An author and philosopher who was always shrouded in controversy, Ayn Rand never deterred from getting her point across to the masses through her written and spoken words. A chronological list of her work should help readers gain a deeper understanding of her philosophy of Objectivism.
Did You Know?
Ayn Rand wrote her first screenplay, Red Pawn, in 1932. Although its rights belong to Paramount Pictures, it was never made into a film.
Many of Ayn Rand’s works, including her novels and speeches, encapsulated the various branches of her Objectivist philosophy, which dealt with metaphysics, epistemology, reality, concept-formation, reason, government, and capitalism. Apart from being an immensely popular novelist, she rose to become one of the most controversial philosophers of modern times.
This Penlighten article mentions a list of Ayn Rand books in chronological order, which should help us understand why and how this author progressed as a writer over the span of her career.
Famous Ayn Rand Books
We the Living
Year of Publication: 1936
Set in post-revolutionary Russia, the story revolves around the life and struggles of Kira Argounova. Covering a span of four years from 1922-1925, ‘We the Living’ describes how Kira’s bourgeois family, loses its family standing, wealth, and business after the communist state was formed. At the Technological Institute, she befriends Andrei Taganov, an idealistic Communist who respects and eventually falls in love with Kira. However, Kira falls for Leo Kovalensky, who loathes the new state. The story ends bitterly, with Andrei committing suicide, Leo leaving Kira, and Kira being shot dead while trying to cross the border.
Year of Publication: 1938 (U.K.)/1946 (U.S)
A dystopian fictional work, ‘Anthem’ is set in the future where human civilization is under totalitarian control. It depicts how the young man, Equality 7-2521 yearns to unravel “the Science of Things” in a world that has criminalized independent thought and action. Like Prometheus, Equality becomes the bringer of light after successfully rediscovering electricity. The ‘World Council of Scholars’, tries to destroy his invention, which causes him to escape into the ‘Unchartered Forest’. There he is reunited with his love interest, Liberty 5-3000. In the forest, they discover the meaning of “I” and attain their individuality and ego.
Year of Publication: 1943
The Fountainhead catapulted Ayn Rand into literary success. With more than 6.5 million copies sold, it is her most-read novel. The protagonist, Howard Roark is an extremely intelligent, ambitious, and individualistic architect and innovator, who is represented as the living embodiment of egoism. He is expelled from architecture school for his unconventional designs and approach to work. The only one who understands his personality is the disgraced architect Henry Cameron. This story is about the struggle between individuality of Howard against the spiritual collectivism of other important characters such as, Peter Keating, Ellsworth M. Toohey, Gail Wynand, and even his lover Dominique Francon.
Year of Publication: 1957
“Who is John Galt?”, went on to become one of the most famous lines to be quoted by the public. The story revolves around the vanishing act of acclaimed individuals such as a banker, professor, judge, composer, and oil producer, Ellis Wyatt who lets all his oil well burn like a torch. The protagonist, Dagny Taggart, Vice President of the failing Taggart Transcontinental’ struggles to keep her railroad operating; however, she meets with several obstacles owing to the disappearance and unwillingness of dynamic entrepreneurs, who have all gathered in an obscure valley (utopia) and have begun a new way of life. Hank Rearden invents an alloy (Rearden Metal) which is stronger than steel. The copper industrialist, Francisco d’Anconia, tries to warn Rearden against freeloaders.
Year of Publication: 1968
Her first play, the ‘Night of January 16th’ is based on the tragic and albeit suspicious death of the Swedish tycoon Ivar Kreuger, and centers around the murder of the character ‘Bjorn Faulkner’ by his secretary, Karen Andre. The entire play is set in the courtroom that is conducting a murder trial, wherein random members of the audience are chosen to act as the jury. Therefore, the verdict of the jury is often different every time it is performed, because of the varying members of the jury and their varying viewpoints based on the actions of the defendant and testimonies.
Year of Publication: 1984
The Early Ayn Rand: A selection from Her Unpublished Fiction was published two years after her death. It contains a series of her unpublished short stories, excerpts, plays, and parts of the novels, ‘We the Living’ and ‘The Fountainhead’ that were removed before publication. This book was edited by Ayn Rand’s longtime friend and heir of her estate, Leonard Peikoff. The compilation of works include stories written by Rand during the 1920s, synopsis her screenplay ‘Red Pawn’, and stories such as ‘Think Twice’, ‘The Night King’, and ‘The Simplest Thing in the World’.
Year of Publication: 2005
The three stage plays mentioned in this book were written by Rand between 1934-1939. This includes ‘The Night of January 16th’, ‘Ideal’, and ‘Think Twice’. The concept behind the play ‘Ideal’ was to test the ideals of those who embrace them. The idea came to Rand while conversing with a movie fan who declared that she was ready to die if she got to meet her favorite actress. The play, ‘Think Twice’ is a murder mystery in which all suspects have a motive to murder; however, the motive in itself rises above usual issues such as money, jealousy, hatred etc.
