Books Read: 5
1984 by George Orwell
This has been a weird month for me because I had eye surgery on April 21 which completely threw me out of commission for the last ten days of the month. I did, however, compensate by listening to audio books, but no human being can read aloud as fast as I can usually read with my eyes, so I accomplished far less on the book front than usual.
Somehow, I made it through high school and college without reading George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984. It is a book I have been meaning to read for a long time, but was never able to force myself to sit down and take the time to actually read. When I had my eye surgery and couldn’t open my eyes for a few days, I decided it was time to reintroduce myself to audio books and thus I finally got myself through 1984.
I am so glad I waited to read (listen to) this book. I would not have appreciated it in high school. I think it’s a shame that so many people read 1984 in an environment where they will least care about it, because this book makes so many fascinating comments on the human condition and the nature of language, truth, and reality. Orwell is a master of dystopia, and he unsettles his readers through the innate wrongness of Winston’s reality. I particularly enjoyed his idea of New Speak, and Orwell’s exploration of how much language effects perception. By obliterating words to express abstract ideas such as freedom and unity, man’s ability to form ideas counter to what the party teaches is inhibited. Having studied both German and Chinese, I have seen first hand how much language effects culture and perception, so the concept of New Speak was all the more fascinating and chilling.
I was also fascinated by Orwell’s exploration of truth and memory. Winston’s memory is constantly terrible and unreliable. When you are told enough times that a certain fact is truth, memory does being to change. Memory is not reliable, but when all written record is falsified, then what is truth? What is history? What is reality, and why does it matter?
If you read 1984 in high school and wrote it off as a dumb book you were forced (ironically) to read, I highly recommend reading it again, as I think there are concepts in this book worth revisiting as an adult.
Runner-up: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen