Western Man’s glorious past has, in recent decades, come under attack by its self-loathing, left-wing element. It is my belief this noxious trend will worsen as each generation has become more indoctrinated than the last. One of the first fatalities of radicalism historically is knowledge deemed offensive to the sensibilities of those who have been propagandized by the state. It’s the simple tell. What we know of today’s SJWs is the way they practically vomit at the sight of a reading list of the classics of literature in a college syllabus. Who hasn’t witnessed some fragile flower triggered at the mere mention of Aquinas or Donne or, oh horror of horrors, that evil, mustachioed racist, Rudyard Kipling?
But for those of us who are enraptured by the eloquence and wisdom of the masters of language, we seek to preserve our heritage and no metrosexual hipster hectoring or cat-lady wauling can stop us. Though they have tried and will try again in the future. With that thought in mind, I offer a reading list of novels, plays, and poetry to sustain a thought criminal through dystopian times.
Since these posts will be quite long, I’ll break up the reading list by category and condense into one master list when the series is finished. So keep checking back. These are the works that appeal to all facets of a well-rounded personality, that engage mind and soul. This list is hardly canonical, so please tell me some of your personal favorites in the comments below.
For the first section of our reading list, we’ll focus on what are in my mind the three most prescient dystopian novels and a few more for supplementary reading.
[Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Barnes & Noble. Any commissions received from the purchase of books through the links below will help keep this website going.]
A Reading List for the Resistance
Dystopian Novels Reading List
That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis
Although all of the Three Wise Men of Dystopian Literature, Orwell, Huxley, and Lewis, have been truly prophetic in describing what plagues modern man, I believe this novel of Lewis’ hits the mark nearest to our current soft-totalitarian overlords. It’s a fictional treatise on what Lewis saw as the dangers of subjectivist philosophy, scientism and meddling against natural law. The National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (or N.I.C.E.) could almost have been devised with George Soros’ Open Society Foundation in mind, if it weren’t for the fact Lewis wrote this in 1945.
Some relevant quotes:
“…if it were even whispered that the N.I.C.E. wanted powers to experiment on criminals, you’d have all the old women of both sexes up in arms and yapping about humanity. Call it re-education of the mal-adjusted, and you have them all slobbering with delight that the brutal era of retributive punishment has at last come to and end. Odd thing it is–the word ‘experiment’ is unpopular, but not the word ‘experimental.’ You must’nt experiment on children; but offer the dear little kiddies free education in an experimental school attached to the N.I.C.E. and it’s all correct!”
“Don’t you understand anything? Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.”
“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Will civilization collapse with a bang or slowly die with a whimper? My belief is it’s both, with the latter preceding the former. No one unveils the evils of distraction, vapidity and self-absorption as accurately as Huxley. His prophesy was that through the doping of the “feelies” and “soma” we would learn to love our captivity. This is not even disputable. Our unknowingly addiction-addled modern society castigates those who prefer reality, no matter how harsh, the same way those in Huxley’s fictional world do to The Savage.
Still there? Good. Back to reality.
“There was a thing called Heaven; but all the same they used to drink enormous quantities of alcohol.”
“There was a thing called the soul and a thing called immortality.”
“But they used to take morphia and cocaine.”
“Two thousand pharmacologists and biochemists were subsidized in A.F. 178.”
“Six years later it was being produced commercially. The perfect drug.”
“Euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant.”
“All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.”
“Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much as a headache or a mythology.”
“Stability was practically assured.”
“Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning, truth and beauty can’t.”
“And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your mortality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears – that’s what soma is.”
“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”
“The Savage nodded, frowning. “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy.”
…”What you need,” the Savage went on, “is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
Granted, most everyone has read this one in school, so I’ll be brief. If we could combine the first three books on our dystopian reading list into one chronological series and apply it to our times, it would look like this:
The N.I.C.E of Lewis’ imaginings starts the ball rolling through the forming of a group of “elites” who seek to subtly shape society in its own image instead of God’s using moral relativism. The villains use the soft-totalitarian methods detailed in that book and mix in a heaping dose of those outlined in Brave New World. They wait patiently for society to degenerate and then for the final act, the hard totalitarianism comes about.
I recommend you read these three books in this order, for then our world will make perfect and complete sense to you.
