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5 George Orwell books that aren’t 1984 or Animal Farm

There’s a good reason why we all read him in school, but have you heard of these classics?

George Orwell. Your favourite author’s favourite author. The legendary novelist died in 1950 but still towers over the literary world with many of his works as relevant today as when he first wrote them. 

Orwell was also an eminent journalist and penned hundreds of essays, reviews and editorials. There’s a good reason why we all read him in school. 

But how much of his work have you dived into that isn’t 1984 or Animal Farm? Don’t worry if the answer is zero, author Dorian Lynskey has compiled a list of five essentials.

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Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)

Orwell’s funniest novel is a spiky, semi-autobiographical satire of the London literary scene and thwarted ambition. Gordon Comstock, an unsuccessful poet terrified of sliding into bourgeois conformity, is a hilarious misanthrope and forerunner of the post-war Angry Young Men.

Homage to Catalonia (1938)

It sold very few copies at the time but Orwell’s account of his life-changing six months as a socialist militiaman in the Spanish Civil War has become a classic, with vivid descriptions of life on the front, his brush with death and his hair-raising escape from Stalinist persecution.

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Coming Up for Air (1939)

The story of commuter George Bowling’s midlife crisis combines Orwell’s nostalgia for the rural Edwardian England of his youth with his anxieties about the coming war, trying out several ideas that would resurface in 1984.

George Orwell’s essays (1984)

Orwell’s vast journalistic output has been sliced and diced many times but this remains his equivalent of a greatest hits album, with essential essays on subjects ranging from language and nationalism to Dalí and Dickens. There’s a timeless observation on every page.

The Complete Works Vol XIX: It Is What I Think, 1947-48 (1998)

Professor Peter Davison’s epic 20-volume project compiles and contextualises every extant word that Orwell wrote. This penultimate instalment, consisting mostly of letters, illuminates the completion of 1984, his life on the island of Jura, and his ultimately fatal struggle with tuberculosis.

Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth is out now (Pan Macmillan, £9.99)

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