George Orwell is best-known as the author of “Animal Farm’’ and “1984.’’ That is unfortunate, because he was more talented as a journalist and essayist than as a novelist. All aspiring writers should read Orwell’s nonfiction. Doing so will reveal his unequalled capacity for independent thought, clear prose, nuanced views, sound political judgment, and unfailing moral commitment. Those virtues are present in “A Life in Letters.’’ Extracted from more than 1,700 pages by leading Orwell expert Peter Davison, the correspondence contained in this book is directed to friends, family members, colleagues, and strangers. The best of it shows that Orwell had as brilliant and attractive a mind in private as he had in his published writing. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.
Jordan Michael Smith is a contributing writer at Salon and the Christian Science Monitor.