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Beginning with a dilemma about whether he spends more money on reading or smoking, George Orwell's entertaining and uncompromising essays go on to explore everything from the perils of second-hand bookshops to the dubious profession of being a critic, from freedom of the press to what patriotism really means. Beginning with a dilemma about whether he spends more money on reading or smoking, George Orwell's entertaining and uncompromising essays go on to explore everything from the perils of second-hand bookshops to the dubious profession of being a critic, from freedom of the press to what patriotism really means.


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Beginning with a dilemma about whether he spends more money on reading or smoking, George Orwell's entertaining and uncompromising essays go on to explore everything from the perils of second-hand bookshops to the dubious profession of being a critic, from freedom of the press to what patriotism really means. Beginning with a dilemma about whether he spends more money on reading or smoking, George Orwell's entertaining and uncompromising essays go on to explore everything from the perils of second-hand bookshops to the dubious profession of being a critic, from freedom of the press to what patriotism really means.

30 review for Books v. Cigarettes

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This slim volume contains six essays which may make you smile, possibly make you sad and will certainly make you think. Orwell muses on how much he spends on books, recollects his time working in a bookshop and on being seriously ill in a Paris hospital, considers the merits of book reviewing, the censorship of literature, patriotism and his joyless time spent as a scholarship boy at prep school. Most of these articles were published in the late 1930’s to mid 1940’s, but they still have amazing This slim volume contains six essays which may make you smile, possibly make you sad and will certainly make you think. Orwell muses on how much he spends on books, recollects his time working in a bookshop and on being seriously ill in a Paris hospital, considers the merits of book reviewing, the censorship of literature, patriotism and his joyless time spent as a scholarship boy at prep school. Most of these articles were published in the late 1930’s to mid 1940’s, but they still have amazing relevance today. Is reading an expensive hobby? How does it measure up to other forms of entertainment? Is there still, as Orwell said, a rarity of ‘bookish’ people? Certainly many book reviews or book prizes can be said to be judged by those who care little for what they are reading and censorship is still in place – a disturbing amount of books are banned worldwide each year. The longest essay concerns Orwell’s school days and much that he found oppressive – bullying and cramming for exams, are still issues that concern many. These are refreshing to read, full of opinions and enthusiasm and are certain to provoke discussion if chosen by any reading group.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    Reading these seven essays in “Books v. Cigarettes” by George Orwell was like a revisit to a familiar, entertaining and inspiring author whose fame has long been admired by his readers having read his “Animal Farm”, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, “Down and Out in Paris and London”, etc., to name but a few. The stories in this book are the following: Books v. Cigarettes Bookshop Memories Confessions of a Book Reviewer The Prevention of Literature My Country Right or Left How the Poor Die Such, Such Were the Jo Reading these seven essays in “Books v. Cigarettes” by George Orwell was like a revisit to a familiar, entertaining and inspiring author whose fame has long been admired by his readers having read his “Animal Farm”, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, “Down and Out in Paris and London”, etc., to name but a few. The stories in this book are the following: Books v. Cigarettes Bookshop Memories Confessions of a Book Reviewer The Prevention of Literature My Country Right or Left How the Poor Die Such, Such Were the Joys Taken from his Essays (Everyman's Library 2002) in the same title published in Fortnightly in November 1936 (p. 50), I think, this seven-essay selection published in 2008 might aim at increasing Orwell readership in a new generation in the early 2010’s. Some readers might think his essays written more than half a century would be outdated but his ideas should be read and studied for his originality. For instance, from the opening paragraph in the second essay, this extract from 'Bookshop Memories' may more or less remind any booklover of a casual visit to any good second-hand bookshops in Thailand, England, Australia, Japan, etc. When I worked in a second-hand bookshop – so easily pictured, if you don’t work in one, as a kind of paradise where charming old gentlemen browse eternally among calf-bound folios – the thing that chiefly struck me was the rarity of really bookish people. … First edition snobs were much commoner than lovers of literature, but oriental students haggling over cheap textbooks were commoner still, and vague-minded women looking for birthday presents for their nephews were commonest of all. (p. 8) As for Orwell newcomers who have never read him, I would like to recommend this cute paperback as a sort of literary hors d'oeuvre or something delightfully manageable due to his readable and witty stories in which each one you can blissfully read in one's sitting before trying reading the real thing, that is, the hardcover Essays mentioned above and eventually cannot help admiring him as one of the great writers in the 20th century.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Overmark

