Moonfleet – Classic (1898) novel by John Faulkner describing a young John Trenchard’s adventures as he joins the smuggling trade, seeks a pirate’s treasure, and grows into a man. A fantastic story, well told and absolutely worth reading. Part of my Project Gutenberg Project. (Other reviews @amazon.com.)
A friend recommended a Project Gutenberg book last night*, but instead of linking to the Project Gutenberg site, he pointed me to ManyBooks.net. The site, which is apparently the work of one person, is a bit of an Amazon-like site for free ebooks, most (all?) of which appear to be originally sourced from Project Gutenberg. I can’t attest to the quality of formatting and whatnot for the ManyBooks.net books, but the site is interesting in that it has more information about the texts, and it also allows readers to post ratings and reviews (which is the really useful bit).
For example, the Project Gutenberg page for The House on the Borderland is a pretty dry and library-catalogue-like affair, and it doesn’t really contain all the information you want about a book, such as the original publication date and length.
On the other hand, the ManyBooks.net page for The House on the Borderland includes a brief synopsis of the story, the original date of publication (1907), its length (50,975 words, 140 pages**) and a handful of user reviews and ratings (average rating: 5 stars).
So if you’re looking for a Project Gutenberg book to read but are having a hard time digging around the Project Gutenberg site, check out ManyBooks.net. The site isn’t perfect by any means, but I find more approachable, more useful, and easier to browse than the Project Gutenberg site itself.
* The friend: David Humphrey, whose blog is very much worth reading. The book: Full Revelations of a Professional Rat-catcher, originally published in 1898 and now on my very 21st century Kindle.
** “Pages” don’t really exist in ebooks, so I’m assuming this is an estimation of the number of pages the book would be if printed.
The first book I’ve read for the Project Gutenberg Project is William Hope Hodgeson’s The House on the Borderland. This is a very strange, oddly compelling, and frankly bizarre novel in which two fellows travel to a remote village in Ireland for a fishing holiday. After a few days they run across a creepy old ruin perched precariously over an immense pit where a river is roaring far below. Whilst poking about the ruins they come across an aged manuscript that is largely still legible, and the rest of the tale is told within that dilapidated old book.
I chose this book because its title reminded me of “Keep on the Borderlands“, one of the first Dungeons and Dragons modules I (and most everyone my age) ever played. The novel, of course, has nothing at all to do with the game, but it doesn’t matter — once I started reading I could hardly put it down. Even when I thought I was done with it (there are a few draggy bits in the middle) I kept reading, drawn to continue turning the pages to find out what ever happens at the end of this absolutely bizarre story.
I liked this book at lot, and I think anyone who likes horror, scifi, or anything in between will enjoy it as well. It is strongly reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft, so if you’re a fan of that master of nightmares, you might give this one a go as well.
Like reading? Want to support a good cause? Welcome to the Project Gutenberg Project*!
If you’ve never heard of it, Project Gutenberg (Wikipedia page) is an almost entirely volunteer-driven effort to digitize, archive, and distribute “cultural works” (mostly books). It was established in 1971 and now includes over 30,000 free ebooks that you can read on a wide variety of devices including computers, cellphones, various mobile devices, and ebook readers.
Project Gutenberg contains some amazing, unparalleled works of literature and it is an incredibly valuable resource that just doesn’t seem to get the credit (and support) it deserves. This challenge has two purposes:
1) To inspire people to read some of these wonderful old classics, and
2) To support Project Gutenberg.
Here’s the challenge
1) Set a goal: Pick a number of Project Gutenberg books you think you could read over the next year. This can be anything from a conservative 2 or 3, a more ambitious one per month, or a hardcore no-holds-barred one per week. The number is entirely up to you. Post a quick comment here if you would like to make your goal public!
2) Make a donation: Donate a few dollars to Project Gutenberg. I’m going to donate $2 for each book in my goal, but that’s just a suggestion. Just try to send ‘em a couple of bucks if you can.
3) Find some books and start reading. Each time you finish a book, blog a quick review of it, fire off a tweet about it, or post to Facebook about it. Encourage other folks to play along, donate a few dollars, and read some of these amazing pieces of literature. Project Gutenberg is a great and under-appreciated project that is doing some fantastic work, so let’s show ‘em some love.
Not sure where to start?
Here’s a quick baker’s dozen of some of the fantastic books available through Project Gutenberg:
- Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
- Walden, Henry David Thoreau
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin
- Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
- Dracula, Bram Stoker
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Jacob and Whilhelm Grimm
- Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
- Harvard Classics bookshelf (for a real challenge)
Here are some stickers you can put on your weblog if you decide to participate. Link the sticker to this blog post, and we’ll see how many people we can get reading some old classics and supporting Project Gutenberg.
* Disclaimers: I’m doing this just for fun. I am in no way associated with Project Gutenberg, and they have no idea I’m doing this. Having read their legalese I think I’m ok calling this the “Project Gutenberg Project”, but I didn’t ask for their permission (so the name may change!) If you decide to donate, please go to the Project Gutenberg site, and follow their directions.
Very cool original stamp graphic is from Wikipedia and is in the public domain.