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By: Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Emma by Jane Austen Emma

A comedy of manners, Emma portrays the spoilt, snobbish, yet charming Emma Woodhouse as she delightfully interferes in the relationships of others without taking much notice of her own heart. Although quick to make prejudgments and decisions, Emma is eventually able to notice her mistakes, and it is this revelation that makes her an endearing heroine and an inspiration to women throughout. Austen has not only created, but also brought to life the world inhabited by her characters through her vivid depictions and clever use of wit...

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen Mansfield Park

One of the most controversial novels written by Austen, Mansfield Park follows the life of the young heroine Fanny Price as she searches for her place in society. Set in early 19th century England, the classic novel depicts the social issues of the time including marriage, social mobility and morality. The classic centers on the life of the poor young girl Fanny Price, who is the oldest daughter of nine siblings. Her father is a former naval officer and a heavy drinker, while her mother has married beneath her and is undeniably the black sheep in the family when compared to her two sisters, Mrs...

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is a book about the life of Catherine Morland and her romantic relationships. The novel is divided into two parts; the first part begins with Catherine’s visit to Bath and her relationship with Henry Tilney and the other people she met there, and the second part starts with the arrival of Frederick Tilney and her visit to Northanger Abbey. This book alongside Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility is considered one of the major works of Jane Austen. The novel had undergone many revisions before its publication and it was even originally titled “Catherine...

Love and Friendship by Jane Austen Love and Friendship

Begun when she was just eleven years old, Love and Friendship is one of Jane Austen's stories that very few readers may have encountered before. Austen experts feel that this story was written, like many others, only for the pleasure of her family and friends. It is scribbled across three notebooks, in childish handwriting, and the complete work is thought to have been written over a period of six or seven years. It is dedicated to one of her cousins, whom she was very close to, Eliza de Feuillide...

Lady Susan by Jane Austen Lady Susan

An epistolary novel, Lady Susan is an early work by Austen that was posthumously published in 1871. The short novel focuses on the self-serving eponymous anti-heroine, as she cunningly maneuvers her way through society in search of a wealthy husband for both her daughter and herself. Disregarding anything but her own selfish goals, Susan employs her charms to lure men and draw them into her web of deceit, no matter their age or status. Exploring issues including morals, manners, self-indulgence, malevolence, and social machinations, the relatively short novel is sure to fascinate with its atypical form...

By: Mark Twain (1835-1910)

1601: Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors by Mark Twain 1601: Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors

An atypical piece of writing by Mark Twain, the short bawdy skit documents a conversion between Queen Elizabeth and several notable writers of the time, including Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Beaumont, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare. Despite first being published in 1880, the piece remained anonymous for a period of time, until it was later acknowledged by Twain in 1901 as his own. Comprised of humor, descriptive imagery, ribald connotations, and vulgar language, the faux conversation is simultaneously humorous and repulsing, but nonetheless a wonder for its satirical precision...

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

When Hank Morgan, a practical, no-nonsense Yankee who works in an ammunition factory as a head superintendent gets into a fight with an aggressive employee, little does he know what's in store for him. The bully lays Morgan low with a skull-crushing blow delivered with a crowbar and knocks him out. When Morgan regains consciousness, he finds himself transported back in time, to the sixth century. From here on, the story describes the travails of a hard-boiled, true blue American with strong democratic values who has to deal with medieval feudalism and ancient customs! A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court was published in 1889...

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

It was published in 1893–1894 by Century Magazine in seven installments, and is a detective story with some racial themes. The plot of this novel is a detective story, in which a series of identities — the judge’s murderer, Tom, Chambers — must be sorted out. This structure highlights the problem of identity and one’s ability to determine one’s own identity. Broader issues of identity are the central ideas of this novel. One of Twain’s major goals in this book was to exploit the true nature of Racism at that period...

Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven by Mark Twain Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven

This was the last story published by Twain, a few months before he died. The story follows Captain Elias Stormfield on his extremely long cosmic journey to heaven. It deals with the obsession of souls with the "celebrities" of heaven, like Adam and Moses, who according to Twain become as distant to most people in heaven as living celebrities are on Earth. Twain uses this story to show his view that the common conception of heaven is ludicrous and points out the incongruities of such beliefs.A lot of the description of Heaven is given by the character Sandy McWilliams, a cranberry farmer who is very experienced in the ways of heaven...

The Gilded Age, A Tale of Today by Mark Twain The Gilded Age, A Tale of Today

The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today is an 1873 novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner that satirizes greed and political corruption in post-Civil War America. The term gilded age, commonly given to the era, comes from the title of this book. Twain and Warner got the name from Shakespeare's King John (1595): "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily... is wasteful and ridiculous excess." Gilding a lily, which is already beautiful and not in need of further adornment, is excessive and wasteful, characteristics of the age Twain and Warner wrote about in their novel...

What is Man? and Other Essays by Mark Twain What is Man? and Other Essays

"What Is Man?", published by Mark Twain in 1906, is a dialogue between a young man and an older man jaded to the world. It involves ideas of destiny and free will, as well as of psychological egoism. The Old Man asserted that the human being is merely a machine, and nothing more. The Young Man objects, and asks him to go into particulars and furnish his reasons for his position. This collection of short stories covers a wide range of Twain's interests: the serious, the political and the ironically humorous.

