George Orwell's Animal Farm is considered by many to be one of the most significant works of literature of the 20th century and for many reading this it was likely required reading in high school. For me it was not required reading and I had never picked it up. I had heard enough to somewhat understand the plot, but had just never taken the time to pick the book up. I am glad I finally did.
Animal Farm was written in 1945 and is actually a satire of the tyrannical Russian government. It is only about 100 pages and is a very easy read (I read it in just a couple of hours).
The plot centers around a group of animals who have grown tired of being oppressed by their drunken brute of a farmer and decided after being inspired by a dream to start a revolution. The animals successfully overthrow the humans from the farm and begin to set up their own Utopian society where everyone always worked for the common good and all animals are equal. Unfortunately, some animals are more equal than others.
The animals start with high ideals, but many weren't smart or engaged enough to know what was going on and the pigs wind up running the farm. A falling out between the lead pigs sets the table for one of the pigs to rise to absolute power. By careful use of propaganda and because the other animals never learned to think for themselves he was able to set up a tyrannical rule worse than everything the human farmer before him had ever done.
The characters are engaging and even more engaging if you have some knowledge of the Russian revolution. Orwell makes great use of satire as you can see the animals which are representing historical figures such as Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. The story itself is still very good if you don't have any knowledge of Russian history.
There primary lesson to be learned from this little book seems to be that if you do not stay engaged, and do not educate yourself, you can easily be led by people who don't have the best intentions.