Everything You Need to Know About George Orwell Books in Order

While Orwell is predominately known for two novels, Animal Farm and 1984, the George Orwell books in order depict a writing career that included six novels and more than 50 pieces of nonfiction which encompass articles, essays, books, and more.

Writing was in the background to Orwell’s many different lived experiences, from Imperial law enforcement to teaching, illness, wartime, and more.

About George Orwell

George Orwell has become almost synonymous with dystopian fiction with the publication of his final novel 1984. The terms he coined in that novel have become part of our vernacular when discussing propaganda, authoritarian politics, and totalitarian regimes.

However, there are obviously major events in his life which influenced his writing that become apparent when you read the George Orwell books in order.

Orwell was born Eric Blair in 1903 in India while his father was employed by the British Empire. He then grew up and attended school in England, before entering the workforce as an Imperial police officer in what is now Myanmar.

Each novel is reflective of the period of life that Orwell was in at that time: Following his employment as an Imperial law enforcement officer, his experience with poverty and hunger, the longing for childhood or the past, and then finally his experience during wartime.

Orwell was vehemently against totalitarianism, and his experience during the Spanish Civil War — where he was shot in the neck and narrowly avoided death — hugely impacted his political ideology.

With each life event and each piece of writing, Orwell stepped closer to what would become his seminal work with the completion of 1984.

Should I read Animal Farm or 1984 first?

The two books are standalones that follow different characters and take place in different settings, so it is not necessary to read the books in any particular order. Your understanding of the plot does not hinge on reading one book first.

That said, however, if you want to learn more and understand the evolution of Orwell’s thought process, then you should follow the order of publication, which would have you read Animal Farm first.

That’s because the satirical criticism of totalitarianism in Animal Farm provides insight into Orwell’s political ideology, which was forever evolving. As a result, it is a great precursor to the depiction of State in 1984 and the criticism of sacrificing individual freedoms.

George Orwell Books in Order

Standalone Books

Again, it is not necessary to read the George Orwell books in order, but if you have the opportunity to do so, then following the publication order will only enhance your reading experience. That’s because it will naturally follow the progression of Orwell’s focus and ideology. This will allow for a slow build towards 1984, which is largely seen as Orwell’s best book.

  1. Burmese Days (1934)
  2. A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935)
  3. Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)
  4. Coming Up for Air (1939)
  5. Animal Farm (1945)
  6. 1984 (1949)

Nonfiction Books

This next list of the George Orwell books in order begins with his debut publication. Down and Out in Paris and London is an account of his experience of poverty and hunger in two major metropolises.

This list of titles includes books, essays, and also articles. The large majority of the titles below are different collections and editions from after Orwell’s death. It would be an endeavor to read all of these nonfiction pieces in order, but reading the titles from his lifetime in order would be a way to fully experience the fluctuation and evolution of his opinions.

  1. Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)
  2. The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
  3. Homage to Catalonia (1938)
  4. A Nice Cup of Tea (1946)
  5. Shooting an Elephant (1950)
  6. Critical Essays (1951)
  7. England Your England and Other Essays (1953)
  8. Selected Essays / Inside the Whale and Other Essays (1957)
  9. Selected Writings (1958)
  10. The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters (1961)
  11. The Lion and the Unicorn (1962)
  12. Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays (1965)
  13. A Collection of Essays (1970)
  14. The English People (1982)
  15. The Penguin Essays of George Orwell (1984)
  16. Facing Unpleasant Facts (1999)
  17. Two Wasted Years (1999)
  18. Orwell and Politics (2001)
  19. Orwell and the Dispossessed (2001)
  20. Orwell in Spain (2001)
  21. Orwell’s England (2001)
  22. Books v. Cigarettes (2008)
  23. All Art Is Propaganda (2008)
  24. Orwell: A Celebration (2009)
  25. Diaries (2009)
  26. Such, Such Were the Joys and Other Essays (2010)
  27. A Life in Letters (2010)
  28. Orwell on Truth (2017)
  29. Notes on Nationalism (2018)
  30. Orwell on Freedom (2018)


George Orwell’s pieces of nonfiction have also been published posthumously in half a dozen anthologies.

  1. The Eloquent Essay (2000) (Out of Print)
  2. 40 Model Essays (2005) (Out of Print)
  3. Empire Tales (2008) (Out of Print)
  4. Life Is Short – Art is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity (2015)
  5. Letters to Change the World: From Pankhurst to Orwell (2018)
  6. Writers: Their Lives and Works (2018)

Out of Print Books

Finally, many of George Orwell’s essays and writing have been published in different books and editions throughout the years. Many of these have since gone of print, but you’ll be able to find links to second hand copies below.

  1. Dickens, Dali and Others (1946)
  2. British Pamphleteers (1951)
  3. As I Please, 1943-1945 (1968)
  4. An Age Like This 1920-1940 (1971)
  5. In Front of Your Nose 1945-1950 (1971)
  6. My Country Right or Left 1940-1943 (1980)
  7. The War Broadcasts (1985)
  8. Orwell The Lost Writings (1985)
  9. Orwell: The War Commentaries (1985)
  10. Selected Prose (1991)
  11. The Sayings of George Orwell (1994)
  12. Pages From a Scullion’s Diary (1995)
  13. All Propaganda is Lies (1999)
  14. I Belong to the Left (1999)
  15. I Have Tried to Tell the Truth (1999)
  16. It Is What I Think (1999)
  17. Keeping Our Little Corner Clean (1999)
  18. A Kind of Compulsion (1999)
  19. Our Job is to Make Life Worth Living (1999)
  20. A Patriot After All (1999)
  21. Smothered Under Journalism (1999)
  22. Orwell: The ‘Observer’ Years (2003)
  23. Why I Write (2004)
  24. Orwell in Tribune (2007)
  25. Narrative Essays (2009)

A Summary of George Orwell Books in Order

While George Orwell has written dozens of articles, essays, and other works of nonfiction, there are only six full-length fiction George Orwell books in order. As we said previously, it is not necessary to read his books in order of publication, but it is recommended. So, below you will find summaries of his books to help you understand a little bit more how Orwell incorporated his themes into his writing.