For the New Intellectual
Year of Publication: 1961
For the New Intellectual has a supplementary essay on the history of philosophy and excerpts comprising speeches from her novels, We the Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. Rand states that the failure of philosophy, philosophers, and intellectuals has caused the American and Western civilization to become bankrupt. A “new intellectual’ is hoped for, people who will use the power of reason to bring about change, and not opt for force or fear.
The Objectivist Newsletter
Year of Publication: 1962-1965
Written over a span of forty years, ‘The Objectivist Newsletter’ is a compilation of Ayn Rand’s answers to philosophical questions that were submitted by her readers, as well as discussions on her philosophy of Objectivism. Other writers, such as Barbara Branden, Edith Efron, Leonard Peikoff, and Martin Anderson, contributed to the newsletter as well. Apart from Rand, Nathaniel Branden wrote many of the articles.
The Virtue of Selfishness
Year of Publication: 1964
‘The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism’ is a series of essays and observations, by Nathaniel Branden as well as Ayn Rand. The main subject being discussed throughout the books is the promotion of egoism, being more self-centric, and using it as a code of ethics based on rationality. It was her best-selling nonfiction work and sold over 400,000 copies within the first quarter after it was published.
Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal
Year of Publication: 1966 & 1967
This book of essays contains works of Rand and her Objectivist colleagues such as Alan Greenspan, Nathaniel Branden, and Robert Hessen. The term ‘capitalism’ was given a different and specific definition in this book. The focus was on the moral aspect of capitalism, thereby stating that the system of laissez-faire is a moral ideal and necessary for the growth of the state.
Year of Publication: 1966 – 71
‘The Objectivist’ was the second newsletter to be started by Rand and Branden, and replaced the older ‘The Objectivist Newsletter’. Apart from changing the name, the newsletter format was replaced with a 16-paged magazine issue. This is where she published her opinions on the nature and validity of concepts, which would be added to her book ‘Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology’.
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology
Year of Publication: 1966/1990
In this book, she introduced her theory of knowledge, nature, and the ability of man to form concepts. Thereafter, she points out how proper concept forming makes humans (man) identical. She also elaborates on Kantian epistemology, and answers several relevant questions on the subject. She also goes on to explain how concept formation is a mathematical process.
The Romantic Manifesto
Year of Publication: 1969/1971
This book revolves around the significance of art, music, literature, and how all these trigger strong emotions and actions in people. It discusses how unstated ideologies of the artist shapes his work. Rand categorizes her work under ‘Romanticism’, and elaborates on the purpose behind her fiction works. The book ends with a short story about an artist that she wrote in 1940.
The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution
Year of Publication: 1971
Rand discusses the reason for the students movement during the 1960s, and its relation with the progressive education system and its students. The book also deals with the environmentalist movement, and what she deems as “anti-industrial revolution”. The essay “The Age of Envy” in the revised edition, argues how religion and faith were detrimental to man’s progress.
The Ayn Rand Letter
Year of Publication: 1971 – 76
This book is a collection of Rand’s essays, and cover multiple issues that were current during her time. She discusses the Vietnam War, the energy crisis in 1970s, and draws comparison with the Watergate scandal. She argues the demerits of a mixed economy and events that led to the violation of freedom of speech.
Philosophy: Who Needs It
Year of Publication: 1982
The last work authored by Rand, ‘Philosophy: Who Needs It’ is a collection of essays. It argues that philosophy plays an integral role in everyday life and that every thought and action is based on individual assumptions, which must be carefully observed. The final editing on this book was done posthumously by Leonard Peikoff.
List of Posthumously Published Ayn Rand Books
The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z
Year of Publication: 1986
The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought
Year of Publication: 1989
The Ayn Rand Column
Year of Publication: 1991/1998
Ayn Rand’s Marginalia
Year of Publication: 1995
Letters of Ayn Rand
Year of Publication: 1995
Journals of Ayn Rand
Year of Publication: 1997
The Ayn Rand Reader
Year of Publication: 1998
Russian Writings on Hollywood
Year of Publication: 1999
Return of the Primitive (Exp. edition of The New Left)
Year of Publication: 1999
The Art of Fiction
Year of Publication: 2000
The Art of Nonfiction
Year of Publication: 2001
Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A
Year of Publication: 2005
Objectively Speaking: Ayn Rand Interviewed
Year of Publication: 2009
Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
Year of Publication: 1991
Many of her theories on Objectivism have either been embraced or rejected outright by critics for being too impractical and unrealistic. Nonetheless, she continues to be an immensely popular author whose books continue to be very much in demand.