Book 1: Nineteen Eighty-Four
Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.
Book 2: Shooting an Elephant
"Shooting an Elephant" is Orwell's searing and painfully honest account of his experience as a police officer in imperial Burma; killing an escaped elephant in front of a crowd "solely to avoid looking a fool". The other masterly essays in this collection include classics such as "My Country Right or Left", "How the Poor Die" and "Such, Such were the Joys", his memoir of the horrors of public school, as well as discussions of Shakespeare, sleeping rough, boys' weeklies and a spirited defence of English cooking. Opinionated, uncompromising, provocative and hugely entertaining, all show Orwell's unique ability to get to the heart of any subject.
Book 3: Animal Farm
When the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm overthrow their master Mr Jones and take over the farm themselves, they imagine it is the beginning of a life of freedom and equality. But gradually a cunning, ruthless elite among them, masterminded by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, starts to take control. Soon the other animals discover that they are not all as equal as they thought, and find themselves hopelessly ensnared as one form of tyranny is replaced with another. Orwell's chilling "fairy story" is a timeless and devastating satire of idealism betrayed by power and corruption.
Book 4: Down and Out in Paris and London
"You have talked so often of going to the dogs - and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them". George Orwell's vivid memoir of his time among the desperately poor and destitute in London and Paris is a moving tour of the underworld of society. Here he painstakingly documents a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor - sleeping in bug-infested hostels and doss houses, working as a dishwasher in the vile "Hotel X", living alongside tramps, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts - in an unforgettable account of what being down and out is really like.