When George Orwell published his sixth and final novel in 1949, he gave it a title meant to evoke a not too distant future. The year 1984 is behind us now—and may from our vantage look comparatively innocent—but the implications of 1984, about a Britain under totalitarian rule, remain dispiritingly relevant for many readers, a fact borne out by the book’s appearance on bestseller lists around the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Now Berkley is giving the ever-contemporary author a fresh look. In August it will release new editions, both mass market and trade paperback, of 1984 and Orwell’s 1945 novella, Animal Farm, to mark the 75th anniversary of the latter title. The publisher is also phasing in new covers for editions released in 2003, the centennial of Orwell’s birth.
For the mass market editions of both titles, Berkley opted for a stylized design meant to last on shelves and appeal to younger readers. But for the trade paperbacks, says Ben Lee, v-p and associate publisher of backlist and paperbacks at Berkley, the publisher went a “little more aggressive” in its design, positioning the books as “art pieces” that would speak to mature readers, including ones who have already read the books but might be persuaded to revisit them.
The updated editions of Animal Farm, an allegory of Russia’s post-revolution descent into tyranny, also come with a new introduction by novelist Téa Obreht, who grew up in former Yugoslavia. “Coming out of an authoritarian system,” Lee says, Obreht can “frame Animal Farm for the current reading audience.”
While the new releases are tied to Animal Farm’s anniversary, precedent suggests Orwell’s books may experience a sales uptick as the U.S. nears yet another pivotal election. Orwell’s “rate of movement is very high always,” Lee says, because readers turn to the author “to make sense of larger world events around them.”