Must read books before you die: Aldous Huxley


Aldous Huxley was once quoted as saying: "An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie." The novelist and critic was born in Surrey on July 26, 1894, and produced an immense body of work which reflected his unique skill of satirising the real life "big" societal issues through engaging fiction. Huxley managed to combine science and literature to churn out insightful essays, novels, critics and plays that ensured his name would live on long after his death. Here is a selection of Huxley works to read before you break on through to the other side...

Trevor Leyenhorst

Brave New World

If you liked George Orwell's dystopian vision of the future in 1984 then you will love Brave New World. Written in 1931 and published in 1932, this masterpiece is the original dystopian novel, the book upon which 1984 was based. In Huxley´s forbidding portrait of a class-warring future, society is segregated into 5 castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Brave New World tackles the issue at the heart of modern society -- the savage versus civilisation. The novel has been ranked fifth by the Modern Library on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Need any more convincing?

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If Brave New World was Huxley's take on a futuristic nightmare then Island was his homage to a utopian wonderland. Will Farnaby (a self-loathing journalist, think Will Self) is shipwrecked on the fictional island of Pala, where the inhabitants live harmonious lives with the aid of their "moksha medicine." Island was Huxley's last novel and at this stage in his life he was a heavy mescaline user and strong advocate of psychedelic drugs, which shines through in the book. The novel also takes aim at modern day issues, including ecology and restraining industrial growth.

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Antic Hay

This is one of Huxley´s earlier works, which strongly reflected the times in which it was written-- the Golden Age of the 1920s--when men returning from the horrors of the trenches of WWI were self-absorbed and very, very decadent. If you liked F. Scott Fitzgerald´s take on the nihilistic bohemian bunch in The Great Gatsby then this one's for you.

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Crome Yellow

Huxley's first novel appears very much a light comedy, in the Country House genre, but the book provides solid social commentary on the issues of the day, including the Sexual Revolution and Social Darwinism. It's a nice satirical take on England's upper classes, which sets out to prove that left to their own devices the idle, world weary rich will resort to eccentric and morbid pursuits.

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The Doors of Perception

This short book (50 pages in all) is where Huxley's ideas and support for mind-bending drugs shine through the most. The Doors of Perception explores and reveals the mind's remote frontiers. Huxley was close friends with Timothy Leary, the Harvard poster-boy for the therapeutic potential of LSD, and the book also prompted Jim Morrison to name his band The Doors. Rock and roll, Aldous.

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Point Counter Point

Point Counter Point is about contrasts as well as Huxley's perennial themes of intellectualism and futility in the modern world. The book centres on a group of London intellectuals who ponder on profound and serious ideas, all the while being whacked with the satire stick by Mr. Huxley.

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