The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien

The epic of all epics

What can be said about The Lord of the Rings (LotR) that hasn’t already been said? It is at or near the top of almost all “best novels” lists, including the top 100 reading list that can be found in this blog. It has apparently sold over 150 million copies and been translated into 56 languages. Lord of the Rings is considered in the high-fantasy epic genre/style but has appealed to many who don’t usually read fantasy novels.

If you haven’t read the book(s), then it’s likely you’ve seen the movie adaptations – or at least are familiar with the topics and themes due to its prevalence in pop culture. Because of that, I won’t go into much detail about such things. Even if I wanted to, it would be really difficult to try and fit a short and sweet summary into a single paragraph or two, especially since this novel clocks in at over 1100 pages in total (!) and is usually broken up into three volumes. This novel is probably the best illustration of the “hero’s journey” type of story that I’ve encountered.


I had put off reading this book until just recently due to the sheer length of it. I’m glad I finally decided to check it out. I highly recommend it, but feel that I need to make a disclaimer. There are times in the course of the story where it feels a little bogged down in the details and can be hard to follow along with all the various names and places (especially since characters and places often have multiple names that are used interchangeably). This might frustrate some readers to the point that they can’t fully enjoy the story.

Here’s a link to the Wiki article on the book. You can learn more about Tolkien (and find ways to connect with fans across the globe) on the Tolkien Society website.


Rebuilding A Reading Habit

Guest post from Aaron Eischeid

For 2019, as part of a goal to develop a habit of reading more, I set an objective to finish one book per month. This turned out to be a good pace for me, and having that goal in mind helped me on many occasions decide to pick up the same book I was already reading rather than get sucked off into deciding what I felt like reading at that particular moment. In other words, it pushed me to be content with what I had already decided was worth reading, and actually read it, instead of getting mired by analysis of potential new books for 30 minutes, and then not really getting into reading anything.

I don’t know why it is but a different book always sounds more enticing than the book I already am in the midst of. For whatever reason this goal of actually finishing 1 per month helped get me beyond that just a bit. YMMV.

I ended up slightly past my goal, but maybe some of this was cheating, at least three or four of these were started prior to 2019. I’ll offer a mini review of each (in no particular order) – including why I read it, thoughts & impressions, and recommendation

