• Awards Season
  • Big Stories
  • Pop Culture
  • Video Games
  • Celebrities

19 of the Best Books of 2021

review book 1984

A bookworm is happiest when they’re surrounded by books — both old and new. Undoubtedly, 2021 was a great year for both fiction and nonfiction, with bestsellers like Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and Second Place by Rachel Cusk. Whether you read memoirs or young-adult (YA) novels, 2021 was a fantastic year for book lovers. While we can’t squeeze in all of our favorites from 2021, we’ve rounded up a stellar sampling of must-reads. Here’s some of the year’s best books. 

“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner

review book 1984

In her profound memoir Crying in H Mart , Michelle Zauner shares an unflinching view of growing up as a Korean American person — all while reflecting on losing her mother to terminal cancer. Author Dani Shapiro notes that the Japanese Breakfast musician “has created a gripping, sensuous portrait of an indelible mother-daughter bond that hits all the notes: love, friction, loyalty, grief.”

“The Prophets” by Robert Jones, Jr.

review book 1984

In Robert Jones, Jr.’s lyrical debut novel, The Prophets , Isaiah and Samuel are two enslaved young men who find refuge in each other — and their love becomes both sustaining and heroic in the face of a vicious world. Entertainment Weekly writes that “While The Prophets’ dreamy realism recalls the work of Toni Morrison… Its penetrating focus on social dynamics stands out more singularly.” Now that’s a compliment.

“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman

review book 1984

At President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Amanda Gorman read her electrifying poem, “ The Hill We Climb .” Since then, it has been praised for its call for unity and healing. Vogue captures the feeling of reading the poem well, calling it “deeply rousing and uplifting.” 

“Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney

review book 1984

New York Times bestselling author Sally Rooney has returned with a sharp, romantic drama, Beautiful World, Where Are You . Two separate relationships are in chaos, threatening to ruin friendships. Vogue  declares that the author has “invented a sensibility entirely of her own: Sunny and sharp.” 

“Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir” by Ashley C. Ford

review book 1984

Ashley C. Ford’s coming-of-age memoir, Somebody’s Daughter , centers on her childhood. Ford, a Black girl who grew up poor in Indiana, recounts how her family was fragmented by her father’s incarceration. With rich, unflinching writing, Ford has penned a debut for the ages. The memoir’s publisher perhaps puts the core of the book best, noting that Ford “embarks on a powerful journey to find the threads between who she is and what she was born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.” 

“Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo

review book 1984

Everyone remembers their first all-consuming love — and for Lily Hu, the teenage protagonist of Malinda Lo’s queer YA novel, that love is Kathleen Miller. Set in the 1950s in San Francisco,  Last Night at the Telegraph Club  is not just one of the year’s best, but one of Lo’s best. O: The Oprah Magazine notes that the novel is “proof of Lo’s skill at creating darkly romantic tales of love in the face of danger.”

“¡Hola Papi!” by John Paul Brammer

review book 1984

In his memoir, ¡H ola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons , advice columnist John Paul Brammer delves into his experiences growing up as a queer, biracial person. The  Los Angeles Times  writes that “Brammer’s writing is incredibly funny, kind, and gracious to his readers, and deeply vulnerable in a way that makes it feel as if he’s talking to only you” — and we couldn’t agree more. 

“Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers

review book 1984

In Morgan Rogers’ novel Honey Girl , Grace Porter is an overachiever — and certainly not the type of person to marry a stranger in Las Vegas. Or, at least, she didn’t think she was that type of person. As Grace navigates the messiness of adulthood, Rogers takes us on a journey that’s both heartfelt and unflinching, illustrating that love is all about risks — even when it comes to loving ourselves. 

“Aftershocks: A Memoir” by Nadia Owusu

review book 1984

Nadia Owusu’s memoir, Aftershocks , reflects on her experience of being abandoned by her parents at a young age. Entertainment Weekly notes that “Owusu dispatches all of this heartache with blistering honesty but does so with prose light enough that it never feels too much to bear.”

“Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro

review book 1984

What if an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant had feelings? In Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel,  Klara and the Sun , Klara is an Artificial Friend who wonders if friendship is possible. The Financial Times called the Never Let Me Go author’s latest “a deft dystopian fable about the innocence of a robot that asks big questions about existence.”

“100 Boyfriends” by Brontez Purnell

review book 1984

Brontez Purnell’s romantic, intoxicating book, 100 Boyfriends , is a look at the romantic lives of queer men who are striving to find out not just where they belong, but where they can shine. Author Bryan Washington praised the collection, writing that “Each story in 100 Boyfriends is a minor eclipse: stunning in scope, technically blinding, and entirely miraculous.”

“One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston

review book 1984

In Casey McQuiston’s big-hearted romance novel, One Last Stop , August meets Jane on a New York City subway — but she doesn’t realize just how fateful their chance encounter is at first. New York Magazine called the novel “an earnest reminder that home — whether that means a time, a place, or a person — is worth fighting for,” and we wouldn’t expect anything less from the  Red, White & Royal Blue author. 

“Afterparties: Stories” by Anthony Veasna So

review book 1984

In Afterparties , Anthony Veasna So weaves together tenderhearted stories about the lives of several Cambodian American characters. Although the stories vary quite a bit in terms of content, author George Saunders writes that they are all “powered by So’s skill with the telling detail,” and are much like “…beams of wry, affectionate light, falling from different directions on a complicated, struggling, beloved American community.”

“Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

review book 1984

In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Malibu Rising , readers meet four famous siblings as they throw their annual end-of-summer party in Malibu. However, over the course of 24 hours, family drama ensues. The Washington Post calls this read “a fast-paced, engaging novel that smoothly transports readers.”

“Let Me Tell You What I Mean” by Joan Didion

review book 1984

Between 1968 and 2000, award-winning journalist and essayist Joan Didion wrote 12 pieces about a variety of well-known figures, ranging from Ernest Hemingway and Nancy Reagan to Martha Stewart. Now, these works have been gathered in the essay collection Let Me Tell You What I Mean . Bret Easton Ellis writes that Didion’s “prose remains peerless,” so, if you’re a fan of the iconic writer, this is a must-read. 

“Intimacies” by Katie Kitamura

review book 1984

Intimacies is Katie Kitamura’s fourth novel, following 2017’s critically acclaimed A Separation . In it, an interpreter for the International Court at the Hague gets drawn into a political scandal after agreeing to translate for a former world leader and potential criminal. The novel is a fascinating investigation into the instability of language and how it influences identity. Dana Spiotta describes Intimacies as “a haunting, precise, and morally astute novel that reads like a psychological thriller.”

“Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters

review book 1984

In Detransition, Baby , Torrey Peters tells a witty and nuanced story about partnership, parenthood and identity. About the novel, Ginny Hogan from the New York Times states “[Detransition, Baby upends] our traditional, gendered notions of what parenthood can look like.”

“Second Place” by Rachel Cusk

review book 1984

In Rachel Cusk’s novel Second Place , a follow up to her brilliant Outline trilogy, a woman invites an artist she admires to live in her remote guesthouse for the summer. As the stay unfolds, a series of unexpected events spurs revelations about womanhood, marriage and security. About Second Place , Jenny Singer from Glamour writes “there is mayhem; surprising sweetness and brilliant observations tumble from every page.”

“Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore ” by Dan Ozzi

review book 1984

In Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore , rock critic Dan Ozzi traces the stories of eleven separate bands that transitioned from the indie scene to achieve mainstream success in the ‘90s. Including interviews and anecdotes from bands like Green Day, Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182, this is a must-read for any music lover.


review book 1984

Goodreads Celebrates Women's History Month

George Orwell , Thomas Pynchon  ( Foreword )

368 pages, Paperback

First published June 8, 1949

About the author

Profile Image for George Orwell.

George Orwell

Ratings & reviews.

What do you think? Rate this book Write a Review

Friends & Following

Community reviews.

