1984 is a classic dystopian novel that has been mandatory reading in classrooms everywhere for decades. Its cautionary tale can be even more impactful when you come back to it as an adult. If you’re looking for books like 1984, look no further as we have compiled a list of 20 books you should read next.
About 1984 by George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949 and it is the ninth and final book George Orwell wrote. He began writing the novel on a northern Scottish island and finished it in between periods of hospitalization for tuberculosis. After its publication Orwell even issued statements from his hospital bed because he felt his message was being misinterpreted.
The novel follows the perspective of Winston Smith amidst a totalitarian regime entangled in perpetual war, government surveillance, and propaganda. Winston works for the government within the Ministry of Truth. In his role he must rewrite history to bring it in line with the current political thinking.
Winston becomes disillusioned by his government and starts questioning the repressive regimentation. As well, he meets a woman named Julia in his pursuit of independence.
The novel has had an unquestionable impact on society and literature. Orwell coined terms within 1984 that have become integral to our dialogue regarding propaganda and authoritarian politics. Terms like Big Brother, Thought Police, Orwellian, doublethink, thoughtcrime, newspeak, and more.
Orwell intended 1984 to serve as a warning of what might come to be, and that it can happen anywhere. For that, it will remain an essential book. It contains a critical warning that is just as relevant today as it was following the Second World War.
Books Like 1984
If you are looking for more books that hit on the same themes as 1984, then this list is perfect for you. Some of those themes include dystopian worlds, anti-authoritarian messages, post-apocalyptic settings, threats of mass surveillance, and repressive regimentation.
We have compiled 20 books like 1984 that include other twentieth-century classics and more recent publications. Keep reading to find out more.
1. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
If you enjoyed George Orwell’s depiction of a totalitarian state, then you should absolutely read We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. This novel was published in 1924, so it predates Orwell’s publication of 1984. As well, it is said to have been an inspiration for Orwell.
In We a glass-enclosed city of perfectly straight lines is ruled over by an all-powerful Benefactor. The citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState must conform to the spies and secret police, wear identical clothing, and are distinguished only by a number assigned to them at birth.
That is, until D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, makes a discovery that he has an individual soul. He can feel things, and he can fall in love. From then on, he begins to dangerously veer from the norms of his society, becoming embroiled in a plot to destroy OneState and liberate the city.
We was the forerunner of canonical works from George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, among others. It was suppressed for more than sixty years in Russia and remains a resounding cry for individual freedom. As well, it is a powerful, exciting, and vivid work of science fiction that still feels relevant today.
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The second novel on our list of books like 1984 is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Again, this novel predates 1984 with its publication in 1932. Huxley actually taught George Orwell briefly at Eton College and you can draw parallels between their dystopian writing.
Brave New World is largely set in a futuristic World State. It is inhabited by genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy. The novel also anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning.
Together this creates a dystopian society which is challenged by only a single individual: The story’s protagonist.
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Similar to 1984 with its depiction of an authoritarian regime and tight control on the distribution of information is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This novel was published soon after 1984 in 1953.
Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities: The printed book. He must also destroy the houses where they find the books.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce. He returns each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.”
But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse.
Clarisse introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear. She also introduces him to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television. Then Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
No list of dystopian books like 1984 would be complete without including The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This book has increased in popularity in recent years following the successful TV show, but if you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely should.
Just like 1984, it acts as a cautionary tale. It was first published in 1985.
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to the food markets. There the signs are now pictures instead of words because women can no longer read.
She must also lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant. Because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valuable only if their ovaries are viable.
But Offred can remember the years before. When she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; was able to play and protect her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
5. The Circle by Dave Eggers
Published in 2013, The Circle by Dave Eggers brings a twenty-first century twist to the dystopian tale of mass surveillance with its internet-based premise.
When Mae Holland begins to work for the Circle she feels it is the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle is the world’s most powerful internet company. It links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing to create one online identity.
This results in a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces she is thrilled with the company’s elite modernity.
Mae can’t believe her luck and great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world. Even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.
What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense. It raises questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
6. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
If you’re seeking recommendations for books like 1984 that are fantasy as well as science-fiction, The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin is a great post-apocalyptic read.
The Fifth Season was first published in 2015. It begins with the world ending. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter.
Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire — collapses. Most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance.
And worst of all a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth. It spews enough ash to darken the sky for years, or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the continent Stillness. Thus begins a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night.
Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
7. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
No list of books like 1984 would also be complete without the inclusion of Haruki Murakami’s depiction of an alternative reality in 1Q84. In addition to the similarities in title, this book published in 2009 depicts how controlling forces influence free will and independence. While the books are quite different, this novel should make it onto your reading list.
The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s mysterious suggestion and begins to notice discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84.
Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer.
A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet.
8. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
The next book on our list is The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, first published in 1962. Similar to George Orwell, Dick describes a repressive regime in an alternative reality following the Second World War.
It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names.
In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war — and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.