    7 essays by the pen of George Orwell, 4 of these about literature, one way or the other. “I possess books that do not strictly speaking belong to me, but many other people also have books of mine: so that the books I have not paid for can be taken as balancing others which I have paid for but no longer possess.” This is most likely the case for many of us … Sharp and witty “Uncle George” takes us through the different aspects of the UK book life mid-20th century. That is seen through the eyes of a 7 essays by the pen of George Orwell, 4 of these about literature, one way or the other. “I possess books that do not strictly speaking belong to me, but many other people also have books of mine: so that the books I have not paid for can be taken as balancing others which I have paid for but no longer possess.” This is most likely the case for many of us … Sharp and witty “Uncle George” takes us through the different aspects of the UK book life mid-20th century. That is seen through the eyes of a book collector, a reviewer, a book seller and a critic/writer. The 5th and 6th essays in this collection are of the sociopolitical kind, the observations from a Paris hospital in “How the Poor Die” by far being the strongest statements on social injustice. At time of writing, there were certainly places in France where “the poor” could not even afford to die. Compared to the UK at that time, you may easily say there were room for improvement. The last essay, and the longest, is a memoir of the early schooldays. While it is interesting as a biographical entry and sheds some light on UK prep schools and what can best be described as natural selection, I don´t think it stands time – or it should have been put into another collection than the Penguin “Great Ideas” series. However, it does prove that your early school day experiences do not necessarily determine your life career. Even the collection from my point of view capitalizes on Orwell´s many left-over essays and is a bit inconsistent, I never tire of Orwell´s writing style and wit and grant it 4 stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Slim book containing six essays by George Orwell. His writing is clear and concise and can certainly make you think. For example, in spending time in a Paris hospital for poor people: "I think it's better to die violently and not too old. People talk about the horrors of war, but what weapon has a man invented that even approaches in cruelty some of the commoner diseases? 'Natural death', almost by definition, means something, slow, smelly, and painful". Like I said, he makes you think. Slim book containing six essays by George Orwell. His writing is clear and concise and can certainly make you think. For example, in spending time in a Paris hospital for poor people: "I think it's better to die violently and not too old. People talk about the horrors of war, but what weapon has a man invented that even approaches in cruelty some of the commoner diseases? 'Natural death', almost by definition, means something, slow, smelly, and painful". Like I said, he makes you think.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    A small collection of essays by the wonderful master of the sentence, George Orwell. I think he's one of the great craftmen of the written word. I can see why he's idolized by hack journalists (some of you know who I am thinking of), yet never mastered. Since i work at a bookstore I totally tuned in to his essay about working at a bookstore. The dust is still a problem, but unlike him I stayed at the job. Smelling the dust and still loving the sexual beast that are books. The last piece is about A small collection of essays by the wonderful master of the sentence, George Orwell. I think he's one of the great craftmen of the written word. I can see why he's idolized by hack journalists (some of you know who I am thinking of), yet never mastered. Since i work at a bookstore I totally tuned in to his essay about working at a bookstore. The dust is still a problem, but unlike him I stayed at the job. Smelling the dust and still loving the sexual beast that are books. The last piece is about his school years and he captures the tone of sadistic behavior that was part of every British kids school years. And the first essay is both unimportant and super interesting: Reading this at night before I sleep -and it's interesting that Orwell for this essay counted all his books and compares the money spent for the books against cigarettes and alcohol. I loathe to know what I spend on such decadent items (meaning books).

  6. 4 out of 5

    MihaElla

    Lately, stronger than before, I have realized and felt how much an exciting pastime is the ability and the possibility to read. Not necessarily that, as per Orwell's challenging business analysis, reading proves to be one of the cheaper recreations- just in case I can’t afford other luxuries- but mostly because it keeps me, more than ever, on the surviving limit of the overall mental sanity. Without books some things would be extremely tedious, hollow, devastatingly boring and uninteresting. This Lately, stronger than before, I have realized and felt how much an exciting pastime is the ability and the possibility to read. Not necessarily that, as per Orwell's challenging business analysis, reading proves to be one of the cheaper recreations- just in case I can’t afford other luxuries- but mostly because it keeps me, more than ever, on the surviving limit of the overall mental sanity. Without books some things would be extremely tedious, hollow, devastatingly boring and uninteresting. This collection of essays 'Books v. cigarettes' is very entertaining, exploring various themes, more or less of actual significance, too. ‘Such, such were the Joys’ was the most emotional one, describing some of the early memories of Orwell’s childhood, during the years spent at the St Cyprian boarding school, which it turned out to have had a very strong impact on his future individual development. The style of storytelling is so amazing that I felt connected and immersed into his inner universe as I have been his double, someone that joined him, on his child's adventures, as an external observer but of an intimate quality. ≪ Regarding boarding schools […] The real question is whether it is still normal for a schoolchild to live for years amid irrational terrors and lunatic misunderstandings. And here one is up against the very great difficulty of knowing what a child really feels and thinks. A child which appears reasonably happy may actually be suffering horrors which it cannot or will not reveal. It lives in a sort of alien under-water world which we can only penetrate by memory or divination. Our chief clue is the fact that we were once children ourselves, and many people appear to forget the atmosphere of their own childhood almost entirely. Think for instance of the unnecessary torments that people will inflict by sending a child back to school with clothes of the wrong pattern, and refusing to see that this matters! [between us, off the record, our parents always, but always, purchased clothes at least 2 sizes bigger than our current size. I, especially during primary school, was looking very funny in my winter jacket: almost like a grown-up that failed to reach at least an average height…of course, it was useless any outcry, my parents always telling me that there is no money to waste on changing clothes once a season…they were right and I accepted it as a matter of fact] Over things of this kind a child will sometimes utter a protest, but a great deal of the time its attitude is one of simple concealment. Not to expose your true feelings to an adult seems to be instinctive from the age of seven or eight onwards. Even the affection that one feels for a child, the desire to protect and cherish it, is a cause of misunderstanding. One can love a child, perhaps, more deeply than one can love another adult, but it is rash to assume that the child feels any love in return. [this was not true for me, as I recall that I have developed an obsessive affection towards my mother when a child…somehow I have terrorized my father, lol. Not much changed during adult years… lol]. Looking back on my own childhood, after the infant years were over, I do not believe that I ever felt love for any mature person, except my mother, and even her I did not trust, in the sense that shyness made me conceal most of my real feelings from her. Love, the spontaneous, unqualified emotion of love, was something I could only feel for people who were young. Towards people who were old-and remember that ‘old’ to a child means over thirty [goodness‼! I am overly old by now…], or even over twenty-five-I could feel reverence, respect, admiration or compunction, but I seemed cut off from them by a veil of fear and shyness mixed up with physical distaste. People are too ready to forget the child physical shrinking from the adult. The enormous size of grown-ups, their ungainly, rigid bodies, their coarse, wrinkled skins, their great relaxed eyelids, their yellow teeth, and the whiffs of musty clothes and beer and sweat and tobacco that disengage from them at every movement! Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child’s eyes, is that the child is usually looking upward, and few faces are at their best when seen from below. Besides, being fresh and unmarked itself, the child has impossibly high standards in the matter of skin and teeth and complexion. But the greatest barrier of all is the child’s misconception about age. A child can hardly envisage life beyond thirty, and in judging people’s ages it will make fantastic mistakes. It will think that a person of 25 is 40, that a person of 40 is 65, and so on. And the child thinks of growing old as an almost obscene calamity, which for some mysterious reason will never happen to itself. All who have passed the age of 30 are joyless grotesques, endlessly fussing about things of no importance and staying alive without, so far as the child can see, having anything to live for. Only child life is real life. […] I base these generalizations on what I can recall of my own childhood outlook. Treacherous though memory is, it seems to me the chief means we have of discovering how a child’s mind works. Only by resurrecting our own memories can we realize how incredibly distorted is the child’s vision of the world. […] The child and the adult live in different worlds. If that is so, we cannot be certain that school, at any rate boarding school, is not still for many children as dreadful an experience as it used to be. Take away God, Latin, the cane, class distinctions and sexual taboos, and the Fear, the Hatred, the Snobbery and the Misunderstanding might still all be there. […] This led me to accept outrages and believe absurdities, and to suffer torments over things which were in fact of no importance. It is not enough to say that I was ‘silly’ and ‘ought to have known better’. Look back into your own childhood and think of the nonsense you used to believe and the trivialities which could make you suffer. Of course, my own case had its individual variations, but essentially it was that of countless other boys. The weakness of the child is that is starts with a blank sheet. It neither understands nor questions the society in which it lives, and because of its credulity other people can work upon it, infecting it with the sense of inferiority and the dread of offending against mysterious, terrible laws. It may be that everything that happened to me at St Cyprian’s could happen in the most ‘enlightened’ school, though perhaps in subtler forms. Of one thing, however, I do feel fairly sure, and that is that boarding schools are worse than day schools. A child has a better chance with the sanctuary of its home near at hand. And I think the characteristic faults of the English upper and middle classes may be partly due to the practice, general until recently, of sending children away from home as young as nine, eight or even seven. […] ≫ I felt highly laughable the first 3 essays: Books v. Cigarettes, Bookshop Memories, Confessions of a Book reviewer, while the remaining 4, were much more serious, argumentative and fairly challenging: The Prevention of Literature, My country right or left, How the poor die, Such, such were the Joys.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vartika

