20 Free English E-books (PDF) That’ll Give You a Taste of Classic English Literature
Reading lets you explore a whole new world.
In classic English literature, the language is so powerful that you’ll remember words, phrases and grammar long after you’ve finished the book.
Plus, you’ll learn stories which are very important to culture in the English-speaking world.
In this list, you’ll discover 20 classic English books that are perfect for intermediate learners, now available in e-book format.
- 20 Classic Books Now Available as Free English E-books
- 1. The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
- 2. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
- 3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- 4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- 5. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
- 6. Heidi by Johana Spyri
- 7. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
- 8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- 9. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
- 10. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
- 11. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- 12. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
- 13. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- 14. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
- 15. Emma by Jane Austen
- 16. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- 17. The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
- 18. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- 19. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
- 20. Dracula by Bram Stoker
- What’s a Classic Book?
- Why Classic Books Are Perfect for English Learners
20 Classic Books Now Available as Free English E-books
1. The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Doctor Dolittle loves animals. He loves them so much that when his many pets scare away his human patients, he learns how to talk to animals and becomes a veterinarian instead.
He then travels the world to help animals with his unique ability to speak their language.
2. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
Does the name Winnie the Pooh sound familiar? Author A.A. Milne is best remembered for creating the fluffy, yellow teddy bear.
But before he became a famous children’s book author Milne wrote a few adult fiction books. “The Red House Mystery” is one of these.
In this mystery novel, the guests in a man’s home become detectives as they try to find a killer—who is one of them!
3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
“The Secret Garden” is a touching story about the power of friendship.
Mary Lennox is a spoiled and rude little girl sent by her parents to live at her uncle’s huge home. One day while exploring outside the home, she discovers a secret: a locked garden.
The secret garden helps her make a friend, and thanks to the love of their friendship she learns to be a better person.
4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Everything you know about pirates probably came from this one book: wooden legs, parrots on the shoulder and treasure maps.
“Treasure Island” is the story of a boy who sails on a ship searching for treasure, but instead finds himself surrounded by terrible pirates. It’s also a story about growing up, full of action and adventure.
5. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
“Black Beauty” is one the best-selling books of all time, and for a good reason—this story about a horse teaches kindness towards animals and people.
The story is told by the horse. It describes his life and the many cruel people and difficult times he had to live through before finding peace.
It’s a great read even if you’re not a fan of horses.
6. Heidi by Johana Spyri
“Heidi” is a book often described as being “for children and for people who love children.”
It does a great job of showing the world through a little girl’s eyes as she explores the mountains in Switzerland. She makes many friends along the way, but also deals with the kinds of fears that a child would have, like being alone and away from the people who love you.
It’s a long book, but one that’s easy to fall in love with.
7. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
These days not many of us have butlers (servants hired to care for you and your house) but whenever people talk about a butler, his name sometimes comes up as Jeeves.
That name comes from Wodehouse’s series of books featuring the perfect butler Jeeves, and the many humorous adventures he and his employer had.
8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Jealousy and revenge are the main themes of “Wuthering Heights,” which is the name of the farmhouse where the story takes place.
This book can be hard to get through, and it’s not because of the vocabulary. It’s a hard book to read because of all the cruelty in it. Still, this is a good book if you’re interested in dramas and passions.
9. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Robin Hood is a special kind of thief: he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. This book is a collection of stories about the legendary, kindhearted thief and his group of outlaw friends.
Be prepared for many fun and funny moments, and some with a more serious tone. This book is perfect for reading little by little, since the stories are only connected by their characters.
10. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
There are many war books that show how terrible war is physically—all the violence and death. “The Red Badge of Courage” talks instead about the psychological terrors of war.
It’s told from the point of view of a soldier in the Civil War who’s actually running away from the battlefield. It uses many symbols and metaphors to discuss the important themes.
If you can handle the advanced vocabulary, you can find much more meaning hidden in this book.
11. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
What if you could stay young forever? Dorian Gray makes a deal to stay young forever—while a painted portrait of him shows all the signs of aging.