  • The Broken Earth Trilogy (#2 The Obelisk Gate, #3 The Stone Sky ) – N K Jemisin
    • I had already read book one and liked it.
    • Good character and world building. Nice blend of sci-fi and fantasy genres. My first Novel with female main characters in … I don’t know, too long I guess.
    • It’s a good trilogy, but the books don’t stand well individually in my opinion, so if you’re looking for a long story this fits the bill, but not so much if you just want to dabble.
  • It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work – Jason Fried, David Heinemeier-Hansson
    • Working in web-development there is a lot of hype around the hustle culture or startup mentality that I have never been very comfortable with
    • These guys do a nice job calling BS on a lot of the bad practices of tech companies in particular but they also mostly speak from a position of having already ‘made it’. That weakens things a bit. Also there is a noticeable lack of advice to those legitimately struggling to make it not because of bad products or company culture but because current economic systems or environments are stacked against them.
    • Probably a worthwhile read if you work in software at all – I don’t know of any others in that space writing as consistently from this angle
  • Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the WorldAnand Giridharadas
    • Think I saw a retweet of something poignant that Anand said, followed some links, came upon the book, read the premise and decided to get it.
    • This was one of those books that while reading I would have to get up pace around and mutter about under my breath to talk myself down a bit. He really pulls back the curtain on the way the rich and powerful are yanking us all around, and it is a little hard to just sit there and read it.
    • This book is important. If you care about politics or how the world is shaped in any way you should, at the very least, get to know the core argument. The book really does flesh out the bones of the core argument in a way that maybe only a book can. So it’s definitely worth reading.
  • The War On Normal People – Andrew Yang
    • UBI is a great idea. Yang is the first presidential candidate I know of to make this a core policy position, so when I heard he had a book related to UBI I snagged it from the library.
    • His focus is automation along with its second and third order effects, and thus his case for UBI, in the book at least, is primarily one of practicality for a changing economy. A rather important and convincing line of reasoning. Previously I saw UBI as more of a solution to poverty and wealth inequality the current context, or that of the recent past, he helped convince me our economic context is already in the initial stages of radical change, and if we don’t make some moves soon the poverty and wealth inequality problems are going to increase exponentially.
    • I reviewed this one more thoroughly here
    • Maybe. There is a lot of material out there that might be better or more expedient than the book at this point. Yang is still in the race for the nomination, so if you’re in the US I’d definitely recommend checking out what he has to say one way or another before your chance to vote in your local caucus or primaries passes.
  • Team Human – Douglas Rushkoff
    • Sean shared a podcast episode, I wanted to hear more. Found it at the library
    • Enjoyed and can get behind the spirit of this one for the most part. A strong and unnecessary tie-in to evolutionary psychology was off putting to me. There’s a resemblance to Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society in some of the core ideas. Of course contemporary examples and language give these ideas some new appeal no doubt.
    • Maybe, if you’re not already skeptical of mass media, automation, and algorithms and their unhealthy influences in our lives then at least check out the podcast by the same name, if you already are a skeptic, like me, and really want to entrench these ideas with some deeper philosophical underpinnings, then maybe check out some contemporary analysis of Ellul on YouTube instead.
  • Utopia For RealistsRutger Bregman
    • Referenced in some of my online reading on UBI, and saw some quotes from the book on twitter – the title is intriguing all by itself!
    • Lots of interesting history, and good discussion of some big ideas.
    • Sure, even if you already believe in UBI or open borders or other such things there is probably some new good info to bolster your positions. If you don’t even know what those things are also a concise enough to be a good introduction, as you won’t get bogged down or bored by details.
  • The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
    • I think I saw this one in an airport bookstore a couple years ago, had started reading it on the plane, but never finished for no good reason.
    • Given I studied Psych in college I found a couple of the more recent case stories very interesting. At least one of these will almost certainly be in learning and memory psychology textbooks in the future. On the other hand all the business-oriented stories about how marketing teams cleverly manipulated peoples behavior annoyed me as they were portrayed in much too positive a light.
    • This book could have been a TED talk. It’s good core idea, but it didn’t need to be stretched into a full book
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
    • Honestly just picked this one up because it seemed popular and potentially irreverently funny
    • The irreverence wears thin, the self-help advice is not bad, but pretty surface level – mostly get priorities straight, and ignore the haters kind of stuff – very meh to me, but I guess it appeals to a lot of people, and if it helps them get priorities in order and lose some anxiety then, cool, I guess.
    • Nah – I regret putting the time in on this one.
  • The Dispossessed – Ursula K Le Guin
    • Sean read one of her books and talked it up. I saw part of a PBS special about her and was intrigued. Was looking for a novel as a change of pace.
    • Was slow going getting into it, but think that had more to do with personal issues that just happened to coincide. So glad I pushed through the first couple chapters. Honestly one of top 10 novels I’ve read in my life. Maybe top 5. Why dystopian novels like 1984 or Brave New World got so popular, but this is relatively unheard of is something I can’t explain well. Such good writing and ultimately a much more hopeful message
    • Yes, Strongly recommend. It is part of a (loosely defined) series apparently, but it stands alone just fine
  • 12 Hours of Sleep By 12 Weeks – Suzy Giordano, Lisa Abidin
    • We had a baby in August. Have other children too. The best simple advice as a parent is you need a plan of attack for sleep. We’d tried other ideas with some success with our other kids, but were open to alternative approaches. This was recommended and fit that qualifier
    • Good philosophically. Detailed plan kind of book, but the strong lean, near reliance, on bottle feeding made some of the plan just not doable or practical for us. This baby just didn’t do well with a bottle. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    • It’s worth checking out if you have a new baby to deal with sometime soon, but don’t make it your only resource on the subject.
  • Male Sexuality: Why Women Don’t Understand It – And Men Don’t Either – Michael J Bader
    • Just stumbled across this at the library a few years back. Only skimmed some parts before had to return, but remembered it was one I had wanted to come back to.
    • Some really novel thoughts, a lot that made sense, a bit that was a stretch. Overall very good stuff to contemplate, and some trailheads for paths of serious introspection are identified. Towards the end there is a section about the troubling lack of comprehension for pedophiles and similar deviant fantasy or behavior. Its not an appeal for leniency towards abusers, yet some will find his comparatively compassionate ideas probably appalling. I think his message there is quite important.
    • If you are willing or wanting to get introspective about your own or your partner’s sexual thoughts and motivations this will give you some really good stuff to chew on for sure.
  • The Case Against SugarGary Taubes
    • I get emails about discounts on ebooks. This one was on sale for 1.99 or .99 and the little blurb sounded interesting
    • Long, but mostly in a thorough positive sense, as in it builds the case stronger with proper nuance, and without assuming too much prior knowledge. His conclusions are not oversold. Sugar, in the quantities the average person consumes it, is a serious problem. There are lots of important reasons the western diet came to be what it was, and remains what it is. Failing to understand all that would probably mean a failure to change them long term. An interesting blend of nutrition science, history, and politics. Also, the chapter on the role sugar played in cigarettes was almost literally jaw dropping for me.
    • Recommend, but understand its not for everyone. Seems like pretty crucial reading if you want to understand the modern obesity crises, and its associated illnesses like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, holistically. On the other hand, If you’re one who can simply take advice on authority, then one takeaway piece of advice would be cut your sugar intake WAY down. A second, to be skeptical of most modern health or nutrition advocates that aren’t giving that advice as step one. For example the pervasive “exercise more” or “eat less” messages – this is essentially sugar industry propaganda at work.
  • How To Change Your Mind – Michael Pollan
    • Heard an interview with the author on the radio not long after a discussion on personality types and their in-plasticity – lack of plasticity? un-plasticness? rigidity? well, anyway.
    • I didn’t really enjoy the long winded tangents and character introductions littered throughout, but a friend listened to the audiobook at the same time I was reading it, and he appreciated that rambling style in that format. Plenty of surprising psychology history, and the premise that psychedelics have may have an important function is just really interesting. Not being much of a mystical person or experimenter in those things I found it difficult to relate to some of the ineffable experiences he tried to relay.
    • If there were a condensed version I would be much more apt to suggest this one, the core content is good. Paul Stamets is one of the people interviewed and has a book that I also borrowed from the library, Mycelium Running – I didn’t “read” that one, only skimmed, which is why it doesn’t have a proper entry in this list. Lots of fascinating pictures with captions. My kids were also into it! I might recommend Paul’s book over this one. Torn on that. They definitely cover different stuff though.
  • On Freedom, Love, And Power – Jacques Ellul
    • I was looking for something more on the theological side of things from this guy
    • Meandering commentary on Genesis, Job, and Revelation. I feel like it was interspersed with some insightful stuff, but I also remember thinking some was pretty off base. Honestly, I read this one early in the year, and there just isn’t much that stuck with me
    • Nope. Wouldn’t call it a bad read, but there are just so many better.

