fiction

Working class literature: reading guide

POUM members reading during the Spanish Civil War.

Libcom.org's reading guide on literature with a focus on work and accurate representations of working class life, culture and resistance to power.

No beast so fierce - Edward Bunker

A lifelong thief released after an 8 year stretch in prison struggles with the unyielding parole officer waiting to return him, finding a job and starting afresh from crime. A perceptive look at the vicious cycle of recidivism, Bunker was behind bars when the book was published.

54 - Wu Ming

1954. Hollywood actors, cold warriors, mobsters, drug dealers and homing pigeons. What will Yugoslavian president Tito do, now that Joe Stalin is dead? What is the hidden link between Lucky Luciano in his Italian exile, Cary Grant in schizophrenic combat with himself and a stolen TV set which turns out to be self-conscious and sensitive to boot? So far, the most ambitious Wu Ming collective novel.

The difference engine - William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

Seminal novel set in an ahistorical Victorian England, where Lord Byron leads the technocratic government funded by trade unions, the Luddites and their Swing Riots threaten London and the first commune is declared in New York.

"Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman - Harlan Ellison

Famous short story where time is regulated and being late is a crime. Despite the Ticktockman, the timekeeper who collects time as a punishment, and being sent to Coventry, the Harlequin revolts.

Keep the aspidistra flying - George Orwell

Not wanting to be concerned with money or a safe life typified by a house with an aspidistra plant, a copywriter quits his job to become an artist.

Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton

Late 30s novel following George Harvey Bone and his similarly unemployed feckless acquaintances in and out of Earl's Court pubs, with war and changing attitudes looming.

Animal Farm, a fairy story - George Orwell

Erroneously considered a damning of collectivism, Orwell's allegorical fantasy is a critique of the Bolshevist and Stalinist regimes set on a farm as animals attempt to create a society.

1984 - George Orwell

A world with constant surveillance, perpetual war and a militarised police state, George Orwell's most famous novel was a warning against totalitarian governments, all the more relevant now then when it was written.

Q - Luther Blissett

Set in the time of tremendous religious and political upheaval caused by the Reformation in Europe, Q begins with Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral -- a historical flash point which would completely disrupt European society. The novel traces the adventures and conflicts of two central characters as they travel across Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. One is an Anabaptist, a member of the most radical Protestant sect. These are the anarchists of the Reformation who revolted against Catholicism and the emerging Reformation church. The other is a Catholic spy and informer.