The best totalitarian novels since George Orwell’s 1984

Richard Godwin Author Of One Lost Summer
By Richard Godwin

Who am I?

I studied propaganda and it is a subject that we all should be familiar with. Our basic liberties are bound up in our understanding of information and how different systems use it. I am the author of over 20 novels, and my stories have been published in numerous magazines and over 34 anthologies. I was born in London, and I've lectured on English and American literature at the University of London. I currently teach creative writing at Universities and online.


I wrote...

One Lost Summer

By Richard Godwin,

Book cover of One Lost Summer

What is my book about?

A novel about identity and the manipulation of identity. Rex Allen loves star quality in women. He moves into a new house in a heatwave with few possessions apart from two photographs of his dead daughter. His next-door neighbour, beautiful Evangeline Glass invites him over to one of her many summer parties, where he meets her friends and possessive husband Harry. Rex feels he knows Evangeline intimately. He starts to spy on her and becomes convinced she is someone other than who she pretends to be. When he discovers she has a lover, he blackmails her into playing a game of identity that ends in disaster.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of Fahrenheit 451

Why this book?

Classic Bradbury. Seminal work depicting a dystopian future in which books are outlawed and any that are found are burned by firemen. This novel is all about the suppression of information. It predicts all too realistically the controls on human liberties seen in modern totalitarian regimes.

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Fahrenheit 451 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen.

Over 1 million copies sold in the UK.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

The classic…


Naked Lunch: The Restored Text

By William S. Burroughs Jr., James Grauerholz, Barry Miles

Book cover of Naked Lunch: The Restored Text

Why this book?

Classic work of cut-up exploring addictions at all societal levels. Burroughs depicts the totalitarian government of Annexia. In the novel Dr. Benway is "an expert on all phases of interrogation, brainwashing, and control," and he has been sent away from Annexia, because he claims to "abhor brutality." Annexia is portrayed as a totalitarian state in which citizens are subject to spontaneous searches and must keep track of ever-changing documents.

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text

By William S. Burroughs Jr., James Grauerholz, Barry Miles

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Naked Lunch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its original publication in Paris in 1959, Naked Lunch has become one of the most important novels of the twentieth century.

Exerting its influence on the relationship of art and obscenity, it is one of the books that redefined not just literature but American culture. For the Burroughs enthusiast and the neophyte, this volume—that contains final-draft typescripts, numerous unpublished contemporaneous writings by Burroughs, his own later introductions to the book, and his essay on psychoactive drugs—is a valuable and fresh experience of a novel that has lost none of its relevance or satirical bite.


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Why this book?

Perhaps the most apposite, the novel that became the movie Blade Runner, in which Dick predicts the totalitarian mechanisation of society, where humans risk becoming androids. In the novel, we follow the story of detective Rick Deckard in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco as he tracks down runaway androids, deals with his Virtual Reality-addicted wife, and keeps up the pretence that his electric sheep is in fact real. The point Dick makes is that if we succumb to the totalitarian mechanization of our world, we risk becoming androids ourselves, reduced to “humans of mere use—men made into machines” (187). To deny technology’s pervasive role in our existence means, then, to deny reality—the reality of a world in which we are advancingly imbricated in a mechanical presence. Only by recognizing how it has encroached upon our understanding of “life” can we come to full terms with the technologies we have produced.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…


A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Book cover of A Clockwork Orange

Why this book?

Ostensibly about crime and rehabilitation this is in fact Burgess’s dark look at free will and a totalitarian society that removes it for the sake of law and order. Alex is a charismatic anti-social delinquent who likes Beethoven. He and his gang, who speak in Nadsat, a form of bastardised Russian slang mixed with English, commit a series of crimes until Alex is sent to a rehabilitation centre. This is nothing more than a totalitarian system. A classic novel about the conflict between the individual and the state.

A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Clockwork Orange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Anthony Burgess's influential nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, a teen who talks in a fantastically inventive slang that evocatively renders his and his friends' intense reaction against their society. Dazzling and transgressive, A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom. This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition, and Burgess's introduction, "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."


Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

By Richard Godwin,

Book cover of Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

Why this book?

My take on a future society in which a shadowy group conducts mass surveillance and is experimenting on turning a musician into a serial killer. 'I see no butterfly wings in the Rorschach test, but a mountain of bones.' So says Dale Helix, who is convinced he is being abducted by a shadowy group of rulers called The Assembly. The novel is set in a dystopian city, and is an exploration of totalitarianism, paranoia, and social engineering in a society where it is impossible to gauge the truth. The aim of the programme is to study the link between serial killers and dictators in order to clone the ideal dictator. And the Assembly is engineering a new gender. Is Dale insane or is his paranoia a key to a hidden truth? This is a novel about surveillance totalitarianism.

Paranoia and the Destiny Programme

By Richard Godwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paranoia and the Destiny Programme as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

‘I see no butterfly wings in the Rorschach test, but a mountain of bones.’ So says Dale Helix, who is convinced he is being abducted by a shadowy group of rulers called The Assembly. He claims they have programmed him to kill. International novelist Richard Godwin’s latest title is set in a dystopian city, and is an exploration of totalitarianism, paranoia and social engineering in a society where it is impossible to gauge the truth. The aim of the programme is to study the link between serial killers and dictators in order to clone the ideal dictator. And the Assembly…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in totalitarianism, satire, and good and evil?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about totalitarianism, satire, and good and evil.

Totalitarianism Explore 43 books about totalitarianism
Satire Explore 102 books about satire
Good And Evil Explore 90 books about good and evil

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like VALIS, Permutation City, and Crime and Punishment if you like this list.