That does it for my lightning reviews. Maybe this year I will try not to procrastinate writing these out. Probably better on the whole to get these out while they are fresh, but on the other hand it is interesting to mentally re-visit the book later on. It shouldn’t be surprising to find my opinion of a book can evolve a bit with time, after giving the new ideas time to digest just a bit and mix well with the other new ideas etc.

I plan to follow this post up with two more related to the building a habit of reading. One on utilizing books with daily entries, and one about filling in some practical details and lessons learned as I venture to achieve the seemingly simple goal of finishing one book a month again in 2020.

Stories of Your Life and Others – Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang Stories book cover

A superb collection of short stories that will make you think

This book is a collection of short stories (all but one in this collection have been published previously) from author Ted Chiang. Mr Chiang is a multiple-time winner of the Nebula and Hugo awards, as well as other awards for excellent science fiction and short story writing. Most of the stories in this book are set in the future or in some type of alternate reality. Much like author Le Guin and The Left Hand of Darkness, this isn’t your typical sci-fi or fantasy writing. The blockbuster movie Arrival was based on the title story in this book, The Story of Your Life.


Consciousness – what if there was an alien race that experienced reality and consciousness different from humans? What would that look like and what would it mean?

Faith/Religion – what does true devotion mean and how would we live in a world where the supernatural was an everyday part of life for all?

Scientific progress – what are the potential ramifications that we could face with various advances in technology? What are the possible ethical and moral issues we might encounter if our technology advances faster than our humanity?


I really enjoyed this book and these stories. Not only are they well written, but they also make you think about some part of life/humanity in a new way. I felt this same way when reading Ursula Le Guin. Most of the stories here start with the premise of something along the lines of “what if this one thing was different – how would that change things?” The book is scientific and philosophical without being too heady. Plus, I think that the short story format is a really nice change of pace from reading novels.