    I was drawn to this volume because of the title essay—both books and cigarettes are disproportionately more expensive today than in the late 1940s, and to choose between the two just as impossible. Although I wasn't all too satisfied with this particular article having expected something entirely different; what kept me reading with awe and enthusiasm was, as with anything else by Orwell, the relevance of his words and worldview to a present he did not live to see. On my most recent visit, a fri I was drawn to this volume because of the title essay—both books and cigarettes are disproportionately more expensive today than in the late 1940s, and to choose between the two just as impossible. Although I wasn't all too satisfied with this particular article having expected something entirely different; what kept me reading with awe and enthusiasm was, as with anything else by Orwell, the relevance of his words and worldview to a present he did not live to see. On my most recent visit, a friend and I discussed how she, a dedicated bibliophile, stopped reading altogether amidst the frenzy of running a suddenly-famous bookstore during a pandemic. Her recollection of her experiences and observations as a bookseller reminded me of those recorded by Orwell in his "Bookshop Memories," despite the vast differences in the time and context within which the two take place. Similarly, my reading of "The Prevention of Literature" and "My Country Right or Left" was coloured profoundly by the way we approach history, patriotism, and the freedom of speech in the present, which isn't much different from the future that the author characteristically seems to be warning us against. In the seven essays included in Books v. Cigarettes, Orwell touches on a variety of topics and issues: from exploring the habit of reading and the merits of book reviewing to examining the ill-treatment of poor bodies in a Paris hospital; from contemplating the totalitarianism that censorship portends to remembering the oppressiveness of childhoods spent between the black-and-white values of boarding schools. These essays abound with all the the sharp wit, keen observation, and cogent writing expected of Orwell, and serve as amusing appetisers for those unfamiliar with his broader non-fiction works.

  8. 4 out of 5

    leynes

    The perfect collection of essays for booklovers. Read it. Read it now! I could actually slap myself that I didn't write an extensive Review for this as I read it 6 months ago and know I have to work my way through random dog-eared pages and try to make sense of this... 1 - Books v. Cigarettes • George is basically such a dork (and literally me) because he counted all the books in his flat (442 in total not counting junky books; and he is about the same amount in another space so really that man own The perfect collection of essays for booklovers. Read it. Read it now! I could actually slap myself that I didn't write an extensive Review for this as I read it 6 months ago and know I have to work my way through random dog-eared pages and try to make sense of this... 1 - Books v. Cigarettes • George is basically such a dork (and literally me) because he counted all the books in his flat (442 in total not counting junky books; and he is about the same amount in another space so really that man owned 900 BOOKS) • he also states that he has 143 Review copies in his flat, he would have been an awesome booktuber man :D • I loved the message of this book because George basically calls People out on their hypocrisy and says that People who state that reading is an expensive Hobby but in the same breath smoke are just fucking stupid because reading is so much cheaper than Smoking and healthier either way 2 - Bookshop Memories • George reminisces about the time he used to work in a bookshop and vents about the stupid costumers (it was also relatable af) • he talks about how Little bookish People actually frequented the bookshop and how a lot of book Snobs came in, ordered some fancy challenging classic and then never return to pick said ordered book up • he also analyzes which authors get bought by which gender, Age Group etc it is quite fascinating • in resume he states that he wouldn't like to work in the book trade forever because whilst doing it he lost his pleasure in reading because as a bookseller you constantly have to lie about the books you want to sell 3 - Confessions of a Book Reviewer • 'he is a man of thirty-five but Looks fifty' - oh George, I feel ya, reviewing books can be quite strenuous :D • the atmosphere in this Essay was super intriguing and on Point, George really has a knack for creating a visual Image in my head, I could smell the dusty books, feel the exhausting and squint through the dimmed lighting • 'Until one has some kind of professional realtionship with books one does not discover how bad the majority of them are.' 4 - The Prevention of Literature • 'freedom of the press means [...] freedom to critique and oppose' • 'the Journalist is unfree, and conscious of his unfreedom, when he is forced to write lies or suppress what seems to him important news' • George also states that in the times of oppression literature (that is not political) almost ceases to exist (as seen in Germany or Italy in the 20th century) • 'At present we know only that the imagination [...] will not breed in captivity.' 5 - My Country Right or Left • this is one of George's political essays and it didn't do much for me because I'm too stupid to understand it and so I could take nothing from it, I'm sorry (will revisit this in the future probably) 6 - How the Poor Die • I loved how this is reminiscent of his time in Paris and goes along very well with his accounts in "Down and Out in Paris in London" • in 1929 George had to stay in a shabby hospital in Paris • he describes the humiliating and disgusting cumpolsatory routines he had to go through (kind of like a medical check up and Hygiene Treatment just not done in the way to help the patient but to be on the safe side with the law) and it was quite sickening • he talks how there was just too Little staff for all the Patients who were crammed together and that People would literally piss themselves because no one would take them to the toilet 7 - Such, such were the joys • I def have to reread this one in the future because it was one of my favorite essays because it gave such great insight into George's childhood • he talks about what it was like to grow up in an all-Boys School where everything about sex was surpressed (basically not talked about but when Masturbation and homosexuality surfaced they were punished immediately) • I also liked how reflective he was and that he is not blaming his teachers at the time because he sees that through the eyes of a child everything is much more terrifying than it really is • he also recounts how he got physically beaten by the director and Overall his honesty in These essays really got to me • he also talked about how early "class and class distinction" got ingrained in the children and how the rich Kids made fun of the poor Kids (basically Kids like George who got a studentship in order to stay in the School OVERALL A VERY TERRIFIC ESSAY COLLECTION and def one of my favorites from George Orwell.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laala Kashef Alghata

