George Orwell was born Eric Blair on June 25th, 1903 in India, and he would later go on to become one of the most important writers of the 20th century. You've probably heard of some of Orwell's work, but if you've never had the chance to read him, these 5 books are a great place to start!
1. Down and Out in Paris and London
Way back before Eric Blair became George Orwell and garnered literary fame by penning his anti-totalitarian novels, he wrote Down and Out in Paris and London. This books is part autobiographical, part fiction, and based on Orwell's own experiences working in Paris and roughing it in Britain. Orwell faced harsh experiences such as homelessness, hunger, and hard labor for little pay, and Down and Out is often considered the marker of a shift toward the political ideas which would become more prominent in his later works.
2. Keep the Apidistra Flying
Keep the Apidistra Flying is another example of Orwell's love for writing characters who chose to rebel against the larger system around them. In this novel, Orwell introduces us to a character that could very well be him: Gordon Cosmstock, a young man who quits his job at an advertising company in order to reject the constraints of society. He decides to live on the margins, and turn his back on the idea of money as the driving factor to life. Like most of Orwell's characters, Gordon comes up against the dominant system, only to ultimately fail and be damaged by it.
3. Homage to Catalonia
In 1936, Orwell journeyed to Spain in order to report on the Spanish Civil War, and ended up joining the fight against fascism instead. The result is the memoire Homage to Catalonia which details Orwell's experiences and the war happening around him. For the first time, Orwell took an active stand and fought for the ideals and political ideas he had been developing over the previous several years. At times a grim account of a war fought with few supplies and an often misplaced idealism, Homage to Catalonia is a rare glimpse into Orwell's life through his own eyes.
4. Animal Farm
In 1945 Europe and Britain were witnessing the end of a brutal World War, and desperately searching for a way back from what had been the near-destruction of the Old World. These massive events heavily influenced one of Orwell's most famous books, Animal Farm. This novella centers around a group of farm animals who decide to overthrow an evil farmer and run the farm as a collective. As an allegory for Stalinism and the failings of the Soviet Union as more totalitarian than socialist, Animal Farm is a scathing criticism on how power can corrupt even the purest of ideas.
It's almost impossible not to have heard about 1984, as this book is often held up as an example of the political shifts we've seen in recent years. Back when it was first published, 1984 was veiwed as an imaginary version of a future where society exists under a harsh totalitarian state. Indeed, certain concepts such as Big Brother (where everything one does is recorded) seems to have come true in our digital internet age. But whether you think our modern society and government is better or worse than that in Orwell's book is up to personal opinion. What's not personal opinion is that this is one of the most important books of the 20th century and one you need to check off your reading list ASAP.
Do you have a favorite George Orwell book? Share yours in the comments below!