Seeking recommendations for best public domain literature?

So I decided to occupy my time by reading a book, but I’m too frugal to go out and buy one. My local library is so ridiculously small and underfunded that it’s not worth looking in there.

So what to do? Well, I decided to give thegutenberg project a try. They have a fine selection of classic literature whose copyrights have expired.

The sheer variety of choices and my relative lack of knowledge of pre-1923 literature has prevented me from making a good decision about this.

The questions before you all are: What’s the best book I can read for free, that isn’t excessively boring or long winded?

Well you can hardly go wrong with The Square Root of 7 [to 1 million digits] or The 1990 CIA World Factbook. Tom Swift Among The Fire Fighters has its charms, too, no doubt, and the four parts of Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise should keep you out of msichief for a good while.

But you’re asking about the best book you can read for free. While this is a meaningless matter of personal taste, I insist that you must read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Hemingway said that all American literature stems from this book. It is that good, and that important.

But with huge stretches of sheer drivel, you must admit.

There’s the awful, tacked-on Tom Sawyer ending, to be sure. But what “huge stretches of pure drivel” are you talking about?

You know, these books have been trivialized by bad movies and insipid adaptations for children, but there is a reason why Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Count of Monte Cristo, King Solomon’s Mines, The Prisoner of Zenda, and The Three Musketeers were popular then, popular now, and keep getting made into bad movies–they are ripping yarns, pure and simple. Headlong dashes into thrills and chills. Especially The Three Musketeers. Blood, intrigue, and a suggestion of bodice ripping; everything a growing boy needs.

But stay away from Mill on the Floss, Madame Bovary, or anything by Thomas Hardy except his poetry.