What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

Short Url
Updated 16 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

Author: John Rodden

Is George Orwell the most influential writer who ever lived? Yes, according to John Rodden’s provocative book about the transformation of a man into a myth. Rodden does not argue that Orwell was the most distinguished man of letters of the last century, nor even the leading novelist of his generation, let alone the greatest imaginative writer of English prose fiction. Yet his influence since his death at midcentury is incomparable. No other writer has aroused so much controversy or contributed so many incessantly quoted words and phrases to our cultural lexicon, from “Big Brother” and “doublethink” to “thoughtcrime” and “Newspeak.” Becoming George Orwell is a pathbreaking tour de force that charts the astonishing passage of a litterateur into a legend.
Rodden presents the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four in a new light, exploring how the man and writer Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, came to be overshadowed by the spectral figure associated with nightmare visions of our possible futures.
Rodden opens with a discussion of the life and letters, chronicling Orwell’s eccentricities and emotional struggles, followed by an assessment of his chief literary achievements. The second half of the book examines the legend and legacy of Orwell, whom Rodden calls “England’s Prose Laureate,” looking at everything from cyberwarfare to “fake news.” The closing chapters address both Orwell’s enduring relevance to burning contemporary issues and the multiple ironies of his popular reputation, showing how he and his work have become confused with the very dreads and diseases that he fought against throughout his life.


What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie

Updated 02 February 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie

In today’s financial markets, trading floors on which brokers buy and sell shares face- to-face have increasingly been replaced by lightning-fast electronic systems that use algorithms to execute astounding volumes of transactions.

“Trading at the Speed of Light” tells the story of this epic transformation.

Donald MacKenzie shows how in the 1990s, in what were then the disreputable margins of the US financial system, a new approach to trading — automated high-frequency trading or HFT— began and then spread throughout the world.


What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

Updated 31 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

Edited by Nikolas Rose & Des Fitzgerald

Most of the world’s people now live in cities and millions have moved from the countryside to the rapidly growing megacities of the global south.

How does the urban experience shape the mental lives of those living in and moving to cities today? Sociologists study cities as centers of personal progress and social innovation, but also exclusion, racism, and inequality. Psychiatrists try to explain the high rates of mental disorders among urban dwellers, especially migrants.

But the split between the social and life sciences has hindered understanding of how urban experience is written into the bodies and brains of urbanites.


What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

Updated 30 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

Edited by Bruce D. Perry, Oprah Winfrey

“What Happened to You?” provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns which many of us struggle to understand. This book is going to change the way you see your life.

When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. The book tells us that it’s time we started asking a different question.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves.


What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

Updated 28 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

Edited by Paula Marantz Cohen

“Talking Cure” is a timely and enticing excursion into the art of good conversation. Paula Marantz Cohen reveals how conversation connects us in ways that social media never can and explains why simply talking to each other freely and without guile may be the cure to what ails our troubled society. 

Drawing on her lifelong immersion in literature and culture and her decades of experience as a teacher and critic, Cohen argues that we learn to converse in our families and then carry that knowledge into a broader world where we encounter diverse opinions and sensibilities.

Related


What We Are Reading Today: The Land Beneath the Ice by David J. Drewry

Updated 24 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Land Beneath the Ice by David J. Drewry

From the moment explorers set foot on the ice of Antarctica in the early nineteenth century, they desired to learn what lay beneath.

David J. Drewry provides an insider’s account of the ambitious and often hazardous radar mapping expeditions that he and fellow glaciologists undertook during the height of the Cold War, when concerns about global climate change were first emerging and scientists were finally able to peer into the Antarctic ice and take its measure.

Related