    “A child which appears reasonably happy may actually be suffering horrors which it cannot or will not reveal,” George Orwell, Such, Such Were The Joys I should do a George Orwell month, where I read nothing else. Honestly, I love his writing so much — fiction or essays, no matter. This edition of mine includes the following essays: Books v. Cigarettes, Bookshop Memories, Confessions of a Book Reviewer, The Prevention of Literature, My Country Left or Right, How The Poor Die and Such, Such Were The “A child which appears reasonably happy may actually be suffering horrors which it cannot or will not reveal,” George Orwell, Such, Such Were The Joys I should do a George Orwell month, where I read nothing else. Honestly, I love his writing so much — fiction or essays, no matter. This edition of mine includes the following essays: Books v. Cigarettes, Bookshop Memories, Confessions of a Book Reviewer, The Prevention of Literature, My Country Left or Right, How The Poor Die and Such, Such Were The Joys. Every single one is interesting. The first, for instance, points out how the people who say they have no money to spend on books often would spend quite a lot on cigarettes and beer, the second has anecdotes and observations from his time working in a secondhand bookstore. I loved how personal most of these were, especially the last (Such, Such Were the Joys), which was basically a mini-biography of his childhood years. It is written with the wit and wonderful turn of phrase Orwell naturally possesses, and it is a wonderful insight into his mind. For some reason during this I felt much the same as when I read Dahl’s Going Solo. Maybe it’s because two writers I admire writing about their childhood and not making a dog’s dinner of it, but I will definitely treasure this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    What a wonderful book. Seven essays - all of which are interesting, insightful and readable - and it definitely saves the best until last... As with so much of his work the final essay, "Such, Such Were The Joys", is an account of Orwell's school days that combines the personal with the polemical. One minute we're reading a wince-inducing account of the brutality of St Cyprians (Orwell's prep school) and the next this meanders into social history, philosophy and a deconstruction of the pre-WW1 c What a wonderful book. Seven essays - all of which are interesting, insightful and readable - and it definitely saves the best until last... As with so much of his work the final essay, "Such, Such Were The Joys", is an account of Orwell's school days that combines the personal with the polemical. One minute we're reading a wince-inducing account of the brutality of St Cyprians (Orwell's prep school) and the next this meanders into social history, philosophy and a deconstruction of the pre-WW1 class system. And all of it written with George Orwell's customary clarity and readability. Interestingly I came across an article online, on a website set up to celebrate St Cyprians, that pours scorn over Orwell's version of events. Click here to read it. I must admit, and having read both, I think Orwell's version is more credible. All the essays are interesting. In the opener, Books v. Cigarettes, Orwell argues, in 1946, that books are a relatively cheap form of entertainment despite many people's assertions to the contrary. He compares the cost of the books he's bought over the years with the amount he's spent on beer and cigarettes, and finds that even with his relatively high book consumption, books cost less than other vices. The same must surely still apply. When Orwell wrote his essay, he states that there were 15,000 books published annually in the UK. According to Wikipedia, in 2011 there were 149,800 books published in the UK. What does that tell us? Has the market for reading expanded ten fold in the interim? Who'd be a book reviewer if Orwell's description in Confessions Of A Book Reviewer is accurate? What's the value of a professional review? Worthless, according to Orwell. Still a book reviewer is better off than a film reviewer who doesn't get to work at home and sells his honour for a glass of inferior sherry The Prevention of Literature makes a passionate, and when written, a topical, argument describing how totalitarianism, or other all prevailing orthodoxies, crush worthwhile literature, and how the destruction of individual liberty cripples the journalist, the sociological writer, the historian, the novelist, the critic and the poet, in that order. Imagination will not breed in captivity. Patriotism comes under the Orwell gaze in My Country Right or Left, and Orwell concludes that no substitute has yet been found for patriotism. He even confesses to a faint feeling of sacrilege when he does not to stand to attention during God Save The King. The penultimate essay How the Poor Die is a real eye opener. I was particularly struck how in the Parisian hospital Orwell describes in 1929, and as a non-paying patient in the uniform nightshirt, the patient primarily a specimen. The doctors and medical students ignoring the individual and discussing the patient as if he were not there. Orwell states he did not resent this but could never get used to it. This book is a mere 125 pages and every page contains something interesting and enlightening. Proof that good writing never dates.