Free literary fiction Kindle books for 18 Dec 17

A Study In Scarlet

by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet is a detective novel by British author Arthur Conan Doyle. Written in 1886, the story marks the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who would become two of the most famous characters in popular fiction. The book’s title derives from a speech given by Holmes, an amateur detective, to his friend and chronicler Watson on the nature of his work, in which he describes the story’s murder investigation as his “study in scarlet”: “There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

The story, and its main characters, attracted little public interest when it first appeared. Only 11 complete copies of the magazine in which the story first appeared, Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887, are known to exist now and they have considerable value. Although Conan Doyle wrote 56 short stories featuring Holmes, A Study in Scarlet is one of only four full-length novels in the original canon. The novel was followed by The Sign of the Four, published in 1890. A Study in Scarlet was the first work of detective fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Part I leads with a heading which establishes the role of Dr. Watson as narrator and sets up the narrative stand-point that the work to follow is not fiction, but fact: “Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, MD, Late of the Army Medical Department.”

The story begins in 1881, when Dr. Watson, having returned to London after serving in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, runs into an old friend named Stamford at the Criterion Restaurant, who had been a dresser under him at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital . Watson confides in Stamford that, due to a shoulder injury that he sustained at the Battle of Maiwand, he has been forced to leave the armed services and is now looking for a place to live. Stamford mentions that an acquaintance of his, Sherlock Holmes, is looking for someone to split the rent at a flat at 221B Baker Street, but he cautions Watson about Holmes’s eccentricities.



A Child’s History of England

by Charles Dickens

A Child’s History of England is a book by Charles Dickens. It first appeared in serial form in Household Words, running from January 25, 1851 to December 10, 1853. Dickens also published the work in book form in three volumes: the first volume on December 20, 1851; the second, December 25, 1852; and the third, December 24, 1853. Although the volumes were published in December, each was postdated the following year. They bore the titles:

Volume I. – England from the Ancient Times, to the Death of King John (1852)
Volume II. – England from the Reign of Henry the Third, to the Reign of Richard the Third (1853)
Volume III. – England from the Reign of Henry the Seventh to the Revolution of 1688 (1854)

Dickens dedicated the book to “My own dear children, whom I hope it may help, bye and bye, to read with interest larger and better books on the same subject”. The history covered the period between 50 BC and 1689, ending with a chapter summarising events from then until the accession of Queen Victoria. 

A Child’s History was included in the curricula of British School children well into the 20th century, with successive editions published from 1851 to World War II.



The Collected Works

by Ambrose Bierce

Of the many causes that conspired to bring about the lamentable failure of “self-government” in ancient America the most general and comprehensive was, of course, the impracticable nature of the system itself. In the light of modern culture, and instructed by history, we readily discern the folly of those crude ideas upon which the ancient Americans based what they knew as “republican institutions,” and maintained, as long as maintenance was possible, with something of a religious fervor, even when the results were visibly disastrous…



A Voyage to Arcturus

by David Lindsay

A Voyage to Arcturus is a novel by Scottish writer David Lindsay. It combines fantasy, philosophy, and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil and their relationship with existence. Critic and philosopher Colin Wilson described it as the “greatest novel of the twentieth century”, and it was a central influence on C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. J. R. R. Tolkien said he read the book “with avidity”. Clive Barker has stated ” A Voyage to Arcturus is a masterpiece” and called it “an extraordinary work . . . quite magnificent.”

An interstellar voyage is the framework for a narrative of a journey through fantastic landscapes. The story is set at Tormance, an imaginary planet orbiting Arcturus, which, in the novel (but not in reality) is a double star system, consisting of stars Branchspell and Alppain. The lands through which the characters travel represent philosophical systems or states of mind, through which the main character, Maskull, passes on his search for the meaning of life.

Maskull, a man longing for adventures, accepts an invitation from Krag, an acquaintance of his friend Nightspore, to travel to Tormance after a seance. The three set off in a crystal ship from an abandoned observatory in Scotland but Maskull awakens to find himself alone on Tormance. In every land he passes through he usually meets only one or two persons; these meetings often (though not always) end in the death of those he meets, either at his own hand or by that of another. He learns of his own impending death, meets Krag again, and dies shortly after learning that he is in fact Nightspore himself. The book concludes with a final revelation from Krag (who claims to be known on Earth as “Pain”) to Nightspore about the origin of the Universe. The author turns out to support a variation of the doctrine of the Demiurge, somewhat similar to that propounded by some Gnostics.

All of the characters and lands are types used to convey the author’s critique of several philosophical systems. On Tormance, most such viewpoints or ways of life are accompanied by corresponding new bodily sense organs or modifications of the same, thus each distinct Weltanschauung landscape has its corresponding sensorium.



Belle’s Christmas Carol

by Stephen Lomer

We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserable old miser who rediscovers the joy of Christmas thanks to the intervention of Jacob Marley’s ghost and three spirits.

But what if there was nothing supernatural going on that fateful Christmas Eve? What if everything that happened to Scrooge that night was carefully planned and choreographed to force him to change his ways?

And what if the mastermind behind it was Scrooge’s long-lost love?

Discover a whole new take on Dickens’ classic tale in Belle’s Christmas Carol!



Candide

by Voltaire

Candide is a French satire by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. 

The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: or, Optimism (1947). It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply “optimism”) by his mentor, Professor Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide’s slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating a deeply practical precept, “we must cultivate our garden”, in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best” in the “best of all possible worlds”.

Candide is characterised by its sarcastic tone as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot. A picaresque novel with a story similar to that of a more serious Bildungsroman, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years’ War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. As philosophers of Voltaire’s day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers through allegory; most conspicuously, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism.

As expected by Voltaire, Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. However, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, the novel has since inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it. Today, Candide is recognized as Voltaire’s magnum opus and is often listed as part of the Western canon; it is among the most frequently taught works of French literature. The British poet and literary critic Martin Seymour-Smith listed Candide as one of the 100 most influential books ever written.



Black Beauty

by Anna Sewell

Black Beauty is a novel by English author Anna Sewell. It was composed in the last years of her life, during which she remained in her house as an invalid. The novel became an immediate best-seller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, but having lived long enough to see her only novel become a success. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time.

While forthrightly teaching animal welfare, it also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy, and respect. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 58 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.

The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse named Black Beauty–beginning with his carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother, to his difficult life pulling cabs in London, to his happy retirement in the country. Along the way, he meets with many hardships and recounts many tales of cruelty and kindness. Each short chapter recounts an incident in Black Beauty’s life containing a lesson or moral typically related to the kindness, sympathy, and understanding treatment of horses, with Sewell’s detailed observations and extensive descriptions of horse behaviour lending the novel a good deal of verisimilitude.

The book describes conditions among London horse-drawn taxicab drivers, including the financial hardship caused to them by high licence fees and low, legally fixed fares. A page footnote in some editions says that soon after the book was published, the difference between 6-day taxicab licences (not allowed to trade on Sundays) and 7-day taxicab licences (allowed to trade on Sundays) was abolished and the taxicab licence fee was much reduced.



Got a new Kindle or know someone who has? Check out the ultimate guide to finding free books for your Kindle. Also available in the UK.