Recommend a classic novel that's also a page-turner?

Here’s the situation: idle and (not incidentally) penniless as I wait for my new job to start, I thought I’d take advantage of my copious free time to read a few novels. I’m hoping to write a novel myself soon, but I mostly read non-fiction, so I thought it might behoove me to steep myself in somebody else’s vision for a while to pick up some pointers and also to entertain myself.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m broke and the library’s closed till Tuesday, so I’m looking for something that I can read online for free. It seems like most of the big-name classics are available in this format, and anyway, I’m sure they’re good for me. :wink:

But since the thing I’m most concerned about in my own work is plot and pacing, I’m not sure I’ll help myself too much by reading works that are literary to the exclusion of being entertaining. I just started Emma, for example, and it doesn’t exactly sizzle on the plot-and-pacing front.

To be clear, I’m not expecting the classics to read like a Robert Ludlum thriller, but I feel like there should be something out there that moves along a little bit. Moby-Dick would be a good example of what I’m looking for if I hadn’t already read it.

Any ideas, Dopers? I know y’all are well-informed readers.

I recently read Robinson Crusoe and I found it suspenseful and satisfying.

Moll Flanders is even better.

Rudyard Kipling was racist and sexist. He was also a first class storyteller. I think that I’m gonna see if Half Price Books has some of his works.

I’ve just started reading 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I’ve not read it before, and I thought it was about time.

Full text.

What about Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels? He wrote four in addition to the short stories, and I believe all of them are in the public domain.

Try some Mark Twain, like A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Jack London’s Call of the Wild, H.G. Wells - The Invisible Man, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner - a bit difficult but very enjoyable, Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man also by Bradbury, any Roald Dahl, make sure not to bypass his not for children stuff like My Uncle Oswald, Kiss Kiss, and Switch Bitch. lol, think I’ll stop there or I may not stop at all XD

Moby Dick has a lot of pages that are very difficult to get through. Lists and digressions. Since the bar is so low, almost all classic novels are more page turning than Moby Dick. The Sea Wolf, To Kill A Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, A Tale of Two Cities, short of an old fashioned Russian novel, they are all classics for a reason. If you haven’t read Don Quixote, it is a collection of short stories, but absolutely priceless.

Kidnapped and Treasure Island. Won’t keep you occupied for long, but they’re fun!

I have read few of the classics, but War and Peace actually grabbed me. It is far more involving than I expected. It is (almost definitively) long, of course, but try a hundred pages and see what you think.

Have you read much Shakespeare? Since they are plays, they are designed to move along…

War and Peace is a big ol’s soap opera with tons of commentary on class, war strategy and Euro/Russian history…

**The Red and the Black by Stendhal **is freakin’ brilliant - it out Catcher’s the Catcher in the Rye in terms of portraying a kid having to grow up and find his own way - and deciding that if the world is fully of hypocrisy, he will live his life accordingly…

I recently got turned onto a very interesting author, be blogs and believes that he makes more money because he gives his books away online, and simply asks that people buy his books to give as gifts. I got them off of His name is Cory Doctorow, and he writes science fiction. Little Brother is very scary, Homeland Security gone very wrong and turning San Francisco into a police state. Told from the point of view of a 16 year old boy who is a hacker type that falls afoul thanks to unforseen circumstances. He also has some interesting factual articles about the inner workings of the ebook trade. also has a fair amount of Gutenberg Project books, and someone just posted some mid 50s SF magazine short stories, and there are also current authors writing specifically for Feedbook.

Baen has, which has a hundred or so current SF and fantasy books for free - the first taste to get you hooked, as it were =)

The things I prefer about feedbook and webscriptions is unlike project gutenberg they show a bit of what the books are about, not just author/title leaving you to flp through the book to see if you want to read it.

[feedbook is the free book service adliko uses on my droid - a spiffy fortuitous discovery, I like free books =)]

Good call! I never did get to these in my youth (I found the lack of spaceships unforgivable at the time), but I just found Treasure Island here, and I must say that so far it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Well, I guess one man’s meat is another man’s poison. I’d always heard it was a slog, but I found it pretty zippy, and was impressed by how stylistically fluid— postmodern, if you will— it was, considering when it was written.

Then again, I’m kind of a weirdo. I like lists and digressions, and I appreciated taking a break from the travails of human characters to enjoy some dry, cold facts and figures. I think I mentioned that I tend to prefer non-fiction, so I liked having some dropped into the story. (Of course, my preference for facts over characters doesn’t bode well for my own novel. :dubious:)

The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan.
Its old, but a bloody good read and definitely a page turner.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Three Muskateers

I came to post this. There are few better page-turners.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Totally gripping.

Damn, also came to mention Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. Robinson Crusoe is also a good one, as is Don Quixote (genuinely funny, if you get the right translation. The Victorian translations remove all funny elements from the book).

Gulliver’s Travels is also great (don’t know why this is always listed as a kid’s book: it’s essentially a critique of the Enlightenment).

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is still copyrighted, isn’t it? If not, I also recommend that.

There are some comic novels such as Tom Jones and my favorite, Tristram Shandy, that–with a little help from a glossary of terms and some feel for their times–are every bit as fresh as when they were first published.