories.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:19 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Living Alone, by Stella Benson. It's a fantasy novel about a somewhat alternate-universe England after WWI, in which a young woman's life is transformed after moving to a boarding house run by a witch. Here is a brief exerpt:

The witch, after a struggle, passed this test, and produced a parchment covered with large childish printing in red ink.

"My employer made up this," said the witch. "And the ferryman wrote it out for us."

This is the prospectus:

The name of this house is Living Alone.

It is meant to provide for the needs of those who dislike hotels, clubs, settlements, hostels, boarding-houses, and lodgings only less than their own homes; who detest landladies, waiters, husbands and wives, charwomen, and all forms of lookers after. This house is a monastery and a convent for monks and nuns dedicated to unknown gods. Men and women who are tired of being laboriously kind to their bodies, who like to be a little uncomfortable and quite uncared for, who love to live from week to week without speaking, except to confide their destinations to 'bus-conductors, who are weary of woolly decorations, aspidistras, and the eternal two generations of roses which riot among blue ribbons on hireling wall-papers, who are ignorant of the science of tipping and thanking, who do not know how to cook yet hate to be cooked for, will here find the thing they have desired, and something else as well.

There are six cells in this house, and no common sitting-room. Guests wishing to address each other must do so on the stairs, or in the shop. Each cell has whitewashed walls, and contains a small deal table, one wooden chair, a hard bed, a tin bath, and a little inconvenient fireplace. No guest may bring into the house more than can be carried out again in one large suit-case. Carpets, rugs, mirrors, and any single garment costing more than three guineas, are prohibited. Any guest proved to have made use of a taxi, or to have travelled anywhere first class, or to have bought cigarettes or sweets costing more than three shillings a hundred or eighteenpence a pound respectively, or to have paid more than three and sixpence (war-tax included) for a seat in any place of entertainment, will be instantly expelled. Dogs, cats, goldfish, and other superhuman companions are encouraged.

Working guests are preferred, but if not at work, guests must spend at least eighteen hours out of the twenty-four entirely alone. No guest may entertain or be entertained except under special license obtainable from the Superintendent.

There is a pump in the back yard. There is no telephone, no electric light, no hot water system, no attendance, and no modern comfort whatever. Tradesmen are forbidden to call. There is no charge for residence in this house.

"It certainly sounds an unusual place," admitted Sarah Brown. "Is the house always full?"

"Never," said the witch. "A lot of people can swallow everything but the last clause.
posted by darchildre at 7:26 AM on August 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Edith Wharton's poetry is not as well known as her prose, but it's beautiful. Artemis to Acteaon and Other Verses is on Project Gutenberg. Highly reccommended.
posted by lemerle at 7:31 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: "French!"

Arsène Lupin gentleman-cambrioleur, definitely!

Maybe Les trois mousquetaires or other Dumas? (But, very long.)

There's also plenty of Jules Verne, e.g. Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours
posted by bfields at 7:41 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can't go wrong with anything by Mark Twain. Be sure to check out Lafcadio Hern too.
posted by ReginaHart at 7:43 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: Gargantua and Pantagruel.

I would say that, obviously.
posted by Grangousier at 7:50 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Zuleika Dobson!!!

Magic! Feminine wiles! Mass hysteria on the Thames!
posted by Mchelly at 7:54 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Percy Bysshe Shelley poetry.
And Frankenstein by his wife.

I second Tarzan.. if you can stomach the anachronistic racism about Africa itself.
posted by DigDoug at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2013

Best answer: Short stories by H.G. Wells.

The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton. Great detective stories. Also The Man Who Was Thursday, a madcap spy novel.

My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse.

Green Tea by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, a creepy horror story.

If she likes weird fairy tales, the Pink Fairy Book.
posted by mumblingmynah at 1:39 PM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: French: L'Ile Des Pingouins by Anatole France. The english translation is OK, but they didn't do much better than Google Translate -- Anatole France used a bunch of puns and jokes, something the translators didn't handle well, so the French version is definitely funnier than the english translation. The chapters that are a satire on the Dreyfus Affair are pretty dry, but can be skimmed over without missing much.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:40 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The last two things I read on Project Gutenberg: Thomas De Quincey's marvellous essay The English Mail Coach (which helped me answer a question on AskMeFi the other day) and Thomas Hardy's delightfully depressing short story On the Western Circuit.
posted by verstegan at 3:56 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I see they have James Branch Cabell's Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. I love that book. Here is Wikipedia's description.

"My wife has been carried off by a devil, poor fellow."
posted by alex_reno at 6:31 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What things have you been tickled to find as epubs on Project Gutenberg?

I discovered the late 19th century mild satirical humor of John Kendrick Bangs via Gutenberg. Try A Houseboat on the Styx, the first of his Associated Shades novels. I am not so much a fan of his Raffles Holmes writing, though it was probably HIGH-larious in the day.

(Or elsewhere in epub form?)

A lot of pulp is terrible, but not all of it. And sometimes terrible pulp is fun anyway. So, you might find some joy among the free pulps of Munsey's. It's an eclectic mix.

And speaking of pulps…oh, that delicious cover art! I concocted a screensaver for my nook made of some of the best/worst pulp covers I could find. You might do the same for your sister, knowing what kind of imagery she fancies (or alternately, reviles). An idle ereader is a brown-paper-wrapper affair... I rather like mine to look as though I've been interrupted in the middle of a ripping golden-age serial, regardless of what I'm actually reading. YMMV.
posted by mumkin at 8:55 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Scarlet Pimpernel! A few of its sequels are there too.

I was pleased to discover Isabella Bird, intrepid Victorian lady traveller, via her Unbeaten Tracks in Japan.

Science fiction of any interest? Browsing through the category, I've found Frederik Pohl's memorable short story The Tunnel Under the World, for instance, and Philip K. Dick's Beyond Lies the Wub; and Harry Harrison's novel Deathworld, and H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy.

The classic phrasebook English as she is spoke! "Woman objects: The paint or disguise; The spindle; The skate... Eatings: Some wigs; Vegetables boiled to a pap... Fishes and shell-fishes: Large lobster; Snail; Wolf; A sorte of fish; Hedge hog..."
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:26 AM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The Virginian.
posted by Lexica at 2:25 PM on August 10, 2013

Best answer: Let me draw attention to a specific Robert L. Stevenson book- Travels With A Donkey. Well worth reading.
posted by wittgenstein at 3:11 PM on August 10, 2013

Best answer: Captain Blood, total swashbuckler.
posted by hooray at 4:25 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Miss Mapp and Queen Lucia. If she likes these, she will also like the dramatization.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:01 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: People, this is going to be a treasure! Several times I've said out loud: "No, THAT's on there?" Awesome! Thank you so, so much.
posted by BibiRose at 5:07 AM on August 11, 2013

Best answer: Good on you for Ford Madox Ford!

Burton's Arabian Tales (or The Book of One Thousand Nights and A Night) is one of mankind's treasures.

It's not much good for reading as such, but 15,000 Useful Words and Phrases is fun to have around.

Anything by Dunsany is excellent; Fifty-One Tales is probably the fastest read.
posted by 23 at 10:50 PM on August 14, 2013

Best answer: Arnold Bennett was a joyful discovery when I trawled the freebies.
posted by BenPens at 6:06 AM on August 15, 2013

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