public domain books: edgar rice burroughs

"Miles To" Signs in Uptown Charlotte, NCHe's best known as the creator of Tarzan, but Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote dozens of other adventure novels. His heroes explored Mars, Venus, and the Earth's core. His books have influenced generations of genre fiction authors, so it's probably worth your time to try one of them.

First things first. If your perceptions of Tarzan are based on the movies or on "me Tarzan, you Jane" references, you're in for a bit of a surprise. I'll admit that the book version of Tarzan is even more improbable than his film counterparts, but he's infinitely more bad-ass. By the end of the first book in the series, original recipe Tarzan can transition between the ferocious jungle lord and the proper English gentleman with ease. It's a lot more interesting than that "let's go live in a tree fort forever" portrayal of the character. If you start reading Tarzan, you'll probably want to have the second book on hand, too.

Like I've said before, I love his Mars series. Many of these books focus on John Carter, a dashing, slightly supernatural Virginian magically transported to a dying world filled with the remnants of great civilizations. If you have any interest in these, plan on reading at least the first three (all of which are quick reads). They're about our hero swashbuckling his way around the planet and transforming nearly every aspect of Martian politics and society for the sake of love. The books are full of airships, fights against incredible odds, and monsters with more limbs than they should have. This series is the subject of an upcoming movie, releasing next year, so it's a safe bet that you'll be hearing more about John Carter soon.

One thing I should mention is that, as with many authors from this time period, ERB's books sometimes have racist or sexist references. Most are just in passing, and seem more like ignorant stereotypes than actual malice. The adventure plots are, to me, worth acknowledging the occasional unfortunate moments and moving on, but your mileage may vary.

Only some of his books have become public domain in the US. Here are links to my favorites:

Mars series:
A Princess of Mars
The Gods of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
The Chessmen of Mars

Tarzan series:
Tarzan of the Apes
The Return of Tarzan

More ERB public domain titles

photo by Chris Goldberg used under Creative Commons

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