Profile Image for Lyndsey.

A nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting - three hundred million people all with the same face.

Profile Image for Silvana.

الولاء يعني إنعدام التفكير .. بل إنعدام الحاجة للتفكير الولاء هو عدم الوعي ____________
من وجهة نظر الطبقة الدنيا ‏ فإن أي تغيير تاريخي لا يعدو أن يكون مجرد تغيير في أسماء ‏‏سادتها ــــــــــــــــ
‏إن ألد أعدائك هو جهازك العصبي ــــــــــــ
‎إن جريمة الفكر لا تفضي إلى الموت إنها الموت نفسه‎ ـــــــــــــ
وأدرك أيضاً أن هذا هو ما يعتري الإنسان في كل المواقف ‏‏البطولية والمأساوية ففي ميدان القتال أو في غرفة التعذيب أو على متن سفينة ‏تغرق تغدو القضايا التي تحارب من أجلها طيّ النسيان دائما ذلك لأن جسدك يظل يتضخم حتى يملأ عليك العالم فلا ترى ‏سواه ــــــــــــــــ
كان الذي استهواه من ذلك كله هو تلك الحركة التي نزعت بها ‏‏ثيابها وطوحت بها أرضا فبرشاقتها وعدم مبالاتها بدا كأنها ‏‏تقوض ‏ثقافة كاملة وتنقض نظاما فكريا بكليته، كما لو لن الأخ ‏‏الكبير والحزب وشرطة الفكر يمكن أن تذهب أدراج الرياح ‏بحركة ‏بارعة ‏كحركة ذراعها ‏ ‏ ــــــــــ
لن يثوروا حتى يعوا ولن يعوا إلا بعد أن يثوروا

Profile Image for Mohammed Arabey.

إنها رواية تق��أ، ثم تقرأ من جديد

Profile Image for عبيدة غضبان.

“The best books... are those that tell you what you know already.”
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
“We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them.”

Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for.

To revisit this article, select My Account, then   View saved stories

To revisit this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories

Orwell on the Future

By Lionel Trilling

A landscape with rows of people one being dragged away.

George Orwell’s new novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (Harcourt, Brace), confirms its author in the special, honorable place he holds in our intellectual life. Orwell’s native gifts are perhaps not of a transcendent kind; they have their roots in a quality of mind that ought to be as frequent as it is modest. This quality may be described as a sort of moral centrality, a directness of relation to moral—and political—fact, and it is so far from being frequent in our time that Orwell’s possession of it seems nearly unique. Orwell is an intellectual to his fingertips, but he is far removed from both the Continental and the American type of intellectual. The turn of his mind is what used to be thought of as peculiarly “English.” He is indifferent to the allurements of elaborate theory and of extreme sensibility. The medium of his thought is common sense, and his commitment to intellect is fortified by an old-fashioned faith that the truth can be got at, that we can, if we actually want to, see the object as it really is. This faith in the power of mind rests in part on Orwell’s willingness, rare among contemporary intellectuals, to admit his connection with his own cultural past. He no longer identifies himself with the British upper middle class in which he was reared, yet it is interesting to see how often his sense of fact derives from some ideal of that class, how he finds his way through a problem by means of an unabashed certainty of the worth of some old, simple, belittled virtue. Fairness, decency, and responsibility do not make up a shining or comprehensive morality, but in a disordered world they serve Orwell as an invaluable base of intellectual operations.

Radical in his politics and in his artistic tastes, Orwell is wholly free of the cant of radicalism. His criticism of the old order is cogent, but he is chiefly notable for his flexible and modulated examination of the political and aesthetic ideas that oppose those of the old order. Two years of service in the Spanish Loyalist Army convinced him that he must reject the line of the Communist Party and, presumably, gave him a large portion of his knowledge of the nature of human freedom. He did not become—as Leftist opponents of Communism are so often and so comfortably said to become—“embittered” or “cynical;” his passion for freedom simply took account of yet another of freedom’s enemies, and his intellectual verve was the more stimulated by what he had learned of the ambiguous nature of the newly identified foe, which so perplexingly uses the language and theory of light for ends that are not enlightened. His distinctive work as a radical intellectual became the criticism of liberal and radical thought wherever it deteriorated to shibboleth and dogma. No one knows better than he how willing is the intellectual Left to enter the prison of its own mass mind, nor does anyone believe more directly than he in the practical consequences of thought, or understand more clearly the enormous power, for good or bad, that ideology exerts in an unstable world.

“Nineteen Eighty-Four” is a profound, terrifying, and wholly fascinating book. It is a fantasy of the political future, and, like any such fantasy, serves its author as a magnifying device for an examination of the present. Despite the impression it may give at first, it is not an attack on the Labour Government. The shabby London of the Super-State of the future, the bad food, the dull clothing, the fusty housing, the infinite ennui—all these certainly reflect the English life of today, but they are not meant to represent the outcome of the utopian pretensions of Labourism or of any socialism. Indeed, it is exactly one of the cruel essential points of the book that utopianism is no longer a living issue. For Orwell, the day has gone by when we could afford the luxury of making our flesh creep with the spiritual horrors of a successful hedonistic society; grim years have intervened since Aldous Huxley, in “Brave New World,” rigged out the welfare state of Ivan Karamazov’s Grand Inquisitor in the knickknacks of modern science and amusement, and said what Dostoevski and all the other critics of the utopian ideal had said before—that men might actually gain a life of security, adjustment, and fun, but only at the cost of their spiritual freedom, which is to say, of their humanity. Orwell agrees that the State of the future will establish its power by destroying souls. But he believes that men will be coerced, not cosseted, into soullessness. They will be dehumanized not by sex, massage, and private helicopters but by a marginal life of deprivation, dullness, and fear of pain.

This, in fact, is the very center of Orwell’s vision of the future. In 1984, nationalism as we know it has at last been overcome, and the world is organized into three great political entities. All profess the same philosophy, yet despite their agreement, or because of it, the three Super-States are always at war with each other, two always allied against one, but all seeing to it that the balance of power is kept, by means of sudden, treacherous shifts of alliance. This arrangement is established as if by the understanding of all, for although it is the ultimate aim of each to dominate the world, the immediate aim is the perpetuation of war without victory and without defeat. It has at last been truly understood that war is the health of the State; as an official slogan has it, “War Is Peace.” Perpetual war is the best assurance of perpetual absolute rule. It is also the most efficient method of consuming the production of the factories on which the economy of the State is based. The only alternative method is to distribute the goods among the population. But this has its clear danger. The life of pleasure is inimical to the health of the State. It stimulates the senses and thus encourages the illusion of individuality; it creates personal desires, thus potential personal thought and action.

But the life of pleasure has another, and even more significant, disadvantage in the political future that Orwell projects from his observation of certain developments of political practice in the last two decades. The rulers he envisages are men who, in seizing rule, have grasped the innermost principles of power. All other oligarchs have included some general good in their impulse to rule and have played at being philosopher-kings or priest-kings or scientist-kings, with an announced program of beneficence. The rulers of Orwell’s State know that power in its pure form has for its true end nothing but itself, and they know that the nature of power is defined by the pain it can inflict on others. They know, too, that just as wealth exists only in relation to the poverty of others, so power in its pure aspect exists only in relation to the weakness of others, and that any power of the ruled, even the power to experience happiness, is by that much a diminution of the power of the rulers.

The exposition of the mystique of power is the heart and essence of Orwell’s book. It is implicit throughout the narrative, explicit in excerpts from the remarkable “Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” a subversive work by one Emmanuel Goldstein, formerly the most gifted leader of the Party, now the legendary foe of the State. It is brought to a climax in the last section of the novel, in the terrible scenes in which Winston Smith, the sad hero of the story, having lost his hold on the reality decreed by the State, having come to believe that sexuality is a pleasure, that personal loyalty is a good, and that two plus two always and not merely under certain circumstances equals four, is brought back to health by torture and discourse in a hideous parody on psychotherapy and the Platonic dialogues.

