This list is not comprehensive, but the vast majority of public domain works are available because they are older. A few newer authors are publishing through Creative Commons, but that is not common. Thus, this list may serve best as introducing student to some classics or to compare older attitudes and thoughts on a topic to modern ones. In addition, there are a few works here than can serve as primary sources for historical research. A couple of additional searchable open source databases are listed at the bottom of this list.
Writing and Rhetoric
Books and Bookmen (1886)
The Cynic's Word Book by Ambrose Bierce (1906)
Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion
Walden and Civil Disobedience (Henry David Thoreau)
Siddartha (Herman Hesse)
The Prophet (Khalil Gilbran)
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzche
What is Man? and Other Essays by Mark Twain
The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig (2001)
The Art of War (Sun Tzu) -- also military (and business) strategy
Sketches in Bedlam (1823)
Economics, Politics, and Sociology
The Wealth of Nations (Adam Smith)
The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx)
The Republic (Plato)
A Vindication of the Rights of Women (Mary Wollstonecraft)
ProPublica articles (just attribute them)
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace. Edited by Mark Tovey (book of essays) 2009.
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
History and Biography
Twelve Years a Slave (Solomon Northup)
Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
The Anatomy of Drunkenness (1834) -- Great as an example of classification; written by a doctor
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (many essays and resources)
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This page last updated on June 7, 2020.