Over his lifetime Eric Arthur Blair, who came to use the pen name George Orwell, wrote a total of nine books. Six of these were fiction and three were non-fiction. Since then, countless books have been written about the author and various volumes of his life’s history, beliefs, and compiled writings been published.
Orwell is remembered today for his clear vision of a possible future, much of which has come to pass. He has left an obvious and unavoidable impact on the literary world, making poplar the genre of dystopian fiction and inspiring writers to consider other futures that humankind should do its best to avoid.
Orwell finished his best-known novel in 1948. It was published a year later in 1949.
The novel follows the story of Winston Smith, one man in the middle of a fascist super-state known as Oceania. In what used to be England, Winston struggles with his everyday life as he’s forced to conform to the “Party’s” standards. The Party is lead by a mysterious figure known only as Big Brother and it requires all citizens, with the threat of torture and death, to remain loyal to the rules of the state.
Winston longs to rebels and eventually gets the opportunity to. While he steps away from the caution that had kept him alive for so long, he also discovers more secrets about the Party, its origins, and its intentions. The novel is considered to be George Orwell’s masterpiece. it was written soon after World War II and is a warning for the future and what could come if society did not keep fascist inclinations in check.
2. Animal Farm
Second in fame only to 1984, Animal Farm is a sometimes humours, mostly disturbing satire on Soviet communism and the Russian Revolution. The novel follows anthropomorphized animals who set out to revel against their owners on a farm. The leads, Snowball and Napoleon, two pigs, take their place as leaders of the revolution. But, before long, the pig’s rule becomes just as tyrannical and dangerous as the farmer’s.
3. Down and Out in Paris and London
This book was written in the late 1920s when Eric Blair had yet to solidify the pen name of “George Orwell”. It chronicles his time living in London and Paris, visiting the darkest and poorest areas of the cities and even getting arrests, on purpose. He speaks on social injustices, poverty, and the cruel nature of society that many do not have to see and usually ignore.
4. Keep Aspidistra Flying
The main character of this novel, Gordon Cosmstock, abandons his life and dedicates himself to writing a novel. An outcast from society, he tries to live beyond the confines of money and societal norms. Cosmstock’s character stands in for Orwell’s own personal beliefs about the nature of society, what is important, and the internal struggle to find a place in life that feels genuine and worthwhile. Cosmstock’s choices in Keep Aspidistra Flying complicate his life, making the freedom he was seeking at the beginning of the novel all the more difficult to uncover.
5. Homage to Catalonia
This novel is another autobiographical book. It describes Orwell’s time in Spain, fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. He traveled to Spain, originally, to report on the conflict but ended up joining in and eventually being charged with treason. The novel shows Orwell fighting, risking his life, in order to fight for the ideals that are at the forefront of his novel 1984.
6. Burmese Days
Burmese Days is yet another autobiographical novel that Orwell wrote about a period of his life. It was written in 1934 and tells the story of a character named John Flory, living in South East Asia under British rule. He moves through different societal groups, allowing the reader insight into the worlds that Orwell knew when he was working for the Indian Imperial Police as a young man.
7. A Clergyman’s Daughter
This novel tells the story of Dorothy Hare, the daughter that the title refers to. She moves from day to day, living as a spinster, doing what is required of her. Suddenly, everything changes when she starts to experience amnesia. The rest of the book chronicles her attempts to reassemble her life while also encountering corruption and societal inequities.
8. Coming Up for Air
In this story, the main character George Bowling visits his home town and discovers the changes that have come over it. Physical and emotional changes rock his understanding of a world that is on the brink of war. This novel taps not themes of loss, memory, and nostalgia as it tracks one man’s attempts to understand the world he’s now living in.
9. The Road to Wigan Pier
This non-fiction book is set in the years prior to World War II. In it, Orwell follows the lives of hardworking, miners and their families in Northern England. He weaves in the concepts of socialism and the ways that this social, political and ideological belief system might change their worlds for the better.