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The best free New York Public Library books to check out right now

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

With more than 30,000 titles available to download from the New York Public Library's e-reader SimplyE, it can be hard to know which books are worth your while.

We're here to help! Using the NYPL librarian's recommendations from their "125 Books We Love" list (which celebrates the library's 125th year), their winter recommendations, and a list of titles they say will help you get back into reading, we've come up with eight books you'll want to add to your reading round-up and download to your kindle or phone.

The only requirement is that you need to be a New York City resident with a library card, which you can apply for on SimplyE. 

  1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson Ursula Todd is reborn again and again as the world gears up for World War I. Will she use her numerous lives to save the world? Reviewers say it's "Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original."
  2. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem Lionel Essrog and his friends, the Minna Men,  comb the streets in search of the person who killed a member of their community. The NYPL says it's fast-paced, suspenseful and witty.
  3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon Artist Joe Kavalier escapes from Nazi-occupied Prague in 1939 and resettles in New York City as a comic book collaborator, with plans to make enough money to bring his family to freedom. The NYPL says it's intricately plotted, engaging and moving.
  4. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Angelou's autobiography is a "superbly told," bittersweet and inspiring tale of her life growing up in Arkansas, the NYPL notes.
  5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson The mother of gothic literature thrills the reader with a terrifying tale about hauntings inside a mansion that is seemingly alive with spirits. The story has been made into a Netflix series, which is set to debut its second season soon.
  6. Exhalation by Ted Chiang This collection of nine stories by the author of the book behind the film Arrival poses big questions about the role technology plays in our lives and in our universe.
  7. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier A classic gothic/romantic tale that follows a young girl who becomes the second Mrs. Max de Winter but finds out the memory of the first, Rebecca, still dominates the house and its occupants. It is deliciously suspenseful.
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler An 18-year-old African American woman has a hereditary trait that causes her to feel others' pain and flees northward from her small community that is suffering from the devastating effects of climate change and economic crises.

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