Did any of you read the Bobbsey Twins when you were young? Tom Swift? You can do it again because these and hundreds of other books whose copyright has expired can be downloaded from http://www.gutenberg.org for free. The downloading takes only a minute or two even on a slow dial-up connection, and you can read them at your leisure in any word processing program.
They are fun to read just to get an idea of how we thought back then. Most of them have a child-like black housekeeper or handyman who has no other life apart from their benevolent white employers. Tom Swift, boy inventor, goes off to South America to find a tribe of giants and brings back a few to sell to a circus and to do the work around his father’s house. Our hero has no thought of them as actual people, and, indeed, they are just like devoted pet dogs already housebroken. In other adventures, he kills as many elephants as he can to bring back their ivory and raids an ancient hidden city of gold with no thought of the archeological value.
The site has many of the classics that can save a trip to the library. A while ago, I wanted to review Plato’s famous allegory about the shadows on the wall of the cave. I downloaded the Republic, searched for “cave” in my Word program and got right to it.
Other books now practically unknown are equally interesting. A writer describes his travels in Japan in the early 1900s. A woman missionary in the late 1800s writes a travel series for children, unaware of how scathingly she puts down other cultures. A WW I book on aerial warfare describes the best way to drop bombs is to hang them over the cockpit with string and simply cut the string when over the target. Just be careful they don’t come loose on take-off, the author warns. Duly noted.