Call us nerds, but we think the absolute best way to spend an afternoon is reading. And during this time of uncertainty and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s important to find books and short stories that make us happy–and ideally, transport us to a different world (one without COVID-19!).

We’ve put together a list of our five favorite sites for reading (and listening to) great books without needing to pay for anything. In no particular order, here they are:

1. Wattpad

Wattpad might be one of the biggest online reading sites out there. The reason for its popularity is that every activity you do on this site is free of charge. All you need to do is create an account to access everything that Wattpad has to offer. These big features allow you to be able to read any of the books on offer, or even publish your own. Some books include The Hunger Games, Paulo Coelho’s short stories, and all of Margaret Atwood’s works.

It’s a great place for budding writers to be recognized as well. A little-known fact about Wattpad: there have been many books on this platform that have been turned into actual printed books and even movies. For example, Captive by Gabrielle Estres has been printed as a book–and the same with The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles; in fact, it’s even been turned into a movie.

Wattpad is also available for download on both IOS and Android, allowing you to read on the go.

2. Smashwords

Image Source: Self-Publishing Advice Center.

Smashwords is a website that has both paid and free books. (You can access the free books by creating an account.) The site offers a wide variety of genres that you can choose from, with over 70,000 titles you can access for free.

This website even allows you to manage your own personal library, where you can add books that you are currently reading or ones that you want to read in the future to keep them organized. Like Wattpad, Smashwords also gives you the ability to publish your own books. Even cooler, you can put a price on the books that you publish and earn money from it.

You can check out the website and make an account here.

3. Open Library

Image Source: Twitter.

Open Library is like it says in its name: a library that is online. This means you are allowed to borrow books from the website for a certain amount of time. The site offers has more than 1 million books of all different genres. If you ever have a specific author or book in mind, this is the site to go to. You can even find textbooks to gather research from, like the kinds of books you use to gather information for an essay you may want/need to write.

In general, Open Library is everything you would want from a reading site: free books of all kinds that anyone can enjoy. What makes it special is the interesting experience of how an “online library” might work.

Start reading now on their official website.

4. Comic Extra

Unlike the other sites that focus mostly on books, Comic Extra is a site where you can read graphic novels for free. It has tons of different comics– some you may have already heard of, like Daredevil or Injustice.

One of the perks of this site is that it doesn’t require you to create an account to be able to access content. It also gives you daily updates on the newly published episodes of the comics you are reading. It is a great website if you enjoy reading Marvel or DC Comics.

If you are interested, take a look at the website here.

5. Google Books

Image Source: Book Business.

Google Books offers you a whole selection of free and paid books to read in Google Play. It is a great place to find well-written, good quality books by different authors. From romance to thrillers to historical literature, there are all sorts of genres on this app. And even for the books that are not free, you can get a sample of the first few chapters of the book. If you like it enough, you can choose to buy it.

Another plus of Google Books is that you can download Google Play on your phone and read books from there instead.

Bonus: Audible Audio Books

If you’re more of an audio book person, Audible is a great option. And while students are stuck at home, the company has decided to provide hundreds of free stories to keep us entertained! Click here to browse the 67 “teen” books.

AISB’s Zoom Book Club

If you love reading and are looking for something to do during flex time, AISB librarian Traci Marlowe is hosting virtual book club meetings for MYP students. On Mondays from 2-3pm, 6th graders will meet, Tuesdays are reserved for grade 7 students, Wednesdays for 8th graders, Thursday 9th graders and Friday is for sophomores. If you’re interested, Sign up here!

When asked how she felt about the importance of reading during this time, Marlowe responded with this picture, along with the quote, “Can’t go outside but you don’t have to stay here either!”

We hope all our readers are doing okay. These are strange times, but reading is one way to “escape.”

If you have any sites we missed, or a good book recommendation, leave a comment below!