The best classic books that expose the cruelty of society

Who am I?

I am one of those people who always feels sorry for the monster at the end of the movie. I am always more disturbed by the avenging townspeople’s bloodlust than the monster’s destructiveness. At a deeper level, for me these horror stories actually depict compassion, acceptance, and the hysteria whipped up by self-righteous mobs. They are books with very dark themes, and they generally do not have happy endings, but rather than being depressing, I find them instructive, even enriching, and certainly valuable. More than anything, they show me – in bloody detail  the terrifying limits of conformity.


I wrote...

Nothing

By Robin Friedman,

Book cover of Nothing

What is my book about?

For high school senior Parker, anything less than success is failure. A dropped extracurricular, a C on a calc quiz – one misstep, and his meticulously constructed life splinters. The countdown to HYP (Harvard, Yale, Princeton) has begun, and he will stay focused, no matter what.

That's why he has to keep it a secret. The pocketful of breath mints. The weird smell in the bathroom. Only Parker's little sister, Danielle, seems to notice that he's withering away.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of 1984

Robin Friedman Why did I love this book?

You’ve probably come across the byword “Orwellian” in current headlines. Well, it’s time to read the primary source for yourself. (And if you read 1984 – or any of these classics – in school, read them again!) If you did not read them, you’ll finally gain first-hand mastery of all those slogans people are constantly throwing around (Big Brother is Watching You, Thought Police, Ministry of Truth, 2+2=5).

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU . . .

1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…


Book cover of Animal Farm

Robin Friedman Why did I love this book?

Even though this is another book by the same author, it can’t be left off this list. For one, it’s a very easy read, almost like a child’s storybook. And, once again, you’ll gain first-hand knowledge of slogans such as “Some animals are more equal than others.” You may even wince when the sheep in the story start chanting…familiar, isn’t it?

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Animal Farm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The perfect edition for any Orwell enthusiasts' collection, discover Orwell's classic dystopian masterpiece beautifully reimagined by renowned street artist Shepard Fairey

'All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.'

Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organised to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the…


Book cover of Frankenstein

Robin Friedman Why did I love this book?

The mother of all monster stories, but deep in its soul, more a tragedy than a horror show, depicting the disastrous limits of acceptance, compassion, and deadly ignorance. In a world that seems to value free thinking less and less, this book will make you think long after you put it down. Mostly, though, it will force you to come to your own conclusions, which is actually the essence of free thinking, no matter who agrees or disagrees with you.

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

38 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…


Book cover of The Invisible Man

Robin Friedman Why did I love this book?

Similar in vein, a more opaque story than Frankenstein, and with a more indeterminate morality surrounding the main character, who is, after all, a crackpot murderer, but eliciting perhaps the same complex reactions toward him and the other characters at the book’s tragic ending. 

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Invisible Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

H. G. Wells was one of the founders of science fiction and his novels have remained extremely popular since they were first released.


Book cover of Lord of the Flies

Robin Friedman Why did I love this book?

The most vicious of the five books, but also the most honest. At its heart, Lord of the Flies is about the thinness of civilization’s veneer; how quickly a community disintegrates down to its barest savagery. It doesn’t take much to smash society  the strong preying on the weak - when kids with runny noses whoop through a jungle impaling each other with spears because they can’t think of anything else to do.

By William Golding,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Lord of the Flies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A plane crashes on a desert island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. As the boys' delicate sense of order fades, so their childish dreams are transformed into something more primitive, and their behaviour starts to take on a murderous, savage significance.

First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is one of the most celebrated and widely read of modern…


You might also like...

Quick Bright Things

By Michael Golding,

Book cover of Quick Bright Things

Michael Golding Author Of A Poet of the Invisible World

New book alert!

Who am I?

It took me awhile to understand that I was on a spiritual path. I started out as an actor, and working in the theater brought me joy. But as time passed, and I turned to writing novels, the same questions kept emerging: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” I began to see that I was on a spiritual journey. With A Poet of the Invisible World, I finally felt ready to write about that journey. Nouri’s adventures chart the twists and turns—as well as the deep rewards—of the spiritual path. It’s a book that’s very close to my heart.

Michael's book list on accompanying you on your spiritual journey

What is my book about?

This delightful fable about the Golden Age of Broadway unfolds the warm story of Artie, a young rehearsal pianist, Joe, a visionary director, and Carrie, his crackerjack Girl Friday, as they shepherd a production of a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream towards opening night. 

Drawn from the personal experiences of its author, it's a glittering love letter to the Great White Wayand all the crazy, gifted people who keep it humming.

Quick Bright Things

By Michael Golding,

What is this book about?

This is a delightful fable about the Golden Age of Broadway. It follows Artie, a young rehearsal pianist, Joe, a visionary director, and Carrie, his crackerjack Girl Friday, as they shepherd a production of a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream towards opening night.

Drawn from the personal experiences of its author, this is a glittering love letter to the Great White Way, and all the crazy, gifted people who keep it humming.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in George Orwell, totalitarianism, and mental disorders?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about George Orwell, totalitarianism, and mental disorders.

George Orwell Explore 30 books about George Orwell
Totalitarianism Explore 45 books about totalitarianism
Mental Disorders Explore 152 books about mental disorders