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The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Eight

On this first night of Hanukkah, Alix wants to help you pick out some holiday reading.

The FYA Advent Calendar: Day Eight

Happy Hanukkah, y’all! Well, I guess it’s not technically Hanukkah for a few more hours for most of y’all, but seeing as I live five to eight hours IN THE FUTURE, and also, the sun set at 3:35 here today, it is definitely Hanukkah for me. Anyway, I thought a lot about what to get you besides some extra slow-burning lamp oil, and I’ll admit that I was stumped for a while. It would have been great to provide you with like, my grandmother’s brisket recipe, but I’m a lifelong vegetarian, and anyway I don’t think they ate much brisket in County Cork.

But then, inspiration struck! A few weeks back when I reviewed the best book you’ve never read, Daddy-Long-Legs, one of you lovely commentors requested that we compile a list of our favorite public domain YA literature. Brilliant idea! Everyone needs more holiday reading. And while you can always pick out something from our new and improved (auto-updating!) book-report list, this list is even better because everything on it is FREE. You're welcome, and I'm sorry that your next seven nights of gifts are not going to be nearly as good as the first.

Louisa May Alcott

I'll be real, y'all. The only book I've ever read by LMA is Little Women. If you read and loved this as a kid, I would strongly recommend NOT re-reading it. Everyone in it is a monster. If you want your Little Women fix, just watch the movie. It's super Christmasy and also only lasts a couple of hours, unlike this book, which is interminable. Or if you really want to read something, just check out the FYA Little Women read-along, because I guarantee it will be a more enjoyable experience. But if you're a masochist for some reason:

Little Women
Little Men
Jo's Boys

One of my best friends and an avid LMA fan also recommends:

An Old Fashioned Girl

Alcott also wrote like a million other books, which you can find here.

Jane Austen

I LOVE JANE AUSTEN, Y'ALL. If you haven't already read everything in this section, OMG WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? I even love the weird Jane Austen that no one else reads, like Northanger Abbey and Love and Freindship [sic]. Everyone go read all these books now! And then come back and we can talk about how great everything is (except Mansfield Park, ugh), and how we secretly love The Jane Austen Book Club because Hugh Dancy is just so damn cute. If you're an Austen newbie, start with Pride and Prejudice or Emma, which are my favorites.

Emma
Lady Susan
Love and Freindship
Mansfield Park

Northanger Abbey
Persuasion
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility

Brontë Sisters

Confession time! I have never read any of the Brontës. I know, I know, it's terrible, but here's the sad truth: everyone in my family hates everything the Brontës ever wrote. And I know it's not fair for me to judge something based on someone else's opinion, but look. My sister and I agree on about 97% of things, including the books we read. And if she tells me I will categorically hate the Brontës, I will almost certainly categorically hate the Brontës. I have been meaning to read them anyway so that I can be an educated member of society, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I tried to read the graphic novel version of Jane Eyre a couple Christmases ago, and I couldn't even stomach that. You know things are bad when I can't make it through a book that is almost entirely composed of pictures.

Anyway, I can't actually recommend that you read any of these books, but:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

Lucy Maud Montgomery

LMM is possibly the patron saint of YA. She is not only the genius who brought Anne Shirley to life, she is also the creator of my first fictional boyfriend. Before there was Marcus Flutie or Cameron Quick, there was Gilbert Blythe. ILU, GILBERT! Someday, we will have our FYA Convention on Prince Edward Island, and we'll all get drunk on "Raspberry Cordial" and wear fancy dresses to our YA-Cover-Stereotype-Themed Formal Ball.

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island
Anne of Windy Poplars*
Anne's House of Dreams
Anne of Ingleside*
Rainbow Valley
Rilla of Ingleside

Emily of New Moon*
Emily Climbs*
Emily's Quest*

*Sadly, these aren't in the public domain in the US yet, however, several of LMM's later published books have reached public domain in Australia. You can find a few other of her public domain works here.

Jean Webster

I have been pimping Jean Webster HARD lately, but that is because she is a magical unicorn and I don't understand why all of you haven't stopped what you're doing and read Daddy-Long-Legs or Dear Enemy yet. Yes, I know they have stupid titles. But they are SO GOOD. Just trust me, internet. Also, I just discovered that Jean Webster wrote a few other books, too, and you best believe I'm checking those out ASAP.

Daddy-Long-Legs
Dear Enemy

And y'all, there is SO MUCH MORE free stuff out there. Project Gutenberg, which is where all these links go, is an excellent place to shop around for public domain books. Here are some useful tags for identifying things:

Young Women
Bildungsromans
Fathers and Daughters
Orphans
Sisters

Honorable Mentions

Additionally, I have to give a shout out to a few other books. There's Evelina by Frances Burney, a book that is actually kind of terrible but, rather satisfyingly, involves a monkey biting a man's ear off; Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain for some male protagonists; and anything by Elizabeth Gaskell, which I haven't read but makes a mean BBC miniseries. Don't forget FYA favorite A Room With a View, either.

There's also the next thing on my Free To-Read list, A Girl of the Limberlost, which was recommended in the comments of my Daddy-Long-Legs review. I can't tell by the comment whether it's actually good, or just another example of creepy romantic relationships in YA. We'll find out! The best sounding thing I've never heard of is everything Josephine Chase ever wrote, and from the files of WTF, What a Young Woman Ought to Know by Mary Wood-Allen. It comes with the highest commendation from the esteemed Rev F.B. Meyer, "the Eminent English Preacher and Author":

The questions which are dealt with in the 'Self and Sex Series' of books are always being asked, and if the answer is not forthcoming from pure and wise lips it will be obtained through vicious and empirical channels. I therefore greatly commend this series of books, which are written lucidly and purely, and will afford the necessary information without pandering to unholy and sensual passion. I should like to see a wide and judicious distribution of this literature among Christian circles.

That book sounds like it's full of win.

I hope this has provided you with ample reading material for the coming holiday season. What is your favorite public domain YA?

Alix West's photo About the Author: Alix is a writer and illustrator who spends way too much time reading Jane Austen retellings of varying quality.
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