Why 1984 is a Must-Read for Banned Books Week

In case you missed Monday night's Pretty Literate LIVE, Simon shared 3 reasons why 1984 by George Orwell is the perfect pick for #BannedBooksWeek2023.

Quick Recap

It is a classic. Orwell's wrote his enduring classic in 1948 (published 1949) and 75 years later it remains as thought-provoking as it did when read by the original audience. Not only that, it has since become the Most Banned Book in America of all time, opening the doors to important conversations even today. It's a classic for a reason and if you have not yet read it, this needs to be the year you remedy that.

It is prophetic. Fascinating, isn't it, how classic authors such as George Orwell anticipated the future, the future in which we now find ourselves living? We aren't talking about flying cars or dwellings on Mars, but predictions about world order and the structural basis for societies. Reading 1984 opens up vital social conversations because it reads "fresh" and "now" because of the author's prophetic forethought.

It is timely. The book is 75 years old, but reads like it could have been written recently. There is a reason it has become the Most Banned Book in America, the most downloaded book in Russia, and the book our local bookstore cannot keep in stock. Its popularity soared during Covid and continues to rise because it speaks to us living in the here and now.

BUT - Did you also know...

It is a warning. Orwell wanted his book to serve as a warning against totalitarianism. 

Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohibits all opposition parties, outlaws individual and group opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high if not complete degree of control and regulation over public and private life. -Wikipedia 

It is a template. Several popular, more contemporary novels that you have read and loved have piggy-backed off Orwell's prophetic prediction of things to come like The Hunger Games, The Giver, The Handmaid's Tale, and Parable of the Talents, to name a few.

It is the MOST Banned Book in America. The fact that it is the MOST banned book in America of all time is enough reason for any of us to want to read it. Since its publication (1949), the novel 1984 has been challenged or banned so many times for its content, that the content must contain ideas that are threatening to those that seek to ban it. I want to know what those ideas are and decide for myself. 

It is food for thought. There is a frightening amount of parallelism between the fictitious world in which 1984 is set and the reality we are living in today.

The most genuinely frightening aspect of the novel is the dizzying depiction of power as an end in itself: the global war to maintain the status quo; the insignificance of the individual... -theguardian.com

It is {obsessively} ruminative. Months after finishing 1984 I am still thinking about the novel, bringing it up in conversation, and talking through major themes, like -

  • Freedom vs Censorship
  • Newspeak
  • Big Brother
  • Thought Police
  • Government Boundaries

- and at this stage in the election cycle, those are some timely topics to keep front-of-mind.

It is relevant. We live in a time when social control is exercised through disinformation and surveillance is commonplace; a time when fake information is the norm and the everyday citizen is at a loss to know who to believe. What is more 1984 than that?

A Must-Read

I want to encourage you to make reading George Orwell's 1984 a must-read.

I further want to encourage you to talk about it because the best way to get the most out of what you're reading is to talk about it

*Check out the Nineteen Eighty-Four Book Box, an interactive experience for the book lover, here.

Psst! If you're building your personal library, stocking it with classics that have stood the test of time and whose messages are as relevant today as the day they were written, I hope you'll check out PL's Monthly Book Club here

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