These are dark days, as the new American administration attempts to radically change the way America interacts with the world, and with its citizens. Many people have turned to fiction to try to understand how such a regime can go wrong, and rightly so.
Back when I was younger, I read many dystopian novels, because the themes were interesting, but they seemed so far away. Now, many of these books seem prophetic.
Here’s a selection of novels to read that will help understand how totalitarian regimes work, and to recognize the signs that the current regime is leaning in this direction.
- 1984, by George Orwell. The classic that depicts an authoritarian regime that controls everything, down to the deepest thoughts and desires. And even love. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) The image above is what may be the best book cover ever designed. Amazon UK no longer shows this edition, however; I’m not sure if it’s still on sale. It’s worth owning just for the cover.
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Society is perfect, and citizens are placated by Soma, a drug that keeps them happy. But are they really happy, or is it all an illusion? (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
- Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. This is the temperature at which books burn. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
- The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Where women exist for just one thing: to make children. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
- The Children of Men, by P. D. James. In this version of the world, no children have been born for 25 years… (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
- It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis. Published in 1935, this book examines how something like Hitler’s rise could, indeed, happen in the United States. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
- The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth. More recently, Philip Roth wrote a “what if” novel about Charles Lindbergh winning the presidency in 1940. A chilling tale. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
- Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. A group of students in a school in a strange version of England learn what their lot in life is. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
- The Plague (La Peste), by Albert Camus. In this allegory of the Nazi occupation of France, a deadly plague takes hold in the Algerian city of Oran. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR)
I have intentionally left out the more recent spate of dystopian novels – like The Hunger Games – which are action oriented. The dystopian novel has become a popular genre, but these newer books lack the subtlety and introspection of the many books I’ve listed above. Also, post-apocalyptic fiction has become very popular, but, again, I don’t include such books in the list, because they don’t show how society goes wrong, only how it tries to go right again.
So read a few of these books to understand where the world may be going, if we don’t #resist now.
Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.