Book cover Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences

This is Mark Twain's vicious and amusing review of Fenimore Cooper's literary art. It is still read widely in academic circles. Twain's essay, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (often spelled "Offences") (1895), particularly criticized The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder. Twain wrote at the beginning of the essay: 'In one place in Deerslayer, and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.' Twain listed 19 rules 'governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction', 18 of which Cooper violates in The Deerslayer. (Introduction by Wikipedia and John Greenman)

Goldsmith's Friend Abroad Again by Mark Twain Goldsmith's Friend Abroad Again

This satire on the U.S.A.'s myth of being the "Home of the Oppressed, where all men are free and equal", is unrelenting in its pursuit of justice through exposure. It draws a scathingly shameful portrait of how Chinese immigrants were treated in 19th century San Francisco. (Introduction by John Greenman)

By: Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend

As the last published novel of a writer whose career spanned over a dozen novels, innumerable short stories, plays and nonfiction, Our Mutual Friend is indeed a great composition by Charles Dickens. Considered to be one of his most mature, insightful and refined works, Our Mutual Friend takes a long, hard look at what many Victorians loved but hated to admit they did—money. Dickens uses satire, irony, symbolism and biting wit to portray this unlovely picture of a society obsessed with material comforts and its hypocrisy about the means it uses to achieve its ends...

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

Dickens thought it was “in a hundred points, immeasurably the best” of his stories. Yet it was also one of his greatest flops. Compared to his other novels, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit was a dismal failure in terms of sales and the main reason for Dickens falling out with his long term publisher Chapman & Hall. They invoked a penalty clause and demanded that he pay back a portion of the advance which he refused. Martin Chuzzlewit was also dimly received in Dickens friendly America...

Hard Times by Charles Dickens Hard Times

The shortest novel by far of Charles Dickens', Hard Times is also one of his most idea based works. In it, he launches a scathing attack on the prevailing fashion of believing in Utilitarianism, a philosophy that proposed the goal of society should be “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” Dickens felt that such a philosophy saw people as mere statistics and not as individuals. The novel was published in serial form in his magazine Household Words. It is also the only novel where London is not featured...

Book cover The Pickwick Papers

A sportsman who doesn't hunt; a poet who doesn't write; a lover with no one to love; all three are devoted to their cheerful and benevolent leader, Mr. Pickwick. Join him and his friends, Winkle, Snodgrass, and Tupman, as they tour the country in search of adventures, knowledge, and stories. Along the way, they have their share of mishaps, and meet plenty of interesting characters, both the good and the not so good. (Mr. Pickwick's dedicated manservant, Sam Weller, is a scene-stealer sure to delight just about everybody...

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens Little Dorrit

Originally published in monthly installments between 1855 and 1857, the novel focuses on the various forms of imprisonment, both physical and psychological, while also concentrating on dysfunctional family ties. Accordingly, Dickens avidly criticizes the social deficiencies of the time including injustice, social hypocrisy, the austerity of the Marshalsea debtors’ prison, and bureaucratic inefficiency. The novel kicks off with the introduction of William Dorrit, the oldest prisoner in the Marshalsea prison, who is also referred to as The Father of the Marshalsea...

By: Aesop (620 BC - 563 BC)

Aesop's Fables by Aesop Aesop's Fables

As children, our first experience of the magic of talking animals, the conflict between good and evil, the battle of wits between the cunning and the innocent most probably came from Aesop's Fables. These delightful, pithy and brief narratives are simple, easy to understand and convey their message in a memorable and charming fashion. Aesop's Fables by Aesop consists of about 600 tales, some well-loved and familiar, others less known but just as entertaining and educative and help us map the perimeters of our moral universe...

By: H. G. Wells (1866-1946)

The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells The First Men in the Moon

Written nearly seven decades before Neil Armstrong's historic “Giant leap for Mankind” this book by one of the most influential sci-fi writers in English is an interesting read. The First Men in the Moon by Herbert George Wells, the English author who is today called the Father of Science Fiction, describes a strange and fantastic voyage. Businessman and budding playwright, John Bedford takes a sabbatical from his work and decides to write a play. He moves to a lonely cottage in Kent where he hopes to come up with a theatrical masterpiece...

By: Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Aphorisms by Oscar Wilde Aphorisms

In 1894, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) published two short collections of aphorisms: “A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated”, in the Saturday Review newspaper, and “Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young”, in the Oxford student magazine The Chameleon. By turns witty, intellectual, counter-intuitive and obtuse, the collections came to be seen by many as emblematic of Wilde’s style, and countless collections of Wildean aphorisms have since been published.

Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde Lady Windermere's Fan

Lady Windermere’s Fan: A Play About a Good Woman is a four act comedy by Oscar Wilde, published in 1893. As in some of his other comedies, Wilde satirizes the morals of Victorian society, and attitudes between the sexes. The action centres around a fan given to Lady Windermere as a present by her husband, and the ball held that evening to celebrate her 21st birthday.