Orwell’s theory of power is developed brilliantly, at considerable length. And the social system that it postulates is described with magnificent circumstantiality: the three orders of the population—Inner Party, Outer Party, and proletarians; the complete surveillance of the citizenry by the Thought Police, the only really efficient arm of the government; the total negation of the personal life; the directed emotions of hatred and patriotism; the deified Leader, omnipresent but invisible, wonderfully named Big Brother; the children who spy on their parents; and the total destruction of culture. Orwell is particularly successful in his exposition of the official mode of thought, Doublethink, which gives one “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” This intellectual safeguard of the State is reinforced by a language, Newspeak, the goal of which is to purge itself of all words in which a free thought might be formulated. The systematic obliteration of the past further protects the citizen from Crimethink, and nothing could be more touching, or more suggestive of what history means to the mind, than the efforts of poor Winston Smith to think about the condition of man without knowledge of what others have thought before him.

By now, it must be clear that “Nineteen Eighty-four” is, in large part, an attack on Soviet Communism. Yet to read it as this and as nothing else would be to misunderstand the book’s aim. The settled and reasoned opposition to Communism that Orwell expresses is not to be minimized, but he is not undertaking to give us the delusive comfort of moral superiority to an antagonist. He does not separate Russia from the general tendency of the world today. He is saying, indeed, something no less comprehensive than this: that Russia, with its idealistic social revolution now developed into a police state, is but the image of the impending future and that the ultimate threat to human freedom may well come from a similar and even more massive development of the social idealism of our democratic culture. To many liberals, this idea will be incomprehensible, or, if it is understood at all, it will be condemned by them as both foolish and dangerous. We have dutifully learned to think that tyranny manifests itself chiefly, even solely, in the defense of private property and that the profit motive is the source of all evil. And certainly Orwell does not deny that property is powerful or that it may be ruthless in self-defense. But he sees that, as the tendency of recent history goes, property is no longer in anything like the strong position it once was, and that will and intellect are playing a greater and greater part in human history. To many, this can look only like a clear gain. We naturally identify ourselves with will and intellect; they are the very stuff of humanity, and we prefer not to think of their exercise in any except an ideal way. But Orwell tells us that the final oligarchical revolution of the future, which, once established, could never be escaped or countered, will be made not by men who have property to defend but by men of will and intellect, by “the new aristocracy . . . of bureaucrats, scientists, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians.”

These people [says the authoritative Goldstein, in his account of the revolution], whose origins lay in the salaried middle class and the upper grades of the working class, had been shaped and brought together by the barren world of monopoly industry and centralized government. As compared with their opposite numbers in past ages, they were less avaricious, less tempted by luxury, hungrier for pure power, and, above all, more conscious of what they were doing and more intent on crushing opposition. This last difference was cardinal.

The whole effort of the culture of the last hundred years has been directed toward teaching us to understand the economic motive as the irrational road to death, and to seek salvation in the rational and the planned. Orwell marks a turn in thought; he asks us to consider whether the triumph of certain forces of the mind, in their naked pride and excess, may not produce a state of things far worse than any we have ever known. He is not the first to raise the question, but he is the first to raise it on truly liberal or radical grounds, with no intention of abating the demand for a just society, and with an overwhelming intensity and passion. This priority makes his book a momentous one. ♦

Books & Fiction

By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement and Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement .

Illustration of woman's head divided like a floor plan, each room occupied with different thoughts.

By Nathan Goldman

A hefty and tall bald man (Dave Bautista) holds a scared-looking child (Kristen Cui) on one arm and a huge pitchfork in the other; another figure (Abby Quinn) stands next to them, holding a metal shaft.

By Richard Brody

review book 1984

By David Remnick

A portrait of Marcel Proust.

By William Benton

Doublethink Is Stronger Than Orwell Imagined

What 1984 means today

review book 1984

No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984 . The title, the adjectival form of the author’s last name, the vocabulary of the all-powerful Party that rules the superstate Oceania with the ideology of Ingsoc— doublethink , memory hole , unperson , thoughtcrime , Newspeak , Thought Police , Room 101 , Big Brother —they’ve all entered the English language as instantly recognizable signs of a nightmare future. It’s almost impossible to talk about propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics, or perversions of truth without dropping a reference to 1984. Throughout the Cold War, the novel found avid underground readers behind the Iron Curtain who wondered, How did he know?

It was also assigned reading for several generations of American high-school students. I first encountered 1984 in 10th-grade English class. Orwell’s novel was paired with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World , whose hedonistic and pharmaceutical dystopia seemed more relevant to a California teenager in the 1970s than did the bleak sadism of Oceania. I was too young and historically ignorant to understand where 1984 came from and exactly what it was warning against. Neither the book nor its author stuck with me. In my 20s, I discovered Orwell’s essays and nonfiction books and reread them so many times that my copies started to disintegrate, but I didn’t go back to 1984 . Since high school, I’d lived through another decade of the 20th century, including the calendar year of the title, and I assumed I already “knew” the book. It was too familiar to revisit.

Read: Teaching ‘1984’ in 2016

So when I recently read the novel again, I wasn’t prepared for its power. You have to clear away what you think you know, all the terminology and iconography and cultural spin-offs, to grasp the original genius and lasting greatness of 1984 . It is both a profound political essay and a shocking, heartbreaking work of art. And in the Trump era , it’s a best seller .

review book 1984

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 , by the British music critic Dorian Lynskey, makes a rich and compelling case for the novel as the summation of Orwell’s entire body of work and a master key to understanding the modern world. The book was published in 1949, when Orwell was dying of tuberculosis , but Lynskey dates its biographical sources back more than a decade to Orwell’s months in Spain as a volunteer on the republican side of the country’s civil war. His introduction to totalitarianism came in Barcelona, when agents of the Soviet Union created an elaborate lie to discredit Trotskyists in the Spanish government as fascist spies.

Left-wing journalists readily accepted the fabrication, useful as it was to the cause of communism. Orwell didn’t, exposing the lie with eyewitness testimony in journalism that preceded his classic book Homage to Catalonia —and that made him a heretic on the left. He was stoical about the boredom and discomforts of trench warfare—he was shot in the neck and barely escaped Spain with his life—but he took the erasure of truth hard. It threatened his sense of what makes us sane, and life worth living. “History stopped in 1936,” he later told his friend Arthur Koestler, who knew exactly what Orwell meant. After Spain, just about everything he wrote and read led to the creation of his final masterpiece. “History stopped,” Lynskey writes, “and Nineteen Eighty-Four began.”

The biographical story of 1984 —the dying man’s race against time to finish his novel in a remote cottage on the Isle of Jura , off Scotland—will be familiar to many Orwell readers. One of Lynskey’s contributions is to destroy the notion that its terrifying vision can be attributed to, and in some way disregarded as, the death wish of a tuberculosis patient. In fact, terminal illness roused in Orwell a rage to live—he got remarried on his deathbed—just as the novel’s pessimism is relieved, until its last pages, by Winston Smith’s attachment to nature, antique objects, the smell of coffee, the sound of a proletarian woman singing, and above all his lover, Julia. 1984 is crushingly grim, but its clarity and rigor are stimulants to consciousness and resistance. According to Lynskey, “Nothing in Orwell’s life and work supports a diagnosis of despair.”

Lynskey traces the literary genesis of 1984 to the utopian fictions of the optimistic 19th century—Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888); the sci-fi novels of H. G. Wells, which Orwell read as a boy—and their dystopian successors in the 20th, including the Russian Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924) and Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). The most interesting pages in The Ministry of Truth are Lynskey’s account of the novel’s afterlife. The struggle to claim 1984 began immediately upon publication, with a battle over its political meaning. Conservative American reviewers concluded that Orwell’s main target wasn’t just the Soviet Union but the left generally. Orwell, fading fast, waded in with a statement explaining that the novel was not an attack on any particular government but a satire of the totalitarian tendencies in Western society and intellectuals: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you .” But every work of art escapes the artist’s control—the more popular and complex, the greater the misunderstandings.

