The first consideration is cost. Do you have access to Adobe Fonts? If yes, skip to part 3.
Do you rent fonts from Fontstand? Yes? Skip ahead to part 3 .
Have you purchased a design cuts bundle with a decent serif? Feel free to skip ahead to part 3 if you said yes.
Have you budgeted for a commercial license for a typeface? If yes, skip ahead to part 3.
Now, if the answer to all of those questions was no, it’s not the end of the world. There are good options available with an open font license. They might not be the best choice for your project, but they are still a good choice.
EB Garamond. I already mentioned this option.
Alegreya by Huerta Type. A large font family that was originally designed as a professional typeface with a free version. Eventually they did away with the free version and made the Professional version free with a donation model. If you don’t want to donate, you don’t have to. However, if you find yourself using this typeface and the many font files a lot, consider donating a few dollars now and then. I try to donate each time I use it. Quite frankly, this typeface is as good as many of the commercial options.
ET Book. This is the free version of Bembo. For the most part you’ll be fine with just the regular and italic fonts, but if you are using lining figures, grab the OSF file too. And if you want to use small caps, get the expert file. This is what I would call a good typeface with advanced font files. You have to do a little playing around to know which font you want to use depending on your needs.
In my experience, these three are the best free options available as all three are specifically designed for print and to be used in books. Sure, there are lots of recommendations out there for free typefaces, especially with Google Fonts, but I have issues with those recommendations. Crimson Text is a beautiful typeface, but the font file is shit. The kerning pairs are a mess and there is no easy fix for it. Plus, some earlier versions of the font file cause problems with POD printers and don’t print certain letters. Do NOT use Crimson Text unless you are a kerning genius and plan to use an off-set printer. Fanwood, another frequently recommended typeface, was designed to be used on a Kindle. Not a screen, not paper, but a Kindle with e-ink. If someone recommends a typeface available with an OFL, I recommend doing a little research before jumping in using the font files. It will save you a huge headache going forward.