Jun 25 2012 11:30am

Tell Us How George Orwell Changed the Way You Read

Today is the 109th birthday of the late author George Orwell. Hailing from London, Orwell permanently insinuated himself into modern and post-modern literary discussions by bonking the culture on the collective head with his brilliant works of fantastical satire. Best known for his novels, 1984 and Animal Farm, Orwell often used science fiction and fantasy to delineate his anti-fascist and humanitarian views.

He also wrote non-science fiction like Keep the Aspidistra Flying and numerous non-fiction essays criticizing fascism and other power structures oppressive to free thought and human individuality. Orwell was an unequaled champion among authors who sought to make a difference with their writing. At the very least, he altered the way we read dystopian science fiction forever.

In honor of him on his birthday, chime in below by telling us how Orwell changed the way you read!

1. Ketzirah
In the 5th grade we did oral book reports. I remember one that I did very clearly, mostly because of how stunned my teacher was. While my classmates were talking about things like "Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing" - -a classic -- my book report was on George Orwell's "Animal Farm."

One thing I've always been grateful for is that my mother encouraged me to read just about anything that caught my eye.

Animal Farm is the first book I can remember reading that taught a larger concept like Communism and Fascism through the veil of fiction, and well, farm animals. Not sure I really understood it all back then, but I do remember talking to my mom, and then my class, about "four legs good, two legs better" and that some are more equal than others. Needless to say the scene ***spoiler alert **** where the horse dies stuck with me for years.

Since then I've loved books like Watership Down and other allegorical tales that use animals to show human foilble, frailty and greatness.
2. Kaji
Well, the audiobook of his Down and Out in Paris and London was the first one to convince me that audiobooks had potential, but I'm not sure that's what you meant. (Find it! It's wonderful!)
Joann Zimmerman
3. joann
Orwell didn't change the way I read, but it had an effect on the way a friend wrote. When I was a sweet young college junior, seeing a grad student working on his dissertation, I noticed that he had a complete set of Orwell's non-fiction sitting on his worktable. He claimed that reading bits of that when he was stuck was the best way to remind himself of what clear writing was supposed to look like.
4. Tesh
I read 1984 in junior high. It forever colored the way I read "journalistic" text. I count that as a blessing.
5. Dr. Cox
Hmmm . . . not so much the way I read, but the way I copyedit--more awareness of verbal grunge that clogs text, and what text is supposed to look like after unclogging.
Pamela Adams
6. PamAdams
Okay, this is the second time I've seen Down and Out... mentioned in the last week. (I admit, the other is when I was doing tricep work in the gym) Time for a re-read!!!
7. Eugene R.
1984 taught me that Appendices Are Our Friends. All good novels should have one.

Ketzirah (@1): Animal Farm taught me how to read the Official Explanations for anything (generally, with squinty, suspicious eyes) after Boxer was shipped off to the knacker's instead of to the vet's when he is too old to work.
8. April Brown
For me, it was something about political writing and speech, perhaps from The Lion and the Unicorn? Can't remember. He called out people who are in the persuasion/coercion business who use phrases like "not dissimilar to", muddying up their meaning with excessively long words and convoluted phrases.

Also, when I feel like giving myself a good scare, I re-read Eric Fromme's afterward to a later edition of 1984 where he analyzises Newspeak, then I watch the 6 o'clock news. Then I'm all like, OH NO THE END HAS COME!!~

Also, Down and Out in Paris and London is a fabulous work of political insight. Entertaining to read and really points out the vicious cycle that some forms of charity can dump people in.
9. Stefan Jones
I'm not sure of how to answer the question.

Orwell's import is in how he changed the way we thing, not the way we read.

Homage to Catalonia and Down and Out in London and Paris were head-changing, and Orwell's essays are wonderful.
10. between4walls
This from Homage to Catalonia:
"It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan. In case I have not said this somewhere earlier in the book I will say it now: beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact, and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events. And beware of exactly the same things when you read any other book on this period of the Spanish war."

which does not apply only to books on the Spanish Civil War.
11. Dan Nieman
George Orwell started me reading between the lines in science fiction and all types of literature. My first taste of Orwell was reading Animal Farm in 10th grade. Before Animal Farm, I found fiction to be irrelevent. I enjoyed music, poetry, movies and nonfiction; but fiction was simple escapism. With Animal Farm, I learned to take the blinders off with fiction, going behind what the author said to what the author meant.
Wesley Osam
12. Wesley
April Brown @8: You're thinking of his essay "Politics and the English Language." It's as relevant today as ever and worth tracking down for anyone who hasn't read it. It's among Orwell's most famous essays, so not difficult to find.

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