My Five Favorite Political Fiction Books


I’m often asked for a book list by listeners and readers. Until now, I hadn’t formally put one together. But, over the past couple of weeks, I began compiling a fiction list, divided by topic. The categories are rather fluid – for example, I have a category for Science Fiction, in which some of the books clearly overlap into the category for Political Fiction (see, e.g., 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley). With that said, here are my top five political novels. Leave your own picks below!

Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler

This book is a wildly underappreciated classic – even though it is indeed very much appreciated by literary types. Koestler essentially fictionalizes the stories of Old Soviets who have been deemed bourgeois by Stalin; the main character, Rubashov, is arrested by the NKVD and thrown into prison, awaiting interrogation and execution. The novel follows Rubashov’s thoughts as he communicates with his next-door cellmate, remembers his own participation in Communist atrocities, and finally realizes that in order to justify his life, he must sign off on the lie that he is actually anti-Communist, thus upholding the regime. Dark and terrifying and shockingly accurate about human nature. Here’s Koestler, inside Rubashov’s mind: “Soon it would be over. But when he asked himself, For what actually are you dying? he found no answer. It was a mistake in the system; perhaps it lay in the precept which until now he had held to be uncontestable, in whose name he had sacrificed others and was himself being sacrificed: in the precept, that the end justifies the means.”

All The King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

 This novel has as good a claim as any to actually be the Great American Novel. It tells the fictionalized story of Huey P. Long, the demagogic governor and senator from Louisiana, who in the book becomes Willie Stark, a populist politician who begins as an honest reformer and ends as a corrupt semi-dictator, using his power to both achieve his political ends and to protect himself. A terrific film version starring Broderick Crawford won Best Picture at the 1946 Academy Awards. Here’s ruthless Willie Stark, targeting a political opponent, seeking dirt: “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.”

Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

Wolfe’s fiction never quite equalled the genius of his nonfiction – his essay collection Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, best captures his style and his insights, which were revolutionary in their time – but The Bonfire of the Vanities is his best work: an audacious reconstruction of decaying New York in the mid-1980s, with all of its energy, Wall Street greed, racial strife, and political ambition. The book is no less relevant today than it was then – none of the major underlying issues captured in the book have been resolved. Wolfe’s writing is edgy and unbridled and utterly politically incorrect.

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

Rand’s transformative take on the power of capitalism and the virtue of selfishness has shaped several generations of American thinking on economics. The brilliant premise of the book – captains of industry randomly disappearing, leaving behind their work, and the lurking, miasmatic figure of John Galt – leads to an investigation of politics, human nature, and the dangers of envy masquerading as altruism. One need not buy into Rand’s philosophy entirely (I have major issues with her philosophy of personal morality, as discussed in this episode of the Sunday Special with Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute) to recognize the truth of her contention that property rights are, at root, about the creative spirit of mankind. As Rand put it, via Francisco d’Anconia, “Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade—with reason, not force, as their final arbiter—it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability—and the degree of a man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?”

Animal Farm, George Orwell

Orwell’s best book is actually his nonfiction memoir of the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia, but Animal Farm represents his most crystallized take on the evils of totalitarian collectivism and its corruption. Because Orwell was personally a Democratic Socialist, but was honest about the real-world evils of collectivism, he was in in his own lifetime something of a thinker without a home. But his critique of the Soviet Union by proxy in Animal Farm was damning, and remains so. “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” is the single best description of socialism ever written.

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The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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