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    Orwell's non- fiction has been among my favourites reading for years, and it is very good to get back into his essays. Once I had the collected works, goodness knows where they are now, and I picked up this short collection of six essays in a London bookshop a few weeks ago. It's recent re-release, the price printed on the front cover is 3/6 (three shillings and sixpence), which is what it must have cost when it first appeared. The things he wrote about 70 odd years ago still resonate - the choi Orwell's non- fiction has been among my favourites reading for years, and it is very good to get back into his essays. Once I had the collected works, goodness knows where they are now, and I picked up this short collection of six essays in a London bookshop a few weeks ago. It's recent re-release, the price printed on the front cover is 3/6 (three shillings and sixpence), which is what it must have cost when it first appeared. The things he wrote about 70 odd years ago still resonate - the choices made about spending money and excuses for not reading (here cigarettes or books), what true patriotism means (certainly not aggressive nationalism), for instance. The final essay is far and away the longest. In it, Orwell writes about the horrors of his primary school boarding school where he was sent when he was 8. Here rich boys and poor boys lived by different rules, punishment was meted out for offenses you didn't know you had committed or over which you had no control, like bed wetting, and he was told by the repellent head master and his equally repellent wife that he could never succeed because he had an inferior social background. His experiences here must have fed into his development as a socialist, and to his sense of connection with people living in poverty - the people who would never be part of a power structure because they were the wrong class. It's a long time since I read Down and Out in Paris and London or The Road to Wigan Pier, but i still have clear images of the sorts of lives he wrote about, and the issues are alive even if the players have changed. I now want to read Christopher Hitchens on Why Orwell Matters, because I believe he does, and I know that Hitch will be acute on the subject.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Books v. Cigarettes is another fine collection of selected essays by George Orwell in the Penguin Great Ideas series, this one focusing on books, literature in harsh political regimes, patriotism, his time in a run-down hospital in France, and his memoirs of going to a private boarding school. Books v. Cigarettes is a somewhat laborious essay where Orwell explains that working class people read fewer books and choose books over things like cigarettes, beer and gambling, not because the habit is Books v. Cigarettes is another fine collection of selected essays by George Orwell in the Penguin Great Ideas series, this one focusing on books, literature in harsh political regimes, patriotism, his time in a run-down hospital in France, and his memoirs of going to a private boarding school. Books v. Cigarettes is a somewhat laborious essay where Orwell explains that working class people read fewer books and choose books over things like cigarettes, beer and gambling, not because the habit is expensive but because they’re not interested in it - contrary to their claims that it is. He mathematically works it out and, while I agree that he’s probably right, it’s a bit of a pedantic essay to read. Bookshop Memories and Confessions of a Book Reviewer are definitely my favourite essays here as I’m a bibliophile. Orwell spent some time working as a bookseller and his observations from that time are very entertaining. He observes that few customers in the shop could tell the difference between a good book and a bad one, that their clientele were mostly foreign students haggling over cheap textbooks and “vague-minded women looking for birthday presents for their nephews”. There’s even a line about a “dear old lady who read such a nice book in 1897 and wonders whether you can find her a copy. Unfortunately she doesn’t remember the title or the author’s name or what the book was about, but she does remember that it had a red cover” that reminded me of Jen Campbell’s “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops” which shows how little people have changed in nearly 100 years. It was interesting to find out the three most-read authors of the time were: Ethel M. Dell at #1, Warwick Deeping at #2 and Jeffrey Farnol at #3 - all authors I’ve never heard of, and I consider myself fairly well-read. I suppose in a few decades people will be wondering who the hell James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer were, which is a reassuring thought that such crap gets forgotten! These essays display Orwell’s good sense of humour as he observes “stamp collectors are a strange, silent, fish-like breed, of all ages, but only of the male sex; women apparently fail to see the peculiar charm of gumming bits of coloured paper into albums”, and his description of the life of a professional book reviewer was very amusing. His line that “Until one has some kind of professional relationship with books one does not discover how bad the majority of them are” rang true for me as a semi-professional book reviewer. The Prevention of Literature explains how great literature or any art form cannot exist in a regime that disallows freedom of thought or religion which gives us the great quote: “To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox”. That said, I felt the essay was something that Orwell had written about before and better elsewhere and was therefore a bit tiresome to read. Similarly unengaging was My Country Right Or Left which goes into Orwell’s patriotism of Britain, regardless of the kind of government in charge. How The Poor Die was a visceral recounting of Orwell’s time in a French hospital for the poor where he was being treated for a bronchial infection - Orwell suffered with breathing problems his entire life as he had an untreatable lesion on his lungs which would eventually kill him at the tragically early age of 46. It’s a shocking account of the way patients’ humanity is overlooked by uncaring doctors who are more interested in treating them as living cadavers than real people who need help. The volume closes out with Orwell’s excellent essay, Such, Such Were The Joys, which recounts his unpleasant time spent at St Cyprian’s, an upper-class boarding school which he attended on a scholarship and deeply loathed. I wrote about it at length in a separate review you can read here. Books v. Cigarettes contains a couple of essays that I was ambivalent about but on the whole it contains his usual insightful commentary and uncanny ability to draw the reader into the subject matter completely. Orwell is always worth reading for his high quality writing, crystal clear thinking, and challenging subject matter that he makes accessible for the reader, but this volume is especially enjoyable if you’re a bookish sort of person.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vaishali

