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.


Top 100 Reading List – from Joel Patrick

The “Ultimate List” of books you should read before you die

If you’re looking for ideas on fiction novels to read, you can start by going through this fantastic compilation on Medium called “100 Books to Read before You Die: Creating the Ultimate List.” The author of that post, Joel Patrick, did some significant work analyzing multiple “Top 100” lists by various organizations. Do yourself a favor and check it out. I’m going to only list the books and authors here, but not the rest. I don’t want to plagerize, only to use it for comparison purposes since this blog has already reviewed some of the books included in this list (and will have reviews coming soon on books that are in this list). Please visit the article above and check out the author’s notes on each book.

The Ultimate List: 100 Books to Read before You Die

Again, here’s the link to the article that put together this list – https://medium.com/world-literature/creating-the-ultimate-list-100-books-to-read-before-you-die-45f1b722b2e5

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  7. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
  8. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  9. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. Ulysses by James Joyce
  11. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  12. The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  13. 1984 by George Orwell
  14. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  15. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  16. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  17. A Passage to India by EM Forster
  18. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  19. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  20. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  21. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  22. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  23. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  24. Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  25. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  26. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  27. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  28. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  29. Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes
  30. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  31. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  32. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  33. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  34. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  35. Little Women by Louisa M Alcott
  36. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  37. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  38. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
  39. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  40. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  41. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
  42. A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul
  43. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  44. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  45. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  46. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  47. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  48. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  49. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  50. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  51. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  52. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  53. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  54. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  55. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  56. White Noise by Don DeLillo
  57. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  58. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  59. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  60. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  61. Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin
  62. A Dance to The Music of Time by Anthony Powell
  63. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  64. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  65. Under The Net by Iris Murdoch
  66. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  67. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  68. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
  69. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  70. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  71. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  72. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  73. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  74. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
  75. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  76. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence
  77. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  78. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  79. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  80. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  81. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
  82. Herzog by Saul Bellow
  83. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré
  84. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  85. Money by Martin Amis
  86. Oscar And Lucinda by Peter Carey
  87. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
  88. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  89. Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald
  90. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  91. Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  92. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  93. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  94. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  95. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  96. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  97. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  98. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  99. Watchmen by Alan Moore
  100. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Closing Thoughts

I’ve had quite a few of these on my wish list for some time now. Some I have read, like Ulysses by James Joyce, that I didn’t particularly enjoy and therefore won’t review on this blog. Some, like On The Road by Jack Kerouac, were okay, but they didn’t really click with me personally and I don’t know if I’d recommend/think that people should read them. Others, I have read but have yet to complete a review on them. I’m very thankful to Joel Patrick for putting this list together. I’ll definitely be using it for selecting future fiction books for my personal reading.

Is there a book on here that surprises you? What’s your favorite from this list?

East of Eden – John Steinbeck

book cover john steinbeck east of eden

An epic masterpiece from an iconic author

John Steinbeck is regarded as one of the greatest American authors and East of Eden is his masterpiece work. This book is an epic as it follows a family through 3 generations through the highs and lows of life. Steinbeck has a way of painting the picture in your mind, not only of the rich scenery but also the subtle mannerisms and depth in the characters. This is a heavy book that covers heavy topics.

“It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years. I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.”

John Steinbeck (source here)

Major themes

East of Eden contains a cyclical story arc that also parallels with the story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis. Certain themes and ideas are played out in the book, often in graphic detail. The major themes are:

  1. Human depravity
  2. The search for love and acceptance
  3. Guilt
  4. The battle of good and evil

The author pulls no punches as he explores the depths of depravity, especially through the character Cathy Ames (possibly the greatest villain of all time). The main characters struggle to find family love and acceptance, while at times giving in to their worst impulses.

Final thoughts

While I greatly appreciate the skill and genius it took to compose this masterpiece, it is way too dark for me. The detail in the scenery is beautiful, but the detail of the darkness is overwhelming (for me at least). Samuel Hamilton is my favorite character and there is a lot in this book that is powerful. It really is an excellent novel overall, but the content may be too much for some. I also want to point out a trigger warning of self-harm and suicide in this book.

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

harper lee to kill a mockingbird book cover

The highly controversial and popular book that became a beloved movie

What can I possibly say in this post that hasn’t already been said about the classic American novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, by Harper Lee? It is at the same time one of the most loved and hated books. It has been banned many times in many school libraries but in other places praised as one of the greatest American novels ever. In some ways, this perfectly reflects the time in history that Ms Lee grew up in and was writing about.

Comparing the movie and the book

If you are one of the few people who hasn’t seen the movie that was based on this book, you’re missing out. Gregory Peck’s acting job as Atticus Finch won him an Oscar and is considered by many to be the greatest film hero ever. Those who are not familiar with the book may assume that the movie is just like it. While the movie does capture most of the book, I feel like the book has more depth and humanity. It also develops some of the surrounding characters to a greater depth.

Major themes in To Kill A Mockingbird

Since many people are familiar with the storyline, I wanted to address the major themes in the novel. These are the following:

  1. Southern culture
  2. Racial injustice
  3. Gender roles
  4. Honor/ethics/morality

The use of racial slurs and profanity will shock many readers. It is difficult to see a word so frequently that is now condemned. The book itself is challenging in how it looks at class struggles, racism, culture, and morality. One of the things I appreciate most is that it causes you to ask questions instead of trying to provide nice and neat answers. What is the right thing to do? Why would someone act that way? What drives the behavior of some people, or even the culture at large? How can we have more compassion for the outsiders in society? It is raw at times and representative of the culture. And it isn’t perfect either. It feels very human.

Final thoughts

This is a powerful book. I can see why some consider it to be the most impactful book they have ever read. I can also see how some people who find it offensive or flawed in how it deals with the issues. I believe this book should be at or near the top of any “must read” list. What do you think?