Lynskey’s account of the reach of 1984 is revelatory. The novel has inspired movies, television shows, plays, a ballet, an opera, a David Bowie album , imitations, parodies, sequels, rebuttals, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Black Panther Party, and the John Birch Society. It has acquired something of the smothering ubiquity of Big Brother himself: 1984 is watching you. With the arrival of the year 1984, the cultural appropriations rose to a deafening level. That January an ad for the Apple Macintosh was watched by 96 million people during the Super Bowl and became a marketing legend. The Mac, represented by a female athlete, hurls a sledgehammer at a giant telescreen and explodes the shouting face of a man—oppressive technology—to the astonishment of a crowd of gray zombies. The message: “You’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’ ”

The argument recurs every decade or so: Orwell got it wrong. Things haven’t turned out that bad. The Soviet Union is history. Technology is liberating. But Orwell never intended his novel to be a prediction, only a warning. And it’s as a warning that 1984 keeps finding new relevance. The week of Donald Trump’s inauguration, when the president’s adviser Kellyanne Conway justified his false crowd estimate by using the phrase alternative facts , the novel returned to the best-seller lists. A theatrical adaptation was rushed to Broadway. The vocabulary of Newspeak went viral. An authoritarian president who stood the term fake news on its head, who once said, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” has given 1984 a whole new life.

What does the novel mean for us? Not Room 101 in the Ministry of Love, where Winston is interrogated and tortured until he loses everything he holds dear. We don’t live under anything like a totalitarian system. “By definition, a country in which you are free to read Nineteen Eighty-Four is not the country described in Nineteen Eighty-Four ,” Lynskey acknowledges. Instead, we pass our days under the nonstop surveillance of a telescreen that we bought at the Apple Store, carry with us everywhere, and tell everything to, without any coercion by the state. The Ministry of Truth is Facebook, Google, and cable news. We have met Big Brother and he is us.

Trump’s election brought a rush of cautionary books with titles like On Tyranny , Fascism: A Warning , and How Fascism Works . My local bookstore set up a totalitarian-themed table and placed the new books alongside 1984 . They pointed back to the 20th century—if it happened in Germany, it could happen here—and warned readers how easily democracies collapse. They were alarm bells against complacency and fatalism—“ the politics of inevitability ,” in the words of the historian Timothy Snyder, “a sense that the future is just more of the present, that the laws of progress are known, that there are no alternatives, and therefore nothing really to be done.” The warnings were justified, but their emphasis on the mechanisms of earlier dictatorships drew attention away from the heart of the malignancy—not the state, but the individual. The crucial issue was not that Trump might abolish democracy but that Americans had put him in a position to try. Unfreedom today is voluntary. It comes from the bottom up.

We are living with a new kind of regime that didn’t exist in Orwell’s time. It combines hard nationalism—the diversion of frustration and cynicism into xenophobia and hatred—with soft distraction and confusion: a blend of Orwell and Huxley, cruelty and entertainment. The state of mind that the Party enforces through terror in 1984 , where truth becomes so unstable that it ceases to exist, we now induce in ourselves. Totalitarian propaganda unifies control over all information, until reality is what the Party says it is—the goal of Newspeak is to impoverish language so that politically incorrect thoughts are no longer possible. Today the problem is too much information from too many sources, with a resulting plague of fragmentation and division—not excessive authority but its disappearance, which leaves ordinary people to work out the facts for themselves, at the mercy of their own prejudices and delusions.

During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, propagandists at a Russian troll farm used social media to disseminate a meme: “ ‘The People Will Believe What the Media Tells Them They Believe.’  — George Orwell.” But Orwell never said this. The moral authority of his name was stolen and turned into a lie toward that most Orwellian end: the destruction of belief in truth. The Russians needed partners in this effort and found them by the millions, especially among America’s non-elites. In 1984 , working-class people are called “proles,” and Winston believes they’re the only hope for the future. As Lynskey points out, Orwell didn’t foresee “that the common man and woman would embrace doublethink as enthusiastically as the intellectuals and, without the need for terror or torture, would choose to believe that two plus two was whatever they wanted it to be.”

We stagger under the daily load of doublethink pouring from Trump, his enablers in the Inner Party, his mouthpieces in the Ministry of Truth, and his fanatical supporters among the proles. Spotting doublethink in ourselves is much harder. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” Orwell wrote . In front of my nose, in the world of enlightened and progressive people where I live and work, a different sort of doublethink has become pervasive. It’s not the claim that true is fake or that two plus two makes five. Progressive doublethink—which has grown worse in reaction to the right-wing kind—creates a more insidious unreality because it operates in the name of all that is good. Its key word is justice —a word no one should want to live without. But today the demand for justice forces you to accept contradictions that are the essence of doublethink.

For example, many on the left now share an unacknowledged but common assumption that a good work of art is made of good politics and that good politics is a matter of identity. The progressive view of a book or play depends on its political stance, and its stance—even its subject matter—is scrutinized in light of the group affiliation of the artist: Personal identity plus political position equals aesthetic value. This confusion of categories guides judgments all across the worlds of media, the arts, and education, from movie reviews to grant committees. Some people who register the assumption as doublethink might be privately troubled, but they don’t say so publicly. Then self-censorship turns into self-deception, until the recognition itself disappears—a lie you accept becomes a lie you forget. In this way, intelligent people do the work of eliminating their own unorthodoxy without the Thought Police.

Recommended Reading

A lost scottish island, george orwell, and the future of maps.

review book 1984

David Simon and E.L. Doctorow on 'the Potential for the Orwellian Nightmare'

review book 1984

Was Shakespeare a Woman?

Orthodoxy is also enforced by social pressure, nowhere more intensely than on Twitter, where the specter of being shamed or “canceled” produces conformity as much as the prospect of adding to your tribe of followers does. This pressure can be more powerful than a party or state, because it speaks in the name of the people and in the language of moral outrage, against which there is, in a way, no defense. Certain commissars with large followings patrol the precincts of social media and punish thought criminals, but most progressives assent without difficulty to the stifling consensus of the moment and the intolerance it breeds—not out of fear, but because they want to be counted on the side of justice.

This willing constriction of intellectual freedom will do lasting damage. It corrupts the ability to think clearly, and it undermines both culture and progress. Good art doesn’t come from wokeness, and social problems starved of debate can’t find real solutions. “Nothing is gained by teaching a parrot a new word,” Orwell wrote in 1946. “What is needed is the right to print what one believes to be true, without having to fear bullying or blackmail from any side.” Not much has changed since the 1940s. The will to power still passes through hatred on the right and virtue on the left.

1984 will always be an essential book, regardless of changes in ideologies, for its portrayal of one person struggling to hold on to what is real and valuable. “Sanity is not statistical,” Winston thinks one night as he slips off to sleep. Truth, it turns out, is the most fragile thing in the world. The central drama of politics is the one inside your skull.

This article appears in the July 2019 print edition with the headline “George Orwell’s Unheeded Warning.”

​When you buy a book using a link on this page, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic .

1984 by George Orwell – review

‘Orwell’s novella is a warning for the human race’

.css-rj2jmf{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#866D50;} War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

1984 is a dystopian novella by George Orwell published in 1949, which follows the life of Winston Smith, a low ranking member of ‘the Party’, who is frustrated by the omnipresent eyes of the party, and its ominous ruler Big Brother.

‘Big Brother’ controls every aspect of people’s lives. It has invented the language ‘Newspeak’ in an attempt to completely eliminate political rebellion; created ‘Throughtcrimes’ to stop people even thinking of things considered rebellious. The party controls what people read, speak, say and do with the threat that if they disobey, they will be sent to the dreaded Room 101 as a looming punishment.