Burmese Days George Orwell Books in Order

1. Burmese Days

George Orwell’s debut novel draws heavily from his time as a police officer in British Empire-ruled Burma, which is now Myanmar. He was a member of the Indian Imperial Police there for five years, and very little is available about his time in Myanmar except for the inspiration it gave to Burmese Days and two of his popular essays, “A Hanging” and “Shooting an Elephant.”

Orwell left Myanmar in 1927 due to medical reasons and resigned from the Burma Police after his return to England. He said he returned thoroughly disillusioned by the Imperial enforcement he helped administer.

The novel describes such Imperial bigotry that he witnessed as well as corruption. A white timber merchant, Flory, becomes friends with a Black enthusiast for the Empire, Dr. Veraswami. However, membership at all-white club is the only thing that will avoid the doctor’s downfall.

A Clergyman’s Daughter George Orwell

2. A Clergyman’s Daughter

Following his departure from the Imperial Police, Orwell turned to teaching through bouts of bad health and recuperation. However, he had to leave teaching because of pneumonia. He then spent his recuperation period in Southwold writing his second novel: A Clergyman’s Daughter.

By this point Orwell had already written and published Down and Out in Paris and London, based on his own experiences, so this exploration of poverty, challenge, and unmooring were not new themes to Orwell, but the view through a female perspective was.

This novel introduces Dorothy, who is the daughter of Reverend Charles Hare, the rector of Knype Hill, and also intimidated by him. She performs her duties as a dutiful daughter and housekeeper, distracting herself by thoughts of costumes to make for the church school play. But the hopelessness and debts of 1930s Depression England are never far from her thoughts.

Then Dorothy is down and out in London. She is wearing silk stockings, has money in her pocket, but cannot remember her name. It is a landscape of unemployment, poverty, and hunger, where Dorothy’s faith is challenged by a social reality that changes her life.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying Book Cover

3. Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Following the completion of his second novel, George Orwell moved to London where he began work in a Hampstead bookshop. That is where he met his first wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy and his time at the bookshop partially inspired his third novel: Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

The book takes place in London in 1936. Gordon Comstock is an aspiring poet who has given up his well-paying job to work in a bookshop for half his former salary. He thought the change in occupation would allow him to flourish as a poet, but instead his one publication does not take off.

He pines for the virginal Rosemary, who he thinks won’t go to bed with him because he doesn’t have any money, and is too proud to accept charity. On the windowsill in his rooming-house room is an unkillable aspidistra plant, that Gordon hates and sees as a banner of his downward flight.

Coming Up for Air George Orwell

4. Coming Up for Air

George Orwell’s fourth novel harkens back to where he grew up. His childhood was largely spent in the Thames Valley, which is the background to Coming Up for Air.

It tells the story of George Bowling who is a middle-aged insurance salesman living in an average English suburban row house with a wife and two children. Then one day he wins a little bit of money from a bet and decides to go back to the village where he grew up. He has plans to fish for carp in a pool he fondly remembers from his childhood.

But when he arrives the pool is gone and the village has changed beyond recognition. Furthermore, the principal event of his holiday is an accidental bombing by the RAF.

Animal Farm George Orwell Books in Order

5. Animal Farm

Finally, with his penultimate novel, we near the titles for which George Orwell has become the most well-known. Animal Farm was written during the Second World War and Orwell’s political criticisms are at the forefront. As he was writing, Orwell was criticizing and condemning Stalinist Russia, but his analysis is just as relevant and applicable more than 75 years later.

He wrote Animal Farm in 1944, but the publication was delayed until August 1945.

Orwell describes a farm that has been taken over by its overworked and mistreated animals. They set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality with flaming idealism and stirring slogans. What follows is a satiric fable for adults that depicts the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism regime that is just as terrible.

1984 Book Cover

6. 1984

Orwell’s final novel was written during a period of failing health that ultimately led to his death. He wrote much of 1984 in the Inner Hebrides and completed the final draft at the end of 1948 before he suffered a complete physical collapse. Orwell, with advanced tuberculosis, was then taken to a nursing home in the Cotswolds.

The themes, plot, characters, and analysis in 1984 are the cumulation of his writing career. Many may have read 1984 while in school, but reading the George Orwell books in order of publication and completing that experience with his last novel provides a different reading experience. You will be able to analyze for yourself and find the connecting threads between his books as his ideology evolved throughout his life.

Orwell creates an alternative reality London in a dystopian future under a totalitarian regime. Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party who works for the Ministry of Truth, but begins to question the oppressive regime.

He then meets two people who alter the trajectory of his life completely, Julia and O’Brien. Winston will be betrayed by one and ultimately betray the other in this analysis of truth, freedom, and also mass surveillance.

Final thoughts

The George Orwell books in order are pillars of classic literature. His writing has had an undeniable impact on the industry and the dystopian genre in particular. Orwell coined terms of phrase in his writing that have become mainstays in our descriptions of propaganda and authoritarian politics.

If you have an interest in dystopian fiction, then reading George Orwell is highly recommended and reading his books in order will depict his evolution of thought and ideology.

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