Of course, it turns out this deal he made might not have been such a good idea after all…
12. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
After being thrown into jail for a crime he didn’t commit, Edmond manages to escape and become rich. With his new money, he tries to get revenge on the people who put him in prison, but his plans don’t quite go like he hopes.
“The Count of Monte Cristo” is about betrayal, love and letting go.
13. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Tom Sawyer is a troublemaking little boy who’s always causing problems, having fun and enjoying many crazy adventures. In this classic tale by Mark Twain, Tom visits his own funeral, stops a crime and tries very hard to get a girl to like him.
Tom Sawyer is a well-known name in American literature and his stories of adventure are very fun to read.
14. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Being invisible sounds like fun, but is it really?
When a man learns how to make himself invisible, all he gets in return is problems and people betraying him. Maybe he should have just stayed normal…
15. Emma by Jane Austen
Jane Austen is perhaps best known for her novel “Pride and Prejudice,” which is about life and love for rich, upper-class people in the early 1800s.
“Emma” takes place in the same time period, focusing on the character of Emma who is “handsome, clever and rich.”
Emma thinks that she’s great at matching people up to get married, but she soon learns that maybe she shouldn’t interfere with (get involved in) people’s lives so much.
16. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan is a wild man, raised by apes in the middle of the jungle. This book tells about his life among the apes and other animals, and what happens when a wild monkey man meets other humans for the first time.
17. The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
If you met Father Brown, you wouldn’t realize that he’s a great detective. He’s a small Catholic priest who always carries an umbrella—the kind of person who’s easy to forget.
He’s a great thinker, though, and he can see people for who they really are. “The Innocence of Father Brown” has 12 short stories where the little priest uses his knowledge of human nature to solve mysteries.
18. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Creating life from death is Dr. Frankenstein’s dream. When he finally brings a dead man to life, things don’t work out the way he wants.
If you know the Frankenstein monster, you might think he’s a terrible creature.
But this book tells the real story of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, named only “the monster.” It turns out that the monster might not be such a monster after all.
19. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
If you love detective books, you’ll love “The Moonstone,” which might be the first detective novel in the English language!
It has everything that a good mystery needs—a precious jewel is stolen during a young woman’s 18th birthday party.
Who stole the jewel and where is it now? Follow the trail of the thief in this book.
20. Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula is one of the best known vampires of all time. If you’ve watched any movies about Dracula, you might be surprised at what the actual book is like.
It’s an epistolary novel, which means it’s written completely in the form of letters, and the story of Dracula is told through other people’s points of view.
It’s an interesting look at the first “modern” vampire, and it’s really a great read.
What’s a Classic Book?
“Classic books” are books that have “stood the test of time.” This expression means that a lot of time has passed and these books have still survived as important pieces of culture.
People have enjoyed these books for a long time, and they still enjoy them today.
One thing that all classic literature has in common is that it’s universal. That means that these books contain themes and topics that are relevant to every human being.
No matter where you live in the world, no matter what year you were born, you’ll be able to read and understand the main ideas these books talk about. A classic book will explore things every human knows and cares about, like love, hate, life and death. These are things all humans have experienced for hundreds and thousands of years.
Why Classic Books Are Perfect for English Learners
There are a few different ways to tell if a book is the right reading level for you. One of these is the lexile range. The books in the list above are in the lexile range that’s perfect for intermediate English learners.
They’re also listed in order of their reading difficulty, from the easier books to the more difficult ones.
To find the perfect difficulty for you, start from the first book and move down through the list until you find a book that you can understand, but that still gives you a little challenge and has some words you don’t know.
Also, keep in mind that some of these books are old. If you have trouble understanding the language of the book, try something different! You could start with modern fiction books, which are often in more relatable language.
A digital option would be FluentU, where you can practice both your reading and listening through hundreds of English media clips. All of these have interactive subtitles for English learners, with clear explanations for each word:
As you keep watching, you can improve your vocabulary and gradually learn more advanced words through post-video quizzes and flashcards.
The key is to build up your level. English speakers typically work their way up from children’s books to young adult (YA) novels and then eventually classics and adult literature.
With enough reading and practice, you’ll be able to tackle more complex stories.
All of the books listed above became classics because people have read and loved them again and again over many years. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these stories too as you explore English literature!