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A Guide to All 10 George Orwell Books

Born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903, George Orwell has had a substantial impact on both popular culture and the literary world—you know you’ve made it when people use your last name as an adjective (see: “Orwelllian”). We also have him to thank for words like “newspeak,” “doublespeak,” “Big Brother” and even “bellyfeel.”

A democratic socialist, Orwell never hesitated to express his political beliefs through his writing. Whether he was criticizing totalitarian governments, classism, or poverty, his books pointed out ugly-but-important truths about 20th-century life. And given the state of our modern-day world (and the return of 1984 to best-seller lists after the 2016 election), it’s safe to say his works are as relevant as ever. We doubt Orwell would be surprised by this turn of events—as he once said, “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

Of course, while 1984 and Animal Farm are pillars of high school literature curriculums, there are other George Orwell books worth exploring. Below, you’ll find the usual Orwell staples, but you’ll also learn about the rest of his notable novels, essay collections, and memoirs.

Fiction

1. Burmese Days (1934)

Inspired by his days as an imperial police officer in Burma, Orwell wrote this 1934 novel over the course of several years. It focuses on John Flory, a 30-something timber merchant living in British-ruled Southeast Asia . As a white man, he’s respected within the community, but he’s also gained a respect for the native Burmese culture. Still, he spends much of his time schmoozing at the European Club—a group of other privileged white men with much more narrow-minded beliefs. Over glasses of whisky, the members must decide if they should welcome John’s friend, a prominent Indian doctor, into their exclusive circle. Their debate sets the stage for Orwell’s criticism of British imperialism, as John waffles between his new friendships and his loyalty to the British empire. Read More.
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2. A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935)

Dorothy Hare’s life is simple but unfulfilling: She’s the daughter of an ungrateful clergyman, whose Suffolk home she dutifully tends. She makes costumes for church events, warding off the financial perils of the Depression era. She’s also a spinster with nothing that truly belongs to her alone. Everything falls apart when she’s struck by a sudden bout of amnesia—and comes to in the streets of London with little money and no memory. Dorothy’s quest to reassemble the pieces of her forgotten past will introduce her to fresh horrors, while rumors of romantic scandal spread throughout the Suffolk countryside. If the novel sounds bleak, it’s because it is—though it’s also an unflinching attack on capitalism and corrupt institutions. Read More.
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3. Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)

In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Orwell creates a protagonist in his own image. Gordon Comstock is a copywriter at an advertising agency who’s become increasingly frustrated with the materialism in his life and industry. He quits—then takes a lower-paying job that allows him to pursue his passion for poetry. While his new lifestyle and credo look good on paper, reality eventually sets in: As he approaches poverty and is drained of creative inspiration, Gordon begins to question if money is as overrated as he initially believed. Read More.
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4. Coming Up for Air (1939)

As George Bowling travels to his boyhood home, old memories start to resurface. He dwells on the beloved landmarks of his past—from a quaint English village to a picturesque pool—only to realize that they’ve changed dramatically in his absence. These discoveries reaffirm his belief that another world war is on the horizon, stirring an even greater longing for his yesteryears and an even greater fear of the future. A novel about memory, loss, and time, Coming Up for Air masterfully captures the power and bittersweetness of nostalgia. Read More.
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5. Animal Farm (1945)

In what is perhaps the most famous George Orwell book, an army of farm animals plans a revolt against their human owner, with two young pigs—Snowball and Napoleon—as their leaders. They succeed, but it isn’t long before corruption sinks its claws into their newfound utopia: Overcome by greed and a desire for power, Napoleon turns on Snowflake to gain absolute control of Manor Farm. Technically a novella. Animal Farm is an allegorical take on the inciting events of the Russian Revolution and an unapologetic statement against Stalinism. Read More.
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