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Terrible Reviews of Great Books: Orwell’s 1984

There is no such thing as a universally loved book. Each month, we’ll feature a book from Time Magazine‘s list of the best 100 English language novels of all time. From the mean to the funny, to the downright absurd, we will highlight some of the strange reasons why some people hate these great reads. This month’s book is 1984 by George Orwell. I have to admit that I last read this in high school and it wasn’t my favorite book, but it certainly merited better than some of these 1-star reviews from Amazon. Keep reading to see why some people hate this book.

1984 was first published in 1949 and is considered one of the most influential novels of the 20th century. It made Time’s 100 best novels list, is on the 1001 list of books to read before you die, has been translated into over 65 languages, and has sold millions of copies worldwide. Here’s the rationale given for why Boxall included it in his 1001 Books to Read before you Die:

Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of George Orwell’s most powerful politically charged novels, a beautifully crafted warning against the dangers of a totalitarian society, and one of the most famous novels in the dystopian genre. It is an important novel not only for its stark warning against abusive authority (and its stark warning against abusive authority (and its somewhat ironic contribution to modern television content) but also for its insights into the power of manipulating language, history, and the psychology of fear and control.

1984 has 3,877 reviews on Amazon with an average star rating of 4.5. But why trust literary critics (and 90% of readers)? Let’s take a look at a sampling at the most “thoughtful” one star reviews (my comments in blue):

  1. This must be a book only an English teacher would like. I classify this as worse than “Catcher and the Rye.”
  2. I have always heard about 1984 being the father of all dystopian novels… I love a good dystopian but this was just such a hard book to read because in the entire story, there is no room for hope. Um, do you actually know what dystopia means? 
  3. Book sucks, but it arrived on time so there’s that. A glass half-full sort of person. 
  4. I didn’t care for this book. It made me depressed. I suggest this person stay away from reading 95% of all literary fiction. 
  5. No reason to read this “classic”, unless you are into misery and pain. Or proper placement of punctuation…
  6. I was doing a research paper on the year 1984, and according to my teacher, NONE of this actually happened.
    I got a flippin’ F. Says the kind of smart-ass student that we all long to have in our classes.
  7. Last time I ever read a history book by this Orwell scrub. He doesn’t know a thing about the 80s. Not ONCE did he mention Def Leppard or Karma Chameleon. Another smart-ass but at least this person has a slightly (only slightly) better sense of humor.
  8. I gave my copy to a donkey. He said it was about communism. This smart ass wins.
  9. This book is verbal diarrhea. As are most of these reviews.
  10. This book’s reputation as a classic reveals less about the book than it does about the shallowness and mediocrity of many book critics. Touché
  11. 1984 is in fact a lame, boring, and novel that attempts to be philosophical. I say “attempts” because any useful words of philosophy are lost or choked by the presence of Winston, the lame, spine-less main character who seems intent on boring the reader to death. Sadly, it seems Winston failed on that count too.
  12. The best books make you want to be a better person. “1984” does nothing but make you want to stop caring about everything.
  13. Attempting to read this book is worse than watching the grass grow. At least the grass will become something you enjoy. I’m picking up on a theme here.
  14. This book isn’t as good as Harry Potter. Ah… the gold standard for political commentary.
  15. Why would he wirte so much about nothing? I havent ever meet someone who could wirte such a boring book about the goverment. I have meet many people who have loved this book, but i dispised it. I am not at all intrested in the goverment. This may be part of the reason that I didnt like it. This must be a fake review, right? My 5-year old has better spelling skills.
21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tracy S. #

    Haha! Not sure what’s funnier: the reviews or the commentary! Thanks for the chuckles, Jen!

    Liked by 1 person

    November 30, 2015
    • :). It’s a lot of fun to put together


      November 30, 2015
  2. John #

    re 6 and 7, are you sure you aren’t being generous?

    re 15, not fair, your 5-year-old has you as her mother. (More to the point, “why would he wirte [sic] so much about nothing?” Haven’t read Proust yet, have you?

    re 4, now, now, if 95% of literary fiction made me depressed, I’d stay away. But they definitely should avoid Beckett.

    re 8, do you think maybe they confused 1984 with Animal Farm?

    I have to say, I am a little worried about showing up in the targeted reviews when you get to Gone With the Wind. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    November 30, 2015
    • Ha ha. poor Proust although I thought In Search of Lost Time was brilliant. Beckett has made me laugh at times and want to hurl his books across the room at other times.

      And never fear… Your reviews are too eloquent and intelligent to make it onto any of these posts. Did you give only 1 star? I know you hated it.


      November 30, 2015
      • John #

        Oh, and thank you for the complement about my reviews. That’s very kind.


        November 30, 2015
    • Oh and #8 – I thought he/she was being clever but it’s probably more likely they did confuse books.


      November 30, 2015
      • John #

        It’s been a long time since I’ve read 1984, but I don’t remember a donkey. I thought at first it was a political joke, but that would probably make more sense if it had been an elephant. I don’t think there was a donkey in Animal Farm either, but at least it sorta fit, and that actually was about communism whereas 1984 was a broader warning about totalitarianism in general.

        But I do think that makes this all the funnier.

        Liked by 2 people

        November 30, 2015
    • There was a donkey. He was the only one of all the animals to understand what is going on but is apathetic and unwilling to act. Don’t ask me how I remembered that fact. If only I could remember his name. The only name I remember is Napoleon the pig.


      November 30, 2015
      • in Animal Farm not 1984.


        November 30, 2015
  3. Hahaha this is hilarious, I love to read badly written reviews too, they’re more funny than it is hurtful 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    November 30, 2015
  4. Thank you Jen, for this post. It made me laugh so much! A great start to my day!
    Like Oliver Twist, I want MORE!

    Liked by 1 person

    November 30, 2015
    • I’m glad you liked it. We’ll be doing this once a month!


      November 30, 2015
  5. Charisma #

    #14 is the best!

    Are they for real? I can’t believe people actually write stuff like that. I mean, come on, books about government are not supposed to be fun to read, are they?

    Liked by 1 person

    December 4, 2015
  6. Drake #

    Winston is about as interesting as a bowl of oatmeal. I am not a fan of distopian books in general because they only have like the same 6 premisess but at least each one accomplished something. Newspeak is a pathetic consept. We don’t get rid of words to be evil. Words just grow with the years. The way we speak today is very different from how we spoke less than 200 years ago. Speech evolves as people do. It’s not evil. It’s natural. When people read shakespeare or james cooper, the way it’s written is not how people talk today on a regular basis. It’s archaic. Newspeak is just a pathetic concept that fails miserably with history. Also Winston and Julia do nothing but have sex and complain. That’s all they do! If they joined the brotherhood, then they should have done something more aggressive. Maybe even moraly questionable for the greater good. And if they won why not go power drunk and become the new big brother as a plot twist. This book only set’s up a base for a dystopian world rather than give it. This was on my top 5 least favorite novels. I honestly would sugest hunger games because we all lnow our characters at least do something!


    January 1, 2019
  7. Pirjo Räisänen #

    George Orwell’s 1984 is still relevant today – Russian/Ukraine.


    March 7, 2022

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