That Hideous Strength is the origins of dystopia.
Brave New World is the long, mushy, comfortable middle.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is the horrifying end filled with a world filled with O’Brien’s, Ministries of Truth, Two-Minute Hates and the image of a boot stamping on a human face forever.
That is where we stand in October of 2016. The clocks are striking thirteen.
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”
“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”
“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”
“Winston Smith: Does Big Brother exist?
O’Brien: Of course he exists.
Winston Smith: Does he exist like you or me?
O’Brien: You do not exist.”
“I hate purity, I hate goodness! I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones.”
“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
“You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”
Supplementary Dystopian Reading List
The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
This one isn’t strictly a dystopian work, but from reading it, you will learn much about the psychology behind those who seek to wield power. Reading The Prince will both sicken you and expand your knowledge of history for in its pages exists the map for which most every tyrant has been guided on the road to tyranny.
Hillary Clinton must study nightly her own dog-eared copy. One can almost envision it sitting on her nightstand, flanked by empty lozenge wrappers and a three-refill bottle of Provigil, laying open to the pages that include such nuggets as these:
“it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”
“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”
“People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.”
The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats
Likewise to The Prince, Yeats’ mystically brilliant poem is not usually categorized as a dystopian piece, but apply the words to today (or most any time, including his own) and see if you don’t agree that it belongs on our reading list.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
This is Lewis’ clever treatise on the way modern man is separated from God through the usurping methods of a league of the cloven-hooved who correspond diablo-a-diablo in a series of letters. Worthy as it is as a Christian apologetic, it is in the prologue, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”, where Lewis’ prophesy is particularly clear. In it, he throws a series of uppercuts at the political, cultural, educational establishments which have, respectively, corrupted modern life, lessened the vitality of the human soul and ruined children’s learning abilities for decades.
“Oh, to get one’s teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII, or even a Hitler! There was real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own. It put up a delicious resistance to being devoured. It warmed your inwards when you’d got it down.
Instead of this, what have we had tonight? There was a municipal authority with Graft sauce. But personally I could not detect in him the flavour of a really passionate and brutal avarice such as delighted one in the great tycoons of the last century. Was he not unmistakably a Little Man — a creature of the petty rake-off pocketed with a petty joke in private and denied with the stalest platitudes in his public utterances — a grubby little nonentity who had drifted into corruption, only just realizing that he was corrupt, and chiefly because everyone else did it? Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn’t. They all tasted to me like undersexed morons who had blundered or trickled into the wrong beds in automatic response to sexy advertisements, or to make themselves feel modern and emancipated, or to reassure themselves about their virility or their “normalcy,” or even because they had nothing else to do. Frankly, to me who have tasted Messalina and Cassanova, they were nauseating. The Trade Unionist stuffed with sedition was perhaps a shade better. He had done some real harm. He had, not quite unknowingly, worked for bloodshed, famine, and the extinction of liberty. Yes, in a way. But what a way! He thought of those ultimate objectives so little. Toeing the party line, self-importance, and above all mere routine, were what really dominated his life.”
Politics and the English Language, by George Orwell
Orwell’s observations gleaned from his time as an overseas war correspondent informed this essay, which, in turn, informed his writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four. In those years he learned better than anyone that words -and the censoring of words- can shape the entire course of mankind; and how the crafty shading of them and the slightest parsing will split truth and propaganda like a meat cleaver. In today’s lingo, this is called “spin”.
“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
“political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
“Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
I’m often amazed at how the oblivious among us truly believe we are insulated from the follies of history. If I mention that the banning and burning of books may come back into vogue, I receive for my friendly warnings looks of absolute incredulity. History is replete with civilized societies that have fallen under a political fervor and took it out on any piece of wisdom that disputes the aims of the ruling class. Ray Bradbury’s classic reminds us that it could happen in the future and that a society can burn books in a manner of speaking by refusing to read them. Ahem, 2016, ahem!
“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.”
“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.”
“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them.”
Well that’s it for Part One of the reading list. For Part Two, I’ll be focusing on works of merit that have become too politically incorrect in the age of special snowflakes.
Help Spread the Word by Following Dystopia USA on Social Media. Don't Make Me Feel Lonely!