Orwell effectively explores the themes of mass media control, government surveillance, totalitarianism and how a dictator can manipulate and control history, thoughts, and lives in such a way that no one can escape it.


The protagonist, Winston Smith, begins a subtle rebellion against the party by keeping a diary of his secret thoughts, which is a deadly thoughtcrime. With his lover Julia, he begins a foreordained fight for freedom and justice, in a world where no one else appears to see, or dislike, the oppression the protagonist opposes.

Perhaps the most powerful, effective and frightening notion of 1984 is that the complete control of an entire nation under a totalitarian state is perfectly possible. If the world fell under the control of one or even multiple dictators, the future could easily become a twisted, cruel world where every movement, word and breath is scrutinised by an omnipotent, omnipresent power that no one can stop, or even oppose without the fear of death.

Orwell’s novella is a warning for the human race. It highlights the importance of resisting mass control and oppression.

Want to tell the world about a book you’ve read? Join the site and send us your review!

Most viewed

Grounded Curiosity

Book Review – 1984, by George Orwell

review book 1984

George Orwell’s 1984 is a grim read that tells of a future in which something has gone horribly wrong in society resulting the extreme oppression of the citizens of at least one super state. It might be most famous for exploring the idea of technological mass surveillance but at its core it is a book about power.

To best understand the book it helps to understand a little about the circumstances in which it was written. Released in 1949 it was written during the immediate aftermath of WWII as the Iron Curtain descended over Eastern Europe and Stalin tightened his grip on power. It was also a time when communism was spreading globally, particularly in Asia. The threat of global war was renewed however this time with the prospect of nuclear weapons.

This was also a time when the old European empires were in rapid retreat, the seat of Western power had shifted to the USA and Britain had yet to develop its own nuclear weapons. Britain was also struggling to recover from WWII economically.

George Orwell himself was a disillusioned socialist. Deeply committed to socialist economics  but strongly opposed to communism and its totalitarian tendencies, especially Soviet style communism under Stalin.  

The effect of all these personal (Orwell), national (Britain) and global anxieties are reflected in the story. However, while socialist revolutions were the vehicle used to explain how the political structure of 1984 emerged, the central themes of the story would still work if a different ideology was used, i.e extreme oligarchical capitalism. It is a book about political power crushing the lives of individuals so all that is required is a mechanism to concentrate extreme political power in the hands of a few at the expense of an increasingly disempowered general population. What matters is the relentless accumulation of power for power’s own sake.

1984 is told from the perspective of Winston Smith, a low-level party member who works in the “Ministry of Truth”. Winston’s world is one in which there is no objective truth, only party approved “facts.” The classic example of which is requiring citizens to believe “2 + 2 = 5” despite knowing it being demonstrably false. 1984 explores the throne of lies upon which totalitarian oppression sits. In the party’s view, every “fact” is malleable, one of several possible truths. Which one is true at any one time depends upon which best suites the purposes of the party.

The best example of this is the global war that has been running for decades between the three super states that exist in 1984. At any one time Winston’s nation is at war with one and allied with the other. Winston observes that every few years the allegiances suddenly switch for no apparent reason but the official history is that the allegiances have never varied. Winston begins to doubt the war’s existence and since it is never directly observed by the reader, he might be correct. He begins to suspect that the war might simply be another party tool to maintain social unity. United against a common enemy.

“War is Peace”

The threat of a global war against two rival super states over time enables the party to force the citizenry to tolerate ever more pervasive attacks on their individual freedoms in support of the war effort. To do otherwise risks losing the war and being enslaved by foreign invaders. Only total loyalty to the party can avert this fate.

“Freedom is Slavery”

This leads to doubts about the very nature of Winston’s world beyond Airstrip 1 (formerly the United Kingdom). No other parts of the world are directly observed or objectively documented as foreign trade and travel do not exist in 1984. It is possible that only the United Kingdom has succumbed to such brutal totalitarianism and now exists as an isolated hermit state. Or the world could be exactly as described by the party. The point is that Winston (and by extension the reader) have no way of knowing. Objective truth is buried.

“Ignorance is Strength”

The true horror and genius of 1984 isn’t the mass technological surveillance. Rather it is as a cautionary tale (rather than a discrete prophecy) showing glimpses of a disfigured, tortured, grotesque society that exists in our near future and is a clear descendent of our own. One in which technology is exploited to the detriment rather than the benefit of humanity.

This is a story about totalitarianism and the disturbingly simple but powerful ways to gradually and increasingly enslave an entire population, which is why it remains relevant. The party’s methods are written right there above the front entrance to the Ministry of Truth:

“War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength”

About the author: Chris is an Associate Editor at Grounded Curiosity and a currently serving Australian Army officer. Building on a multi-discipline engineering background, his passion is technological development and PME. Chris’ work has previously appeared on Grounded Curiosity, Strategy Bridge and The Cove.  Find him on Twitter .

1984 Review ⭐

George Orwell opens his stunning novel ‘1948’ novel by telling the reader that the “clocks were striking thirteen”. If this isn’t an opening line for the ages, I don’t know what is.

George Orwell

As new entrants into the world of 1984,  we are immediately introduced to the character of Winston Smith , a small, rough-skinned, sickly member of the Outer Party. He’s just arrived at his dreary apartment from work where he’s greeted by the blaring noise of his telescreen , a permanent installation in his home that works twofold. He watches it, and it watches him.

I found it disconcertingly easy to imagine, in our modern world, technology is utilized in such an all-encompassing, and eventually normalized fashion. The residents of London, Airstrip One , Oceania, are used to constant surveillance. It is how most of them have lived their whole lives and the majority would advocate for its continuous.

The totalitarian regime that reigns over Winston’s vile, cold and dirty futurist London, controls everything, right down to the thoughts in its citizen’s heads. At least, that’s what it would like. Luckily for we the readers, Winston Smith is not like the other party members, those he deems as mindless, brainwashed fools, devoted mind and body to the Party, Big Brother (the dictatorial figure/mascot of the regime who may or may not actually exist) and the principles of INGSOC (English Socialism). Through Winston’s perspective, we are allowed to experience his irritation, fury, and exasperation with the other Party members and the proles who live in the slums outside the city center.  

Daily Terrors in Winston Smith’s World

While explaining the terror he exists in, day in and day out, Winston takes comfort in the fact that the small space within his head is his own . That is until the Thought Police catch up with him. Everything else, what he does, says, and how he appears, is bent to the will of the Party.  

The first part of 1984 (which is divided into three sections) is an incredible achievement of world-building. Orwell sucks the reader right into the horrors of Winston’s world by moving through the minutia of his life. Winston is responsible for the re-writing of history, it is by his hand, (and he admits, likely hundreds of others) that newspaper articles are rephrased, remade, and created in order to cast the government in the best light possible.  

Perhaps the most chilling and shocking aspect of 1984 is the way that somethings, although noted by Winston as wrong and disturbing, have become commonplace. The rewriting of history is only one example. Winston lives in constant fear that someday, maybe that afternoon, or five years from now, he and Julia (a young woman with whom he begins an affair) are going to be “vaporized”. Death weighs heavily on Winston’s world and as a reader, I found myself experiencing some of that fear as well. Winston’s life, as he takes more risks, becomes at once rife with paranoia and incredibly, more commonly filled with moments of peace.  

The Drama of Very Human Characters

As a human being, Orwell writes Winston Smith believably. So much so I found myself having arguments with his character as he tried to come to terms with changes (such as when Oceania changed the superpower it was at war with) or when he was relishing in the knowledge the O’Brien was, in fact, a member of the resistance. It is easy enough, I found, to search for the same grains of hope Winston did within the second part of 1984.  

If I had to choose one moment from the novel that I know will stick with me, it is the scene in the room above Mr. Charrington’s shop in which Julia and Winston are musing over their shared, doomed fate. They say to one another “We are the dead” and in mimicry of their conversion, Mr. Charrington (who is revealed to be a spy for the Thought Police) calls out from behind a photo, “You are the dead”. Utterly chilling, even now, recalling that moment I find myself experiencing something of what these two characters felt.  