    Driven mad when friends opt films over books? Wonder why reading is still the realm of the elite, or why Brian Tracy insists wealth production can be determined by the number of books in an entrepreneur's library? So did Orwell... summed up here: "... It is not a proud record for a country which is nearly 100 per cent literate and where the ordinary man spends more on cigarettes than an Indian peasant has for his whole livelihood. And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at leas Driven mad when friends opt films over books? Wonder why reading is still the realm of the elite, or why Brian Tracy insists wealth production can be determined by the number of books in an entrepreneur's library? So did Orwell... summed up here: "... It is not a proud record for a country which is nearly 100 per cent literate and where the ordinary man spends more on cigarettes than an Indian peasant has for his whole livelihood. And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniela

    This is not so much a book by George Orwell as it is a book by Eric Arthur Blair. In fact, it's a collection of essays, all related to several of Orwell's personal experiences: Orwell as a reader, as a book-seller, as a literary critic/newspaper writer, as an Englishman, as a patient in a hospital and as a student in a boarding school. In many ways, I think that the order of the essays should be exact opposite of what it is. The book begins with an essay on the price of books. Orwell reaches the This is not so much a book by George Orwell as it is a book by Eric Arthur Blair. In fact, it's a collection of essays, all related to several of Orwell's personal experiences: Orwell as a reader, as a book-seller, as a literary critic/newspaper writer, as an Englishman, as a patient in a hospital and as a student in a boarding school. In many ways, I think that the order of the essays should be exact opposite of what it is. The book begins with an essay on the price of books. Orwell reaches the conclusion that many people would have the means to buy books - despite their claims - if they bought them at the right places, that is, second-hand book shops, and if they got them instead of indulging in other meagre expenses, such as cigarettes or beer. I daresay, especially considering the price of cigarettes today, that we can argue the same nowadays. (not even talking about second hand bookstores. Two packs of cigarettes would be enough to buy a brand new book in a bookstore). Secondly, Orwell writes about the plight of the second hand book-seller who is forced to watch people who don't love books buying poorly written books and ignoring the good ones. The third essay is about the struggling life of a literary critic and how literary criticism was basically made useless in Orwell's time given the demands of the market. The fourth essay is one that expands on many of the ideas for which Orwell became known: the importance of truth in a totalitarian society. This essay is a fierce attack upon the writers and intellectuals who defended the Soviet Union at the expense of what they knew to be true, that is, the purges, the assassinations, the gulags. Orwell argues that by numbing their consciences and forcing themselves to believe in a lie they were killing their creative instincts. He then goes on to say that a totalitarian dictatorship necessarily kills all forms of art, especially the creative ones, like literature. The fifth essay is, I believe, a good example of Orwell's views regarding traditionalism and radicalism. Orwell compares patriotism with the fervour of revolutionary belief. He appears to be saying, on one hand, that you can build a love for socialism on the "skeleton" (that is the word he uses) of a strong patriot, but he also says that so far there has been nothing that can compare to the strength of feeling that patriotism and “military virtues” inspire. The sixth essay is a chilling account of Orwell's time at a Parisian hospital where poor people were sent to die. The last essay is a short auto-biography. Orwell writes of his miserable childhood at a boarding school. Here he paints a picture of an intricate and cruel system in which all the boys were made keenly aware of all their flaws - the real, the imagined, and those that were imposed on them. Class was everywhere they looked. They knew very well how to distinguish a middle class boy from a titled boy or a boy with rich parents. And they found, of course, that to be middle class or, God forbid, working class was the worst thing that could happen to you as it meant that no matter how much money you would eventually earn or how talented or intelligent you might be, you would never really get rid of the condition of your birth. Class was as inseparable from you as your arm or nose or eyes. Now, I think that the book should have had the exact opposite configuration. It should have begun with the last essay because it illustrates perfectly well how Orwell first became acquainted with the question of class and poverty. These two themes are the background to practically all the essays, with the exception of the one about totalitarianism and freedom and the other about literary criticism. The argument is that you can't really escape class and it follows you from childhood all the way to the grave - or rather, to the terrible hospital where you're going to die and no one is going to care because you are no longer an asset to society in any way. You're no longer a middle class boy who is smart enough to get into Eton or Harrow and therefore slightly valued by the local boarding school that hopes to increase its own prestige at the expense of your brains and effort. You're not a literary critic getting a ridiculously low fee to praise books you hate in order to convince readers to buy them. You're no longer a soldier ready to die for your country. You're old and dying from natural causes in a terrible state of indignity. Orwell's conclusion is that you might as well die young while fighting for something truthful and worthwhile. A logical conclusion coming from a man who volunteered to the Spanish civil war. The great thing about this is that Orwell didn't plan it this way. The essays were written at different times in different magazines. It just goes to show how present these issues were in Orwell's mind and how connected they were to each other. Some articles online cast doubts on the veracity of Orwell's account of his school days. They claim that the people he writes about are unfairly depicted. People who knew him as a child say that the young Eric Blair didn't sound remotely unhappy during his time at school. I believe that it would be tremendously hypocritical of Orwell to go on and on about the importance of truth in art and in a democratic society and then blatantly lie about his own life. I am perfectly ready to believe that things didn't go the way Orwell said and especially that the people he writes about weren't nearly as terrible as he later claims. However, I think it is entirely possible that he remembered them that way. As they grow older some people idealize childhood and others demonise it excessively. It is possible, I think, that Orwell's later memory of events was fragmented, that he only remembered separate episodes with little relation to each other, and that the emotions he felt when looking back were the emotions of an adult and not of a child. It should be noted that this essay was published after Orwell's death and so he didn't have the opportunity to defend himself or argue in favor of the accuracy of his claims. This is why I'm ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. In any case, the last essay should probably be read as an account of how Eric Arthur Blair came to realise the small injustices of life, those that open the way to much greater injustices. And how he came to understand that the order of things he judged immutable and eternal in school was in fact wrong and liable to change. That the strong and the rich shouldn't win just on account of factors they had no control over - their strength and money. And most of all, that those who weren't rich and strong shouldn't be demoted and despised. And that really, the weak and the poor can't play the game by *their* rules, the rules of the strong and the rich. They're sure to lose. That is certainly the point of the essay not so much its accuracy. And that is already a whole world of ideas. Again, the same ideas that took George Orwell to Spain.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Essays— Books v. Cigarettes Bookshop Memories Confessions of a Book Reviewer The Prevention of Literature My Country Right or Left How the poor Die Such, Such Were the Joys "The reviewer, jaded though he may be, is professionally interested in books, and out of the thousands that appear annually, there are probably fifty or a hundred that he would enjoy writing about. If he is a top-notcher in his profession he may get hold of ten or twenty of them: more probably he gets hold of two or three. The rest o Essays— Books v. Cigarettes Bookshop Memories Confessions of a Book Reviewer The Prevention of Literature My Country Right or Left How the poor Die Such, Such Were the Joys "The reviewer, jaded though he may be, is professionally interested in books, and out of the thousands that appear annually, there are probably fifty or a hundred that he would enjoy writing about. If he is a top-notcher in his profession he may get hold of ten or twenty of them: more probably he gets hold of two or three. The rest of his work, however conscientious he may be in praising or damning, is in essence humbug. He is pouring his immortal spirit down the drain, half a pint at a time. The great majority of reviews give an inadequate or misleading account of the book that is dealt with. Since the war publishers have been less able than before to twist the tails of literary editors and evoke a paean of praise for every book that they produce, but on the other hand the standard of reviewing has gone down owing to lack of space and other inconveniences. Seeing the results, people sometimes suggest that the solution lies in getting book reviewing out of the hands of hacks. Books on specialized subjects ought to be dealt with by experts, and on the other hand a good deal of reviewing, especially of novels, might well be done by amateurs."

