If you've read my book Luxury of Less (unavailable right now) you know I've been influenced by a little ancient text known as Go Rin no Sho (aka The Book of Five Rings) by Miyamoto Musashi. Since I've been having a lot of free time to read on the trains/buses here in Chicago I started re-reading it again and it gave me the idea for this list of freely available books that have positively affected many lives.

All of these books were written before you or I were born and you may have even read some of them. They have all heavily influenced our current society based on the simple fact that they influenced so many people in the past.

Rules when making this list:

1) The book has to be available for free in the public domain. I use the Stanza and Kindle apps on my iPod Touch to read these books and many others.

2) I had to have read it at some point in my life.

That means that hundreds, likely thousands, of great books aren't fit for this list. That's cool. If I'm missing a book you have read (not just heard of or read a few pages) please list it in the comments below with a link to the download. Only legal public domain books please.

The List

1) Go Rin no Sho (The Book of Five Rings) by Miyamoto Musashi

I don't know where to start on this book. If I had to choose 5 books to take to a deserted island this would be one of them. It's not often that I want to read a book over ... and over ... and over.

The Book of Five Rings is technically about Samurai strategy (in other words, how to kill people), but it's much deeper than that.

Also available for your iPod Touch or other eBook reader for free here.

2) Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The ultimate guide to minimalism.

3) Tao Te Ching by Laozi

A very easy read. Influential and highly recommended.

4) On The Origin Of The Species by Charles Darwin

Back in 2009 while in Brisbane, QLD, Australia (loved that place; hoping for the best with the current flooding) I went to an exhibit at the museum called Charles Darwin: The Reluctant Revolutionary. It was fascinating and this book is his most well known, and most influential, work.

5) The Antichrist by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Nietzsche was an intense man. This book is not about Satan. ;) (You know, because there is no Satan.)

6) The Einstein Theory of Relativity by Hendrik Antoon Lorentz

How many times have you heard the Theory of Relativity mentioned throughout your life? Here is a version that normal people like me can understand a little better. :)

7) The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Way more influential worldwide than The Book of Five Rings, but I'm not as big a fan.

8) The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana

This was available in every shop or street stall I passed in India. You've probably heard of it. ;)

9) The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie

Carnegie's far more well-known book is How To Win Friends and Influence People. The Art of Public Speaking, however, was a greater help to me personally. I read it back in the days when I was a member of Toastmasters. Fun times. I want to do more public speaking and I feel like a re-read is in order.

10) The United States Constitution

This obviously isn't a book. I've listed it here less because it's life-changing, but more because I wonder how many citizens of the US have actually read it?

11) On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau appears twice on this list because he is just that much of a bad ass. I just finished reading Civil Disobedience a few days ago. Much like Walden it's not the easiest read, but I enjoyed it.

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To find out if one of your favorite books is in the public domain check gutenberg.org or feedbooks.com. They're not the end all and be all, but it's a good start. Hit me with a public domain book that has positively influenced you or the world below ...

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