Here’s a wiki link to learn more about this book. Here’s a link to the wiki page for author Ted Chiang, since it doesn’t appear that he has a website.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

animal farm george orwell book cover

A novel of political satire depicting the Soviet Union under Stalin

Animal Farm, by George Orwell, is parody or allegorical telling of the Russian Revolution and aftermath, in a fairy tale style setting. It is a very popular book that is often included in many “best novels” lists, including the list I posted previously – the top 100 reading list – which you can find here. It was written during the latter part of World War II but the author originally had difficulty finding a publisher as the USSR was an ally of England at that time. The book became very popular after the war, especially as the Cold War began to intensify.

Here’s a good description of the author’s background and purpose of the book, from Wikipedia:

According to Orwell, the fable reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Orwell, a democratic socialist, was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, an attitude that was critically shaped by his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. The Soviet Union, he believed, had become a brutal dictatorship, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror. In a letter to Yvonne Davet, Orwell described Animal Farm as a satirical tale against Stalin (“un conte satirique contre Staline”), and in his essay “Why I Write” (1946), wrote that Animal Farm was the first book in which he tried, with full consciousness of what he was doing, “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole”.

Wikipedia Animal Farm entry –


Inequality – The farm animals suffered greatly under the mismanagement of Mr Jones, the original owner of the farm and land. The lack of care provided and abuse from Mr Jones is what leads to the initial revolt by the animals. In the early part of the rebellion, animal equality is enshrined as part of the 7 commandments.

Corruption of power – The pigs become the early leaders and organizers of the rebellion and during the transition to animal takeover of the farm. But slowly one particular pig begins to exert more and more influence and begins to use his power to banish and kill any animal who would question him. This new ruling party begins to violate almost all of the 7 commandments and to make revisions so as to justify their behavior.

Influence of propaganda – One pig in particular, Squealer, is the main instrument of propaganda. He is the one who changes the commandments and gives the official orders to stop singing the song of rebellion, alter the history of the rebellion, and spread rumors to make Snowball the enemy and Napoleon the true hero.

Hypocrisy of the Soviet Union – If you are able to get a version that contains the preface and appendix that Orwell wrote to go with this book, you’ll see his reasons for why he portrayed Stalin and the USSR in such unflattering terms. At the initial time of writing, very few were willing to acknowledge the gigantic hypocrisy happening under Stalin and how the initial Russian Revolution, which was supposed to help the peasants, had instead turned into a corruption of power and a ruling party that stood against many of the things that the Revolution fought against.


This is an interesting book and an easy read. As an allegory, it is a warning of how quickly power can corrupt and the horrible things that can happen under totalitarian rule. In that way, this novel is similar in warning to Orwell’s later book, 1984. Personally, I found 1984 to be a much more compelling book and prefer it to Animal Farm. But still, I feel like this book is important as a piece of satire, especially considering the time it was written. If you aren’t familiar with Russian history, the Wiki link included below will help you to identify the animals and events portrayed in this book. It felt a bit slow developing in parts, but I liked it overall.

Here’s a link to the Wiki page for Animal Farm.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 book cover

A dystopian novel where firemen burn books instead of putting out fires

“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…” is the tagline for this classic, best-selling book by Ray Bradbury. In this future, dystopian land, firemen burn books instead of put out fires. This short novel is often included in many of the “best fiction” lists out there. It has also been targeted for banning/censorship.

I’d place this book, alongside 1984 and Brave New World, as the founding trinity of dystopian novels. Fahrenheit 451 has elements of both. It’s dark, but not nearly as dark as Orwell – and has some of the entertain-them-to-death feel as Huxley’s satire.


Censorship – This is a book about literal book burning, written during the era of the communist scare and Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. In this future world, knowledge is dangerous (especially books). Firemen go out and burn all the books they can find.

Population control through mass media – Similarly to Brave New World, the public is kept busy with sensationalist media and constant preoccupation with technology. If you keep people busy and their minds occupied, they will have no reason to want to read or even think on their own.


I liked this book and can see why it is often listed by people as a must read book. It’s not long at all and is an easy read. I find it highly ironic that a book which shows the dangers of censorship has been targeted and people have attempted to have it banned. I must say that a future like this would be absolute hell for introverts like myself.

You can find the book on Amazon here. Wiki link is here.

There There – Tommy Orange

There There book cover

A novel about urban Native life in Oakland, but so much more

This novel comes out swinging with a powerful prologue then takes you on a journey into the urban Native experience. It covers the rollercoaster of human experience and addresses many of the stereotypes and discrimination that Indigenous people currently face, as well as the long list of abuses and genocide they have experienced. I am astounded that this brilliant and powerful novel is the first from author Tommy Orange. It feels like an epic in many ways, something on the level of East of Eden by Steinbeck. It’s no surprise that “There There” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

A compassionate debut that, through 12 Native American narrators making their way to a California powwow, offers a chorus of voices struggling with questions of identity and authenticity.

