A library at your fingertips: The best free Kindle books

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Politically-charged

‘The Jungle’ by Upton Sinclair

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Sinclair muckraking socialist novel isn’t exactly uplifting. It’s a brutally realistic depiction of poverty, extreme working conditions and the prevalent hopelessness that engulfed the working class of the Chicago stockyards. It may focus on Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant, but it is partly based on Sinclair’s seven-week stint working incognito in the Chicago meatpacking business as part of an investigative piece on behalf of his newspaper. The soul-crushing atrocities and horrendous accounts of the meat industry were so alarming they even spurred federal investigations in 1904.

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‘The Awakening’ by Kate Chopin

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One of the first great novels in the Southern literary canon, The Awakening is complex yet beautiful. The novel focuses on the life of Edna Pontellier and her enlightened, but unorthodox, views on the socioeconomic status of women in the South. The Awakening is an insightful novel that explores a woman’s changing thoughts about her place in society in the beginning of the 20thn century.

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‘The Souls of Black Folk’ by W.E.B. Du Bois

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To put it simply, The Souls of Black Folk is an insightful examination of African-American life at the turn of the 20th century. It was and still is a momentous piece of sociological literature written as part of a semi-autobiographical essays looking at life after the Emancipation Proclamation. Du Bois’ prose is articulate and eloquent — whether addressing neoslavery, traditional music, or what he coins the “double consciousness” of the African American psyche — and serves as a both historical analysis and a harrowing piece social-political commentary that’s difficult to ignore.

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‘The Federalist Papers’ by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison

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We don’t know about you, but portions of the The Federalist Papers were mandatory high school reading for us on more than one occasion. The collection consists of 85 brilliant and eye-opening essays that delve into the establishment of various rules of governance and the promotion the U.S. Constitution. Forged by three of our nation’s Founding Fathers, the papers have been a political and historical landmarks ever since their initial release in late 1787 and early 1788. Like the Constitution however, they’ve open to interpretation, mentioned nearly 300 times in varying Supreme Court decisions.

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‘Civil Disobedience’ by Henry David Thoreau

Before Henry David Thoreau moved to the woods to “live deliberately” and create his timeless classic, Walden, the author penned his vast political and philosophical musings in Civil Disobedience. The book focuses mainly on the issues of slavery and the also the Mexican-American War. Thoreau uses the injustices of the era to encourage readers to question moral justice when juxtaposed alongside de facto law. Given the current socio-political tension, these critical words still resonate today.

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‘The Prince’ by Niccolò Machiavelli

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Although The Prince wasn’t officially published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli’s death, a version of the treatise appears to have circulated almost 20 years prior. It’s regarded as one of the first and finest works of political philosophy, deeply rooted in Machiavelli’s fascination and political drive, and is considered a somewhat practical and straightforward guide on how to obtain power and become the ideal ruler. Perhaps the work is a political satire (following it to a tee could essentially undo someone in power), but nonetheless, the term “Machiavellian” didn’t arise from thin air.

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‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens

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The Reign of Terror during the onset of French Revolution was a tumultuous and incredibly violent affair (17,000 deaths by guillotine is no laughing matter). Dickens’ classic tale of revolution and brash political upheaval features a love-laced plot, whirling around exiled French aristocrat Charles Darnay, English lawyer Syndey Carton and their indiscriminate fall at the hands of the revolution. Unlike other Dickens novels, it’s mostly devoid of humor, instead centered on providing political context that is both vividly alluring and dishearteningly frightening. Again, we truly doubt it was “the best of times.”

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‘The Communist Manifesto’ by Karl Marx

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History is littered with political manuscripts and philosophers proposing their theories on class struggle and political dichotomy, but few of them carry the weighty influence of Marx and Friedrich Engels’ in-depth examination and critique of capitalism. It argues with labor comes wealth, which in turn increases the gap between economic classes with one becoming the ruling one at the expensive of the others. It lays down the theories ans goals behind the movement, outlined rather vividly, and proposes complete revolution as the only way to overhaul an unstable governmental and class structure.

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‘Common Sense’ by Thomas Paine

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Paine’s Common Sense is proof that writing to the people, for the people, is sometimes the way to go. The pamphlet, published anonymously in 1776 during the beginning of the American Revolution, presented an astute argument for the colonies to break free of British rule and establish their own independent republican government. It was written to be tangible and easily digestible, appealing to a mass audience of common people who were often left out the political dialogue, and helped convince its readership a land which upholds personal freedoms and lacks hereditary kingship isn’t that bad.

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‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu

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Have you ever heard of China’s Seven Military Classics? Didn’t think so, but you’ve likely heard of The Art of War. Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general and strategist, composed the treatise as early as 2nd century B.C., simultaneously solidifying the work as one of the most definitive and influential strategy books of all time. It’s divided into thirteen chapters, each outlining a different aspect of warfare, and showcasing Tzu’s emphasis on the perils of war and its embodiment as a necessary evil to be carried out when no other alternatives exist.

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