Thursday, June 21, 2012

Project Project Gutenberg Gutenberg

I am, as Brenda recently pointed out, EXTREMELY COMMITTED to free ebooks.  I will wait months on hold at the library; I will read things that hold only the most tenuous appeal to me; I will cross deserts and climb mountains.

But somehow, I've never made much use of Project Gutenberg.  The main problem is that it's an undiscovered country--the dense and unmapped terrain of classics, histories, and dry-titled tomes by writers I've never heard of, plus the (I'm sorry, but it's true) really basic, bare-bones, non-glossy interface...I've never been able to navigate it.  I see a list of authors, or book titles, with minimal information and my eyes start to cross.

This is why I'm so excited about The Project Gutenberg Project!  Some of my favorite bloggers are participating in this group blog project where they review and highlight cool books from Project Gutenberg.  On one hand, it's a really fascinating glimpse into what's in there, different periods of history, kinds of books I would never have thought to read, and I love reading the reviews just for themselves.

On the other hand, without the Project Project, I would never have found Bab, A Sub-Deb, by Mary Roberts Rinehart, which is KILLING ME with awesomeness.  (Note that the link in the text is to the free Kindle version, but the picture links to a $2 version, because of the cute cover.)

Now, I have to admit that I actually read the review of this on Aarti's blog itself; she hasn't cross-posted it to PGP yet. But the very existence of the project is the reason that this book--and the author, who I can already tell you I'm going to read more of--are even on my radar.  I should also caution you that Bab narrates the stories here in the form of themes that she's writing at her boarding school, and her spelling is absolutely atrocious.  I thought it would be unbearable, but it very quickly became absolutely darling, and it's all very readable.

Bab is about 17, and her older sister is a debutante, while Bab is stuck attending parties with the schoolroom set.  This is cosmically unfair, and her determination to set this injustice to rights gets her into scrapes.  That's the only word for it.  In the first story, she makes up a boyfriend to bother her mother.  But the story snowballs, and suddenly there's a young man at the party who is going by the name that she made up and declaring for her hand to her father.  What's a not-yet-debutante to do?

If Anne of Green Gables was spoiled rotten and boy crazy, this would be her book.  That sounds horrible, though, doesn't it?  If you crossed Scarlett O'Hara with basically any L.M. Montgomery heroine, you would have Bab--determined to have what she wants, really trying to be good, clever with a plan in the thick of things but maybe without the long view of a situation.

She sounds kind of insufferable when I say this, but she's not.  She means no one any ill--it's just that she wants a fur muff and to have some fun, and she really can't figure out why she shouldn't have them.  And when you're in the middle of the book, neither can the reader.  "I am very determined and fixed in my ways, and with me to decide to do a thing is to decide to do it."  The solemn dignity this child brings to bear is absolutely charming.

So thank you, Aarti and PGP, for bringing this bright spot into my reading day.  It is exactly what I need to counterbalance the rather craptastic criminal profiling book that I find myself not putting down for some reason.  And did I mention--FREE!


Anonymous said...

uh, this is awesome!! i will read almost anything horrible that's on my kindle while skipping awesome books that i have only on paper...


Aarti said...

Oh, YAY! I am so glad that you read this and enjoyed it. It *is* hard to describe Bab, isn't it? She really is just so much fun, though she sounds quite spoiled. Thanks so much for taking me up on my suggestion :-)

And I totally agree about the Project Gutenberg interface- horrible!

Anonymous said...

So disappointed that this isn't available on UK Kindles!

LibraryHungry said...

The international Gutenberg limitations confuse me! There are L.M. Montgomery books that I can't get in the US but that I guess are available on Gutenberg Australia? I haven't been able to download them, but I have trouble with Gutenberg. A tip, though--if the Kindle version won't work for you, try the PDF version. The formatting isn't always great, but it's usually fine.

And thanks, Aarti, for the original review. That project is a huge benefit to me--I never realized how much of the Gutenberg content is actually a lot of fun!

Sarah, I knew this was meant for you!

Mrs. N said...

I JUST got a Kindle. I have huge issues with laying out money for books, I just can't do it without feeling anxious. What if the book isn't worth the money? But free books? Bring it on. I'm totally checking Bab out as soon as I figure out how to actually work that whole getting it to show up on your kindle thing.

LibraryHungry said...

Welcome to the cult! I've actually had good luck putting the files on my computer in the right format (Kindle or PDF) and then emailing them to my Kindle address as an attachment.