“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” A classic first line in literature, but does it belong to a murder mystery? A paranormal thriller? A sci-fi?
No. It’s the opening to "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens’ beloved story of Ebenezer Scrooge — a noted curmudgeon and workaholic who did not make merry on Christmas. Of course, published in Victorian England (179 years ago this month), Scrooge’s road to redemption doesn’t involve a therapeutic chat with friends or a visit from Jolly Old St. Nick. Instead, come Christmas Eve, Scrooge gets a visit from his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, followed by three very punctual ghosts who whisk him away to revisit all the low points in his life, before showing him a tombstone with his name carved on it. After a night like that, Scrooge finds his holiday spirit — and fast.
Google Books wants to help you find your holiday spirit (with no need for ghostly visitations) with a list of public domain holiday stories you can download and read — free of charge! Copyright law gives authors and their descendants a lifetime and more of exclusive rights to sell their works. When copyright expires, works enter the public domain, so that anyone can read, build on, and enjoy our shared cultural heritage.
Among the 40 million books, magazines and newspapers that Google Books has collected with the help of libraries and publishers are some of the season’s classic treasures. You can sit down with "Friends (A story for Hanukkah)," or read the text that inspired the Tchaikovsky ballet, "Nutcracker and Mouseking" — or gather up the kids on December 24th for a reading of the original, "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
These and hundreds of other out of copyright stories are available for $0, and can help anyone to follow some of history’s most noteworthy authors (and characters) into the restorative spirit of the season — by slowing down, reflecting, and maybe taking a fresh look at the world.
It worked for the immutable Sherlock Holmes, who, in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” catches his thief (of course). Only — spoiler alert — overcome by the spirit of the season he does something decidedly un-Holmes — he lets the thief go.
Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
In his 1902 classic "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus," L. Frank Baum — famous for writing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" — offers an origin story for Santa Claus in which, long before setting up shop in the North Pole, Santa is raised in the woods by a nymph.
"The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" by L. Frank Baum
When you’ve had your fill of prose, few mediums help you pause and find the right holiday cadence like poetry. This holiday season you can dive into collected Hanukkah poems from "The Standard Book of Jewish Verse," compiled by Joseph Friedlander.
Opening stanza from Philip M. Raskin’s “Chanukah Lights”
Since most texts written since the founding of Kwanzaa in 1966 are still protected by copyright, we’ve compiled a list of no-cost magazine articles whose publishers have chosen to allow full public access to help you explore the traditions and seven principles of Kwanzaa. You can start with TaRessa Stovall’s “Taking Stock of Kwanzaa”; or Malaika Horne’s 1994 article on the origins of Kwanzaa that helped spark a cultural revival.
However you and your family celebrate the holidays, Google Books wants to help you get into the spirit of the season — and maybe do things a little differently this year. And odds are that “free” + “reading a book” are two phrases you don’t hear too often these days. So pour a glass of eggnog and enjoy perusing this list of holiday and winter-themed works from Google Books.
The nice list (of holiday reads)
From "Jimsy: The Christmas Kid" by Leona Dalrymple
- "A Visit from St Nicholas" (Twas the Night Before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore
- "A Christmas Carol" and "What Christmas is as we grow older" by Charles Dickens
- "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
- "Nutcracker and Mouseking" (The Nutcracker) by E.T.A. Hoffmann
- "Sherlock Holmes - The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- "A Christmas Greeting" and "The Fir Tree’s Story" by Hans Christian Anderson
- "The Three Kings" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- "The Elves: First Story" (The Elves and the Shoemaker) by the Brothers Grimm
- "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" by L. Frank Baum
- "Old Christmas" by Washington Irving
- "Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day" by Robert Browning
- "Is there a Santa Claus?" by Jacob August Riis
- "Jimsy: The Christmas Kid" by Leona Dalrymple
- "At Christmas Time" from Russian Silhouettes by Anton Chekhov
- "Collected Chanukah poems" in The Standard Book of Jewish Verse, compiled by Joseph Friedlander
- "Kislev" chapter in Timeless Torah by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
- "Friends (A story for Hanukkah)" in Playmates in Egypt and Other Stories by Elma Ehrlich Levinger
- "The Hanukkah Festival: Outline of Lessons for Teachers" by Rabbi Louis Grossman
- "Taking Stock of Kwanzaa" by TaRessa Stovall in The Crisis magazine
- "The Seeds of Kwanzaa Have Spawned a Cultural Revival" by Malaika Horne in The Crisis magazine
- "The Man Who Invented Kwanzaa" in Ebony magazine
- "A Kwanzaa Celebration" by Charlotte Lyons in Ebony magazine
- "It's Kwanzaa Time" by Hasani B. Julian in Ebony Jr! magazine