It is the culmination of the previous two parts of 1984  in which Winston waits to be caught, captured, and tortured. Now, he and Julie both know and the reader knows, that this is the end. He is surely going to be dragged off to the Ministry of Love and tortured to death. Perhaps he’ll be released on a temporary basis, as other “criminals” have been. But, there is no getting away from the Party. It sees, hears, and knows all. At this moment, it caught up to Winston Smith. All his vague hopes for the future vanish.  

The Concluding Pages of 1984

The last section of 1984 felt like looking behind the curtain. There was a great deal of satisfaction finally knowing what goes on within the Ministry of Love and it was just as horrifying as I imagined. They engage in all forms of torture, mental and physical.  

When I first read the section in which Winston is forced to confront his greatest fear in Room 101 I found myself surprised by how complex, knowledgeable, and conniving the Party was in its research into Winston’s life and weak points. Thinking back on it now, it couldn’t have been any other way. Of course, O’Brien was working as a double agent, of course, the Party knew all along what Winston and Julie were doing and planning, and of course, in the end, they got what they wanted—for Winston to love Big Brother.  

1984 Book Review: George Orwell's Stunning Novel

1984 Review

1984 is a book that you’re going to remember. From its opening lines to the various revelations about the Party and it’s means of governing its citizens a reader is met with constant twists and turns. Each one is more disturbing than the one before it. You would not be wrong if while reading  1984 you found yourself drawing comparisons between contemporary/historical society and the world that Winston Smith lives in. This book is just as relevant today as it was when Orwell finished it in 1948.

One reading does not do this novel justice. On the second, third, or even fourth time that one learns about Emmanuel Goldstein, Big Brother, the Ministries, and every other memorable element of the book, more is revealed.

Emma Baldwin

About Emma Baldwin

George Orwell

George Orwell is remembered today for his social criticism, controversial beliefs, and his novels ' Animal Farm ' and '1984'.

Orwell Facts

Explore ten of the most interesting facts about Orwell’s life, habits, and passions.

Animal Farm by George Orwell Artwork Artwork

Orwell's Best Books

Explore the nine books George Orwell wrote.

Democratic Socialism

Was George Orwell a Socialist?

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. George Orwell

Cite This Page

Baldwin, Emma " 1984 Review ⭐ " Book Analysis , . Accessed 3 March 2023.

Book Review

Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Author: George Orwell

Publisher: Secker & Warburg

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Satire

First Publication: 1949

Language:  English

Major Characters: Winston Smith, Big Brother, O’Brien, Emmanuel Goldstein, Tom Parsons, Syme, Julia

Theme: Totalitarianism and Communism, The Individual vs. Collective Identity, Reality Control, Class Struggle,

Setting: London in the year 1984

Narrator: Third-person omniscient

Book Summary: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

1984: A Novel, unleashes a unique plot as per which No One is Safe or Free. No place is safe to run or even hide from a dominating party leader, Big Brother, who is considered equal to God. This is a situation where everything is owned by the State. The world was seeing the ruins of World War II. Leaders such as Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini prevailed during this phase. Big Brother is always watching your actions. He even controls everyone’s feelings of love, to live and to discover. The basic plot of this historic novel revolves around the concept that no person has freedom to live life on his or her own terms. The present day is 1984.

The whole world is gradually changing. The nations which enjoy freedom, have distorted into unpleasant and degraded places, in turn creating a powerful cartel known as Oceania. This is the world where the Big Brother controls everything. There is another character Winston Smith, who is leading a normal layman life under these harsh circumstances, though hating all of this. He works on writing the old newspaper articles in order to make history or past relevant to today’s party line.

He is efficient enough in spite of hating his bosses. Julia, a young girl who is morally very rigid comes into the fore. She too hates the system as much as Winston does. Gradually, they get into an affair but have to conceal their feelings for each other, as it will not be acceptable by Big Brother. In Big Brother’s bad world, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighr is an astonishingly good book which practically (almost single-handedly) created and defined the ‘dystopian novel’ genre. This is undoubtedly the definitive dystopian novel which stands astride the genre like a colossus – head and shoulders above the rest.

Written in the year 1948 and first published in 1949, George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was originally designed as a satire of Stalinism. Like many of his contemporaries, George Orwell was distraught by the Soviet Union’s increasingly totalitarian interpretation of communism. The Soviet Union would collapse in 1991, of course, and communism plays a marginal role at best in today’s world. So how come Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is currently enjoying a resurgence of popularity? How come it feels more and more relevant in a world dominated by capitalism rather than communism?

The fictional world of Nineteen Eighty-Four is under complete control of The Party and its mythical head, Big Brother. Privacy no longer exists: “ Big Brother is watching you ” – always. Data is collected, minds are molded, consent is manufactured. So-called “ telescreens ” monitor every facial expression and record every spoken word, tirelessly looking for “ thoughtcrimes “ while simultaneously broadcasting a never-ending stream of propaganda. No other source of information is available, so the loss of privacy comes with a loss of history and political agency.

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

The Party is even in the process of developing what it calls “ newspeak ,” a stripped-down, ultimately impotent version of the English language that – through the reduction of grammar and vocabulary – renders subversive ideas unthinkable. Until “ newspeak ” takes over, “ doublethink ” ensures that those little inconsistencies between reality and the claims made by Big Brother (claims such as “ ignorance is strength ” or “ freedom is slavery ” or “ 2+2=5 ”) do not feel problematic in the slightest.

And even if they did, fabricated telescreen reports on what is portrayed as a brutal global war keep the masses in a perpetual state of fear that makes rebellion highly unlikely. Conveniently, this pseudo-war can also be used to justify the elimination of civil rights and liberties. And if there is someone somewhere who somehow manages to resist all this propaganda and surveillance (someone who, like our protagonist, manages to think an independent thought), Big Brother takes the old iron fist out of his pocket and enforces conformity through imprisonment and torture.

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

In today’s world, the scope, sophistication and effectiveness of propaganda and surveillance have long surpassed anything George Orwell could have imagined in 1948. It is not the Communist Party that controls those endeavours, of course, but largely commercial enterprise (with a little help from the politicians it buys).

1984 by George Orwell portrays, with what now seems like terrifying accuracy a near future extreme totalitarian society and it is a novel that is as pertinent today as never before. In an age of ‘ fake news ’ ‘ counter-fake news ’ where truth is increasingly in question, a commodity to be perverted according to need, George Orwell’s 1984 reads like an increasingly and frighteningly accurate portrayal of what was then – a possible future and now a possible present.

Orwell’s concepts of thoughtcrime , doublethink , newspeak , sexcrime , the thought police , along with the wholesale and habitual use of propaganda, the deletion and re-writing of the news/history (‘ he who controls the future controls the past’ ) – historical revisionism, is all just so brilliantly conceived and executed and lest we forget,  George Orwell wrote 1984 in year 1949. If it had not been so brilliantly executed, 1984 by George Orwell would undoubtedly have become very clichéd, tired and dated over the subsequent decades – which quite clearly it hasn’t.

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

1984 is now so embedded at such a fundamental level in our culture, it is now almost impossible to imagine an absence of 1984 – itself a paradox considering the subject matter and themes of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. The concept now so oft used as common parlance of something being ‘Orwellian’ – surveillance and control.

What George Orwell has created in Nineteen Eighty-Four (once again and along with Animal Farm ) is simply one of the greatest short novels in the English language ever written, let alone one of the most influential – both in literary and cultural terms. The characters of Winston, Julia and O’Brien, Room 101, the surrounding events, the world of Oceania, Ingsoc and the Party remain seared into the readers’ memory with startling effectiveness long after the last page has been turned.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is an outstandingly (in every sense of the word) powerful, thought-provoking, compelling, engaging portrait of an all too feasible near future. Parallels in history are clearly there to see – the National Socialism of Hitler, the Communism of Stalin to name but two – showing us the absolute feasibility of such a world. The way that Orwell writes of the manipulation and creation / management of mass hysteria, the instillation and perpetuation of xenophobia and the unquestioning and blind allegiance to the ‘Party’ has such a feeling of authenticity and is all done so effectively and unbelievably well.