This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.
9. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is another classic that has been revered as one of the best novels of all time. Again in this novel, the author is building upon the events of the Second World War. Which is not surprising considering it was first published in 1969.
It is widely regarded as an anti-war book, but Slaughterhouse-Five also shares similarities with 1984 in its themes of independence and self-expression. It centers on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden and Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time. Through this it reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.
10. 1985 by Anthony Burgess
The tenth book on our list of books like 1984 is a direct commentary on the classic novel: It is 1985 by Anthony Burgess
In characteristically daring style, Burgess combines two responses to Orwell’s 1984 in one book. The first is a sharp analysis. Burgess sheds new light on what he called an apocalyptic codex of our worst fears. In this he creates a critique that is literature in its own right.
Part two is Burgess’s own dystopic vision, written in 1978. He skewers both the present and the future. Describing a state where industrial disputes and social unrest compete with overwhelming surveillance, security concerns, and the dominance of technology to make life a thing to be suffered rather than lived.
Together these two works form a unique guide to one of the twentieth-century’s most talented, imaginative and prescient writers.
11. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
A more recent commentary on George Orwell’s classic is Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. It is a young adult science fiction novel and has won numerous awards since its publication in 2008. It is the first in the Little Brother series.
Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works — and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security. Then they are whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: “M1k3y” will take down the DHS himself.
12. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
This recommendation is the first in a duology; Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler was first published in 1993. It depicts one person’s struggle in a post-apocalyptic world.
In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of their ravaged culture. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.
When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.
13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The next novel on our list of books like 1984 is another classic you might remember from high school English class. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller was first published in 1961 and is the start to a duology. Similar to 1984 it shows one man’s plight against a regime he cannot understand, albeit with a much funnier tone.
Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian. He is a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy — it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service.
Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from his perilous missions, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule. A man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions. But if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
14. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The fourteenth book on our list is a more recent publication with its release in 2014. While this recommendation does not share similarities with the totalitarian regime George Orwell depicted in 1984, it is a wonderful character study within a post-apocalyptic world.
Set in the days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve.
This novel moves back and forth in time. It is a suspenseful, haunting, spellbinding novel that charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people. The actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
15. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This next recommendation for books like 1984 by George Orwell is again more similar in its character depiction. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro depicts the importance of relationships while also highlighting class disparity. Published in 2005, it has been nominated for many awards.
Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well-tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they learn nothing of the outside world and have little contact with it.
Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman. But it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school — as they always knew they would — that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.
Never Let Me Go breaks through the boundaries of the literary novel. It is a gripping mystery, a beautiful love story, and also a scathing critique of human arrogance. It is also a moral examination of how we treat the vulnerable and different in our society.
16. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
Like our N.K. Jemisin recommendation, this next one leans into the fantasy genre as well as science fiction. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin was first published in 1974 and aligns with 1984 in how it searches for the meaning of life.
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life.
Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras. There he will challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.
17. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
This next recommendation features a post-apocalyptic world as well as class disparity. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson was first published in 1998.
The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways — farming, barter, herb lore.
But now the rich need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother.
She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.
18. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Yet another classic that many with recognize from high school is Lord of the Flies by William Golding. First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is a captivating social commentary, just like George Orwell’s 1984.
At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. Anything.
They attempt to forge their own society, but fail in the face of terror, sin, and evil. And as order collapses and strange howls echo in the night, terror begins its reign. The hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of a rescue.
19. In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
This slim read was first published in 1987 and is a dystopian epistolary novel. In the Country of Last Things, Paul Auster depicts a world beyond collapse and like 1984 can serve as a warning.
A young woman Anna Blume writes to a childhood friend. Anna has ventured into an unnamed city that has collapsed into chaos and disorder. In this bleak environment, no industry takes place and most of the population collects garbage or scavenges for objects to resell.
City governments are unstable and concerned only with collecting human waste and corpses for fuel. Anna has entered the city to search for her brother William, a journalist. There is also the suggestion that the Blumes come from a world to the East which has not collapsed.
20. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Finally, we end our list of books like 1984 with another classic first published in 1993. The Giver by Lois Lowry is a young adult novel, but shares many similarities with 1984 in its dissemination of information and propaganda. It is the first book in a quartet.
Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world. But it is a world of conformity and contentment.
Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices.
Every person receives a role within the community. It is not until Jonas receives his life assignment as The Giver that he begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. For The Giver alone holds the memories of true pain and pleasure of life.
Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth, and there is no turning back.
Final Thoughts on books like 1984
And there you have our top 20 recommendations for books like 1984 by George Orwell. Have you read any of the recommendations we’ve listed here?
Orwell’s literature has left an undeniable imprint on science-fiction and literature in general. His impact only greatens as the futuristic purgatory he depicts becomes more real.
If you are a fan of sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, dystopian literature, make sure you check out these books. The books listed above will evoke the same emotions as 1984.
Looking for more book recommendations?
Check out this list of books like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.