By: Herman Melville (1819-1891)

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade was the last major novel by Herman Melville, the American writer and author of Moby-Dick. Published on April 1, 1857 (presumably the exact day of the novel's setting), The Confidence-Man was Melville's tenth major work in eleven years. The novel portrays a Canterbury Tales-style group of steamboat passengers whose interlocking stories are told as they travel down the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. The novel is written as cultural satire, allegory, and metaphysical treatise, dealing with themes of sincerity, identity, morality, religiosity, economic materialism, irony, and cynicism...

By: P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975)

The Swoop! by P. G. Wodehouse The Swoop!

The Swoop! tells of the simultaneous invasion of England by several armies — “England was not merely beneath the heel of the invader. It was beneath the heels of nine invaders. There was barely standing-room.” (ch. 1) — and features references to many well-known figures of the day, among them the politician Herbert Gladstone, novelist Edgar Wallace, actor-managers Seymour Hicks and George Edwardes, and boxer Bob Fitzsimmons.

By: Stephen Leacock (1869-1944)

Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich by Stephen Leacock Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich

“Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich” is a work of humorous fiction by Stephen Leacock first published in 1914. It is the follow-up to his 1912 classic “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.” Like that work, it is a sequence of interlocking stories set in one town, but instead of focusing on a small Canadian town in the countryside, it is set in a major American metropolis and its characters are the upper crust of society. Although currently not as well-known as the earlier book, “Arcadian Adventures” was extremely popular in North America at the time of its publication and for a while was considered the greater success...

Moonbeams from the Larger Lunacy by Stephen Leacock Moonbeams from the Larger Lunacy

Humorous, ironic, and sometimes cynical observations of life in 1915 from Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock.

By: Voltaire (1694-1778)

Candide by Voltaire Candide

A picaresque novel written by French satirical polemicist and philosopher Voltaire, Candide blatantly attacks the ideology of philosopher Leibniz. Candide follows the series of unfortunate events encountered by the young, yet blindly optimistic Candide. Shifting from one adventure to the next, Voltaire’s signature piece does not cease to grip its audience with its humorous criticism of power, wealth, love, religion, philosophy and especially optimism. The novel begins with the introduction of the protagonist Candide, who lives in the castle of an influential German Baron, along with the Baron’s daughter Cunégonde, and tutor Dr...

Zadig, or the Book of Fate by Voltaire Zadig, or the Book of Fate

Zadig, ou La Destinée, (”Zadig, or The Book of Fate”) (1747) is a famous novel written by the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. It tells the story of Zadig, a philosopher in ancient Babylonia. The author does not attempt any historical accuracy, and some of the problems Zadig faces are thinly disguised references to social and political problems of Voltaire’s own day. The book is philosophical in nature, and presents human life as in the hands of a destiny beyond human control. It is a story of religious and metaphysical orthodoxy, both of which Voltaire challenges with his presentation of the moral revolution taking place in Zadig himself...

By: Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels

Comprised of four parts, Gulliver’s Travels documents the bizarre, yet fascinating voyages of Lemuel Gulliver as he makes his way through several uncharted destinations, experiencing the lives of the small, the giant, the scientific, and downright eccentric societies. Narrated in first person, Swift successfully portrays Gulliver’s thoughts and reactions as he faces struggles of integration throughout his travels. Beginning with the introduction of Gulliver, an educated ship’s surgeon, who after a series of unfortunate events is victim to repeated shipwrecks, desertions, and set adrift...

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift A Modest Proposal

A satirical essay written by one of the most renowned satirists, Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal expresses the author’s exasperation with the ill treatment of impoverished Irish citizens as a result of English exploitation and social inertia. Furthermore, Swift ventilates the severity of Ireland’s political incompetence, the tyrannical English policies, the callous attitudes of the wealthy, and the destitution faced by the Irish people. Focusing on numerous aspects of society including government exploitation, reckless greed, hypocrisy, apathy, and prejudice, the essay successfully exemplifies Swift’s satirical skills...

Book cover Tale of a Tub

A Tale of a Tub was the first major work written by Jonathan Swift, composed between 1694 and 1697, that was eventually published in 1704. It is arguably his most difficult satire, and perhaps his most masterly. The Tale is a prose parody which is divided into sections of "digression" and a "tale" of three brothers, each representing one of the main branches of western Christianity. A Tale was long regarded as a satire on religion itself, and has famously been attacked for that, starting with William Wotton...

By: Anthony Trollope

The Warden by Anthony Trollope The Warden

Published in 1855, The Warden is the first installment in Trollope’s highly acclaimed series Chronicles of Barsetshire, and offers an enlightening insight into the life of the Victorian clergy, its gentry, politics, and social settings. The novel focuses on Mr. Harding, an elderly clergyman who finds himself in the center of a vehement dispute over his questionable position as warden of Hiram’s Hospital. Exploring various themes including human nature, morals, reform, and manners, The Warden is a perfect representation of the structure of Victorian society...


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