Pulitzer Prize website –


Native/Indigenous history and culture – The author explains the history of abuses, massacres, and attempts by the US government to wipe out anything Native American – things that aren’t often fully taught (or taught at all) in American schools today. Tommy Orange explores how this history has forever changed the cultures of current-day tribes and Indigenous people.

Identity and Authenticity – Almost all of the characters struggle to find some type of identity. Several are from mixed backgrounds and/or don’t have a relationship with their Native biological parents. Others are trying to reconnect with their heritage, but are faced with self-doubts and the tension of feelings about reconnecting.


This is a must-read book. It will likely be painful to read. Painful for those who have experienced the ugliness that comes from racism, discrimination, poverty, addiction, and violence. Also painful for those who didn’t realize that these things are current issues, not some artifact from the past. It is both eye-opening and soul-opening. Some books take you on a journey and have the power to change you in the process. I believe “There There” is one of those books. Highly recommended.

I couldn’t find a website for the author. I’ll update this section if/when I do. It appears that he has a Twitter account. Here’s a Wiki link to the page on the novel.

The Left Hand Of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

ursula le guin left hand of darkness book cover

A Sci-Fi epic that challenges how you look at humanity

This novel is a wild mix of science fiction and fantasy that took me along for an interesting journey. It is complex, contains action and adventure, and does a fascinating job of showing how tricky it can be when trying to communicate across cultures. If you can get a newer edition and read the author’s introduction, you might find that alone to be worth getting the book (I thoroughly enjoyed it!). The Left Hand Of Darkness won two “Best Novel” awards in 1970 – the Nebula Award (determined by the Science Fiction Writers of America) and the Hugo Award (determined by science fiction fans).


Gender – Without giving too much away, I’ll say that this book presents gender in a unique way that will challenge many readers to think differently. What would a society look like where gender was eliminated? The author presents such a society and takes you on a journey.

Cross-cultural communication – Communicating with others isn’t an easy task, especially when you don’t understand the way that culture influences communication. This becomes even more difficult when you take in nonverbal communication and other subtleties. Faulty assumptions and misunderstandings are bound to happen in such scenarios.

Prejudice – The protagonist faces prejudice and shows prejudice on how he interacts with the people he is supposed to communicate with. He is flawed in many ways and this helps to illustrate the problems associated with prejudice.


This is a great science fiction novel. But it’s more than that. It’s great at character development, addressing issues in a unique way, and challenging the reader to re-examine how they think/look at the world. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. If you have read and enjoyed Dune, please give this one a shot. Even if you don’t normally like sci-fi, I think you might love this book. As I mentioned earlier, the author introduction alone was worth it for me.

Link to the book on Amazon. Wiki link here.

Turtles All the Way Down – John Green

turtles all the way down book cover john green

A young adult novel about life, love, and living with mental illness

You might be tempted to skip over this book because it is classified as a “young adult” novel. Please take a moment to let me explain not only why I really love this book, but also why I think it is an important book to read. The world is overflowing with young adult coming of age novels that are filled with cliches, cheesy teen romances, and neat, happy endings – this isn’t one of those books.

Aza, the protagonist, struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. The author does a fantastic job of taking you on a journey to help you see and feel what it is like to live with a mental illness. It is a very personal and vulnerable book, as well as a good story. Consider this quote from a review of the book:

“In an age where troubling events happen almost weekly, this deeply empathetic novel about learning to live with demons and love one’s imperfect self is timely and important.”

Publishers Weekly


Mental illness – the main character struggles with intrusive thoughts and compulsive actions. She knows the obsessions and compulsions are irrational, but has difficulty controlling them.

The self – who are you at your core? What makes you, you? These questions are asked again and again by different characters in different ways.

Grief – characters in the book deal with grief in different ways. Some are more socially acceptable and healthier than others.


I love this book. I can relate to it. If you know someone who struggles with mental illness, maybe this book will help you to have a better understanding of what it feels like to be in their shoes. Maybe you are the one who struggles and this book will help you to feel like you’re not alone in the world. The characters are rough around the edges, the relationships complicated, and the pain and grief are real. And I love it for that.

Learn more about the author and this book on his website. Here’s the Wiki link to this book.