“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

I cannot overstate the brilliance of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, nor emphasise the power that this novel increasingly has, though perhaps to say that 1984 by George Orwell is quite simply a work of modern literary genius will go some way in conveying how truly great a novel this really is.

George Orwell’s 1984 paints a horrifying picture of a world that could so easily be – an intelligent portrayal of and warning against the evils of totalitarianism and extreme authoritarianism of any kind. But it is so much more than that, along with providing us with such a great central story – a story not solely about power, corruption and lies, but also about love, truth and the human spirit, Nineteen Eighty-Four works on so many, many levels. George Orwell’s 1984 is absolutely, unquestionably and unequivocally essential reading.

Recent Articles

How practicing mindfulness can help improve your life, enhance your education: learn new words by reading books, time for digital libraries: how to get the most out of ebooks and where to get them, 10 best drawing books to enliven your spare time, the rise of blockchain in the publishing industry: opportunities and challenges, related posts:, leave a reply cancel reply.

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Stay on top - Get the daily news in your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter.

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

Recent Posts

Who killed jerusalem by george brown, the tickling tale of smoo by louiza kallona, peril and splendor: the journey to yragos by caleb birch, popular category.

The Bookish Elf - Book Marketing Services for Authors

The Bookish Elf is your single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of literary life. The Bookish Elf is a site you can rely on for book reviews, author interviews, book recommendations, and all things books.

Contact us: [email protected]

Left Side Navigation

Book review: how 1984 is as important of a read now more than ever.

Ty Jadah

Every once in awhile, a book comes along that you can’t put down. Sometimes it even scares you, gets you thinking, and warps your mind.

Well, that book came along 71 years ago.

If you’ve never read George Orwell’s  1984 , you’re in for a real treat. And, if you’ve ever read George Orwell’s  1984 , you’re in for a real treat.

First off,  1984  (or  Nineteen Eighty-Four ) is a beautiful example of how writing is a form of communication that can stand the test of time. Go back to a TikTok video in 70 years and let me know how it holds up.

Books are magical time machines that transport you to different worlds that allow you to put on your thinking caps. It’s a way to meet thousands of everlasting characters and you don’t even have to keep two metres apart.

And if there’s ever been a character who stresses the importance of having original thoughts, it’s Winston Smith. Orwell’s totalitarian vision of a futuristic world — penned in 1948 — has all-too-real and eerie similarities to the real world of 2020.

1984 has always held up well as a book that’s worth a reread every decade or so, but it almost serves as a prophecy from half a century ago rather than a novel.

If you’re looking to take a step back from our constantly-buzzing world and often-vibrating pockets,  1984  might not only be a smart place to start, but it could be THE place to start.


review book 1984


It’s 2020 but  1984 just reads differently. Orwell’s totalitarian world, Oceania, is hungry, dark, and tired.

The novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth as a censor who updates history to ensure it fits the government’s present-day’s constantly switching alliances. Working for the Ministry, Smith is controlled by the omniscient presence of Big Brother, which keeps an eye on its people’s every move and thought.

In 1984 , the screens are watching you, and neighbouring citizens aren’t averse to tattling if it’ll give them a leg-up with the Ministry.

In real-world 2020, glowing screens follow our every move. They collect and share our data, arrange our posts in their fashion, dictate trends, and feed a distant presence and addiction right out of our own pockets.

But the Ministry watching your every move isn’t even the scariest part of  1984’s  dystopia; it’s being stripped of your words, your speech, and your freedom to think. Big Brother’s tyrannical regime aims to obliterate citizen’s ideas and instead fills them with what the government holds as truths. In short, Big Brother replaces facts with their own lies.

Oceania’s regime is ruled by authoritarians with the help of the “Thought Police,” who seek to identify “traitors” for thinking outside the administration’s ideologies. Traitors are punished (sometimes by death) for having “thoughtcrimes.”

We don’t need to look very far back into our own history to see how swiftly 2020’s governing bodies can wield an immense amount of decision-making skills and power that have immediate and long-lasting effects on millions of people at a time.

In 1984 , even though writing is illegal, Smith keeps a diary of his inner thoughts, knowing full well that he’s literally signing a death sentence if he gets caught.

review book 1984

Smith begins a predetermined fight for justice and freedom throughout Oceania with the help of his lover, Julia. Smith attempts to rectify a world where nobody else appears alarmed by the widespread oppression and government control.

So long as the government mandates it, it must be true.

The regime ensures that the concept of love has been eliminated from society, only using the purpose of marriage to reproduce. All activities of sexuality and affection are therefore outlawed.

Orwell effectively tackles themes of mass media control, surveillance, government interjection, totalitarianism, and dictatorship.

Today,  1984 reads more than a novel; it’s a prophecy that will sting you with parallels that still hold true some seven decades later. His themes of oppression and control might even have you questioning how much you really actually need that new iPhone update…

Daily Hive may earn a small commission from things you buy through our links in this article, at no additional cost to you. Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

Follow Channels and Categories


Receive direct access to our top content, contests and perks.

review book 1984

India's best book blog

1984 | George Orwell | Book Review

By Guest on July 11, 2021 in Book Reviews , Fiction , Horror Books , Sci-Fi Books

1984 by George Orwell

After a long time, I got my hands on something that wasn’t about the affairs of the world or decoding Tharoor’s onerous and demanding vocabulary while finding my way out to the conclusion of the book.

But little did I know that those 300 pages made more sense than any philosopher or great thinker ever did with his narratives about the world and its astounding power politics. And to make it as dramatic as fictions are, it sure wasn’t ‘your average fiction’.

George Orwell’s 1984 has been a timeless classic , yet there is something contemporary about it. Fascinated by its constant appeal for so many generations, I decided to take part in the conspiracy myself. Completing 100 pages a day of an ebook didn’t feel like an achievement till I did not reach the appendix of the work.

The impact of the book was so that the thought of it didn’t leave my head for hours and hours throughout the day. It felt as if it was written in this time and age and was so close to the living reality that it felt worth not escaping.

The paradox in Winston Smith’s life was one thing that would leave you gazing at the screen for days straight. While his sheer capability of comprehending the concept of real freedom was noteworthy, it was remarkable to witness the dilemma his mind was going through while trying to differentiate between reality and illusion that was constantly present because of the intense stare by Big Brother’s eyes and the invisible curve under his moustache which was inevitable to ignore.

The features were so definite that the presence of Big Brother felt almost real. His impressions were literally present in every form and everywhere, be it physically (or mentally).

Every object, living or dead, witnessed Big Brother everywhere, in the form of the posters and advertisements and telescreen and songs and Hate Hours organized by the party and the development of kids into Spies in their blue uniforms and so on. It was a never-ending trail of praises for Big Brother and his ideology of state control.

It’s left unsaid if Big Brother existed in reality or not, but every single movement and every single breath of the people were guided by his words “Big Brother Is Watching You”.

Winston Smith’s efforts to face his dilemmas and accept the reality around him made him understand his disliking for the state and its despotic ministries.


The book takes you through a rollercoaster ride of sentiments, that a human brain can perceive and reflect, without breaking the flow of the story. From a supposedly brave love story which you root for, to the failure of Winston’s decision-making instincts, you feel vexed, dismay, betrayal, heartbroken, all at once.

In 1984, the narration is so overwhelming that you are left to absorb all those nail-biting endings that you were not prepared for. And all of this coming out of just a three hundred-page fiction leaves you amused.

It’s difficult to let go of the fact that a mere fiction, written in the 1940s has enough strength to make you realize that the existence of power play and human exploitation in the non-fictional world is in no way different from what Smith lives every day.