Lastly, if you are struggling with mental illness and/or mental health issues, please know that help and hope are possible. Here are some resources:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: get help right now by calling 800-273-8255

National Alliance on Mental Illness: find support groups and helpful info

To Write Love On Her Arms: finding hope and help through story sharing

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

zora neale hurston their eyes book cover

A brilliant novel from an author you may not have heard of before

“Their Eyes Were Watching God”, now recognized as a classic, must-read novel, was originally poorly received and reviewed when it was published in the 1930s. It is a whirlwind that plunges you into what life was like in the early 1900s for people of color, especially women. I guess you could call it a type of “coming of age” novel, as it follows the life of Janie Crawford, the protagonist, as she grows up in the deep South.

Topics and Themes

Race issues: it is hard to miss the racial issues that Janie experiences, especially early in her life. While I would consider gender roles to be the most significant theme of the book, race and racism are portrayed in this novel, though not as thoroughly as To Kill A Mockingbird. Prejudice and racism are nasty things that continue to be embedded in America. Often times, we are not fully aware of how much they impact our culture.

Gender roles: Janie has complicated relationships throughout the book. Women experience many stereotypes and labels today, but even more so for a black woman in the first part of the 20th century. Women in the book are seen as objects and “less than”, not appreciated for what they bring to the relationship or marriage.

Cultural identity: the author uses dialog that contains the typical vernacular of people living in the deep South at that time. This was one of the reasons that the book wasn’t well-received by black (male) authors at the time it was written. It is likely that having a black woman protagonist was yet another reason for the lack of approval. Life in the South, cultural interaction, and social life is displayed throughout the book.


This novel captivated me right from the first page. It took me a little while to get in the flow with reading the dialog between characters. I can see where this could be a turn-off for some readers, especially those who aren’t familiar with the deep South dialect and way of speaking. The characters are well developed and messy around the edges, the story flows well, and I found myself along for the journey when reading this great novel. I can see why this book is often included in “best novels” lists, like the Top 100 post. Personally, I’d rank it much higher.

Link to the book on Amazon. Wiki link here.

1984 – George Orwell

george orwell 1984 novel

A dystopian novel about a future where Big Brother is always watching

Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949 by the author George Orwell, is possibly the definitive dystopian novel. It is a classic, iconic work of literature and many of the words and phrases that Orwell created in this book have become part of our language. If a government or organization is referred to as Orwellian, it means that the thing is sinister, deceptive, manipulative, authoritarian, and/or totalitarian. 1984 is often compared to Brave New World, which was published 17 years earlier.


Government Surveillance – “Big Brother is Watching” posters are everywhere, but it isn’t just a show for intimidation, it’s a fact for those in the Party. The issues and concerns about privacy and government intrusion are even more pressing in our day with the controversial NSA surveillance of citizens.

Authoritarianism – Orwell takes what he’s learned about dictatorships and authoritarian governments, from the fascism of Nazi Germany to the communism of Soviet Russia, and imagines what those could become in the future with the benefit of advanced technology. He shows how authoritarian and totalitarian governments are strikingly similar, even though they may technically come from opposite ideological sides of the political spectrum. The goal is still the same – power and control.

Social Class Hierarchy – The population in the novel is divided into 3 categories and it is explained later in the novel how this structure has been fairly consistent throughout human history since the agricultural revolution. Class struggles are discussed and implied throughout the book.
1. The Inner Party: the elite, comprising a very small percentage of the population
2. The Outer Party: a larger group that encompasses the rest of the official political party members, but still small compared to the overall population (approx 10-15%)
3. The Proletariat: the rest of the population (approx 85%), largely uneducated and often ignored by the Party. Usually referred to as “proles.”

Newspeak – A language created by the Party with the purpose of simplifying and condensing the English language in such a way as to promote their ideology and control. The media is tightly controlled by the party and is filled with propaganda. The Party works around the clock at editing and rewriting history, employing newspeak terms like “doublethink” to distort reality and maintain control over the population.


In many ways, I prefer this book over Brave New World. While BNW is more of a satire or parody, 1984 is much more detailed and developed in its plot and characters. 1984 is darker and haunting (even creepy). Orwell is a first-class writer and I think if you enjoy dystopian novels, you’ll really appreciate this book. This is an important book to read, both for enlightenment and as a cautionary tale of how power corrupts people and governments.

You can find the book on Amazon here. Here’s a link to the Wiki page for this book.