It is not just an anxious story about the state and the use of its unfair means to do as it pleases, but also about human relations with one another. A story where parents can’t trust their own children, a colleague can’t sit with another colleague, an individual unable to even think the thoughts of his liking, a story about extensive inequality, and a story of an utter betrayal by your own instincts that get you in the hands of your enemy, served as a fresh fish.

It’s a bird’s eye view of the world that lives amidst conformity and surveillance of the people, by people.

The conclusion makes you realize that Orwell was a child of his time who knew more than any other nearing generation of fully evolved human intellectuals. Or maybe he just wanted to be honest to the growing generation who was about to read his excellent work that portrayed a clear picture of human psychology and the greed for power behind the smokescreen of 1984.

It’s an uncompromising reminder for us to have a look at the present and ever-evolving global stage to understand what Smith meant when he said, “Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two is four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

It makes you wonder if the definitions fed to us about the ideals of constitutions from all around the world stand true on the face of it, or it was just another big work of few philosophers. This review is just a medium of appeal to anyone who hasn’t picked up 1984 yet, but it is on their wishlist, to give it a shot without thinking twice.

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of 1984 using the link below.


Review by Jayashree Mishra .

Jayashree is 20 years old, and a student of Delhi University Political Science (Hons). She has been reading since grade 6th and like any typical teenager, her first ‘favorite’ author was Chetan Bhagat, and his book 3 Mistakes Of My Life was her first read. She considers admiring Bhagat as the first mistake in her life. She is currently more inclined towards the world of nonfiction and but Khalid Hosseini still remains her favorite.

The Blue Moon Day

About Guest

Reader interactions.

review book 1984

May 25, 2022 at 1:22 pm

Your review did justice to the book.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{{#message}}{{{message}}}{{/message}}{{^message}}Your submission failed. The server responded with {{status_text}} (code {{status_code}}). Please contact the developer of this form processor to improve this message. Learn More {{/message}}

{{#message}}{{{message}}}{{/message}}{{^message}}It appears your submission was successful. Even though the server responded OK, it is possible the submission was not processed. Please contact the developer of this form processor to improve this message. Learn More {{/message}}


Your cart is empty

Have an account?

Log in to check out faster.

Our Bestsellers

Customer Support: +91-8851222013

Bookish Santa

Book Review: 1984

Author: George Orwell

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Till date, I can easily claim that no book ever terrified me to the very core of my soul, well yes, until I read 1984 by George Orwell. The very masterpiece and the final book of George Orwell is nothing short of a disturbing accounts of human world. Earlier to this I had read Animal Farm by Orwell and absolutely loved it, I even rated it a complete 5 stars, yes it had that of an impact. This book is nothing soft of his other work, it's dark, unpleasant and has almost every element of disturbing qualities. But don't mistake me, it sure is a masterpiece and another 5 star rated book from the great George Orwell.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

1984 is a dystopian novel and it is centered on and around the consequences of the government's over-reach, totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of the general public. The plot is set in the future 1984 (the book being written in 1948) when most parts of the world has fallen to the growing powerful omnipresent government. Great Britain which is then known as Airstrip One, has become a state of a Oceania that is ruled by the Party who employ the Thought Police to persecute any citizen who is accused of independent thinking. Big Brother, the leader of the Party, rules over the entire nation despite the fact that he may not exist in reality. 

Winston Smith, is a diligent and skillful rank-and-file worker, a writer working for the Ministry of Truth in Airstrip One and Party member who secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion. He makes corrections of the historical records, part of a systematic rewriting of history to suit the ideals of the Party. He lives under the constant surveillance of the party being aware of the fact that his every behavior is monitored as they even try to police his very thoughts.  On the surface he is like any other person, seeming to fit in.  But in his heart of hearts he feels a growing rebellion against the oppressive social environment. Eventually he enters a forbidden relationship with a co-worker, Julia and there starts with the turn of events of his life.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

George Orwell's brilliance lies in the fact that he described a society devoid of any humanity which without a doubt can be easily related to the current world. He has drawn parallels between his book's subject matter and real life instances of totalitarianism, communism, mass surveillance, and violations of freedom of expression. 1984 is a cautionary tale warning about the ways of power-mongering political groups who exist only to increase their own power and will do so by any means at their disposal.

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

Orwell's 1984 is a warning against totalitarian governments against power hungry vultures. But more importantly, it’s a caution sign that separates the road between freedom and intellectual or emotional slavery.  Our world is traveling on that road in surprising speed, and, soon, we won’t be able to save ourselves. In 1984, the citizens of Oceania were injected with stimulus like a never turning off telescreen, multiple leagues, and more. Basically it is a fact that you must take control of your life or someone else will take care of it for you. Or as Orwell said, our world is traveling on that road in surprising speed and soon, we won’t be able to save ourselves.

“Big Brother is Watching You.”   

A five stars of 1984, a true masterpiece. 

(The author can be reached at [email protected])

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


  1. 1984: Book Review

    review book 1984

  2. 1984 book review

    review book 1984

  3. Book Review on 1984

    review book 1984

  4. Book Review: 1984

    review book 1984

  5. Refinerii Studios: Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell

    review book 1984

  6. 1984 Book Review

    review book 1984


  1. Brave New World Audio Book Part 12-12

  2. Was the 1984 version of Dune really that bad? And was 2021’s Dune overhyped? 🤔

  3. Bleak Week Wrap-Up

  4. 1984 Part 2 Chapter 3

  5. 1984 Book Review

  6. Papa Balloon & Cactus 1984 Full Color Christmas Spectacular! By James WINDSOR-Smith & Friends!


  1. 19 of the Best Books of 2021

    A bookworm is happiest when they’re surrounded by books — both old and new. Undoubtedly, 2021 was a great year for both fiction and nonfiction, with bestsellers like Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and Second Place by Rachel Cusk.

  2. What Was the First Book Ever Made?

    As far as historians know, and depending on what one means by “made,” the first book was either the Epic of Gilgamesh, the first bound copies of the Bible, or the Gutenberg Bible. Each marks a point in the development of books.

  3. What Is the Irony in “1984”?

    George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984,” is rife with examples of irony, both verbal and situational. The verbal irony includes the “memory hole,” the names of the government ministries and the party motto, while the protagonist’s health st...

  4. 1984 by George Orwell

    Read 99.3k reviews from the world's largest community for readers. The new novel by George Orwell is the major work towards which all his previous writing …

  5. Orwell on the Future

    “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is a profound, terrifying, and wholly fascinating book. It is a fantasy of the political future, and, like any such fantasy, serves its

  6. 1984, by George Orwell: On Its Enduring Relevance

    You have to clear away what you think you know, all the terminology and iconography and cultural spin-offs, to grasp the original genius and

  7. 1984 by George Orwell

    1984 by George Orwell – review ... War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. 1984 is a dystopian novella by George Orwell published

  8. Book Review

    George Orwell's 1984 is a grim read that tells of a future in which something has gone horribly wrong in society resulting the extreme

  9. 1984 Book Review: George Orwell's Stunning Novel

    1984 is a book that you're going to remember. From its opening lines to the various revelations about the

  10. Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

    1984: A Novel, unleashes a unique plot as per which No One is Safe or Free. No place is safe to run or even hide from a dominating party leader, Big Brother

  11. Book review: How 1984 is as important of a read now more than ever

    1984 is a beautiful example of how timeless words can be. The novel proves how words are a lasting form of communication that can stand the

  12. 1984

    The book takes you through a rollercoaster ride of sentiments, that a human brain can perceive and reflect, without breaking the flow of the

  13. Book Review || 1984 by George Orwell

    Book Review || 1984 by George OrwellCan this be called a hairstyle? Let's not talk about how this video took me three years to edit.

  14. Book Review: 1984

    1984 is a dystopian novel and it is centered on and around the consequences of the government's over-reach, totalitarianism, mass surveillance