  16. 4 out of 5

    inkedblues

    A nice kick in the ass to read more of Orwell's essays, since this small collection leaves you wanting exactly that. It doesn't have a thematic unity among the different pieces—well, unless you'd like to point your finger to "Oh, what drudgery life in the early 20th century was!" as being that factor, in which case... yeah, fair enough. Orwell begins Bookshop Memories: "When I worked in a second-hand bookshop — so easily pictured, if you don't work in one, as a kind of paradise where charming old A nice kick in the ass to read more of Orwell's essays, since this small collection leaves you wanting exactly that. It doesn't have a thematic unity among the different pieces—well, unless you'd like to point your finger to "Oh, what drudgery life in the early 20th century was!" as being that factor, in which case... yeah, fair enough. Orwell begins Bookshop Memories: "When I worked in a second-hand bookshop — so easily pictured, if you don't work in one, as a kind of paradise where charming old gentlemen browse eternally among calf-bound folios — the thing that chiefly struck me was the rarity of really bookish people. Our shop had an exceptionally interesting stock, yet I doubt whether ten per cent of our customers knew a good book from a bad one. First edition snobs were much commoner than lovers of literature, but oriental students haggling over cheap textbooks were commoner still, and vague-minded women looking for birthday presents for their nephews were commonest of all. Many of the people who came to us were of the kind who would be a nuisance anywhere but have special opportunities in a bookshop. For example, the dear old lady who ‘wants a book for an invalid' (a very common demand, that), and the other dear old lady who read such a nice book in 1897 and wonders whether you can find her a copy. Unfortunately she doesn't remember the title or the author's name or what the book was about, but she does remember that it had a red cover." Some years ago, I myself worked in a bookstore chain, albeit in a shopping mall. How little has changed through the ages! And by the way, why is it always a cover in red that is sought after? It hapened to me more than once and I'm beginning to suspect something. When I recently shared some of my own bookshop memories I'd pushed into a corner of my mind, I was advised to write a book about it. You'd be surprised how much drama took place in that inconspicuous place! Rivalry (oh, so much rivalry), raging profit-first takeover, internal heist (more than once!), gossip (oh, the amount of gossip), a boss allergic to paper (!), newbie consultants proud of not reading books, the annual September hell of masses of agitated self-important moms looking for textbooks we, the overworked and underslept staff, knew we had but couldn't find in the storage room filled with hundreds of white unopened packages of school supplies... The most impressive stuff that happened, however, was how the Big Bosses re-oriented the bookstore chain into a more profitable enterprise that would sell, well, books, but only among other things. And so we went, selling seeds for gardening, scented candles, toys, what have you. I was lucky to get out of there early enough, but a colleague of mine told me later on that into the inventory they included, for example, a fluorescent spray paint you could spray onto your horse. When I finally escaped, my paper-allergic boss told me she was glad I quit myself because she got rid of the unpleasant dillema of wanting to fire me. On top of my resistance to give into the new system of tracking down how much stuff each consultant would sell (you were required to compete over who would sell the most 50 Shades of Grey), her wish to fire me was based on a secret buyer evaluation, where I had failed to find a present for a friend of the customer who didn't know anything about what the friend liked to read, apart from maybe YA novels. Fair enough, I must have bluffed my 'expertise' in YA novels pretty poorly; for all I know, the customer might have been able to read in my face that their gift-seeking was a kind of tedious torture placed upon me out of which I tried to wriggle myself as fast as possible. Or maybe it was that I didn't try to sell them a bunch of other useless crap? My memory fails me. Such, such were the joys.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I have never read a book of essays before, and never really intended to read one if I'm being honest. However, every time I went into Waterstones in the last few months, I saw a small pile of Orwell's Books v. Cigarettes on the counter, and had been dying to check it out ever since. I finally succumbed on my second last visit to the store and bought my own copy, and I'm very glad I did. This slim volume contains seven essays by Orwell. Four of these are book or writing-related, one is war-related I have never read a book of essays before, and never really intended to read one if I'm being honest. However, every time I went into Waterstones in the last few months, I saw a small pile of Orwell's Books v. Cigarettes on the counter, and had been dying to check it out ever since. I finally succumbed on my second last visit to the store and bought my own copy, and I'm very glad I did. This slim volume contains seven essays by Orwell. Four of these are book or writing-related, one is war-related, one recounts an incident where Orwell was in a horrifying French hospital suffering from pneumonia, and the last essay (the longest and certainly my favourite) depicted his days at a preparatory school called St Cyprian's. Each essay was well-written and informative, and I particularly enjoyed the autobiograhical essays where Orwell used an almost story-telling voice to recount events he had experienced throughout his life, sometimes funny but most often very depressing. I can't wait to read more of Orwell's writing, particularly anything I can find about his own life. He had a seemingly colourful and challenging life, and I would love to immerse myself more in his world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Of the seven essays, the two in the middle, 'The Prevention of Literature', which is all about Totalitarianism, intellectual free speech and censorship, and 'My Country Right or Left', all about Patriotism, and governments cynical manipulation of a deeply rooted instinct, both are profoundly important essays, the most important, and remain relevant today. The essay 'How the Poor Die' relays the horrors of being sick in a hospital for the poor in Paris. This is similar to 'Down and out in Paris a Of the seven essays, the two in the middle, 'The Prevention of Literature', which is all about Totalitarianism, intellectual free speech and censorship, and 'My Country Right or Left', all about Patriotism, and governments cynical manipulation of a deeply rooted instinct, both are profoundly important essays, the most important, and remain relevant today. The essay 'How the Poor Die' relays the horrors of being sick in a hospital for the poor in Paris. This is similar to 'Down and out in Paris and London'. The first three essays are interesting, all to do with books. 1.'Books v. Cigarettes' asks if being a reader and book lover is an expensive business or a choice of priorities, and if people are reading less. 2. 'Bookshop Memories' looking back at his experience working in a book shop. 3.'Confessions of a Book Reviewer', this one was a bit disappointing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pink

    This is a nice small selection of six Orwell essays. I particularly liked 'How the poor die' and 'Such, such were the joys' though I had read it before. These Penguin 'Great Ideas' editions are rather beautiful to look at, but there is a lot of crossover with other Penguin essay collections. So while a book for under £5 seems like a bargain nowadays, the content is a little thinly spread. If you enjoy Orwell and want a pretty book, then buy this one. If you are more about the content, then maybe This is a nice small selection of six Orwell essays. I particularly liked 'How the poor die' and 'Such, such were the joys' though I had read it before. These Penguin 'Great Ideas' editions are rather beautiful to look at, but there is a lot of crossover with other Penguin essay collections. So while a book for under £5 seems like a bargain nowadays, the content is a little thinly spread. If you enjoy Orwell and want a pretty book, then buy this one. If you are more about the content, then maybe start with these 50 essays available for free online at Project Gutenberg Australia

  20. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    A very caustic collection of essays written between 1936 and 1946. Each one is a thorough radiography of pre and post-war English society, including one mini-autobiography since Orwell was 8 years old. Very powerful and incisive.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mick D

    Passages good enough to take photos of and send to friends who don't care. Passages good enough to take photos of and send to friends who don't care.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I never expected to read this, or really anything by Orwell beyond Animal Farm. But there I was at the bookstore and all the “Penguin Great Ideas” books looked so crisp and pithy that I picked out nine or ten, then forced myself down to six, then to five, then three, of which this was one. This little economics exercise turned out to be pretty relevant considering the topic of the eponymous essay “Books v. Cigarettes.” I remember my father raving about what a great essay “Such, Such Were the Joy I never expected to read this, or really anything by Orwell beyond Animal Farm. But there I was at the bookstore and all the “Penguin Great Ideas” books looked so crisp and pithy that I picked out nine or ten, then forced myself down to six, then to five, then three, of which this was one. This little economics exercise turned out to be pretty relevant considering the topic of the eponymous essay “Books v. Cigarettes.” I remember my father raving about what a great essay “Such, Such Were the Joys” was when I was younger, and me nodding along all the while saying “no more Orwell…” I don’t know why I suffered this slight aversion. It wasn’t as if Animal Farm wasn’t good. Anyway, my father was right. “Such, Such Were the Joys” and “How the Poor Die” were the two outstanding essays of this little collection, with the latter being my favorite. This is because I love misery. Or reading about misery. Dank misery. Loveless misery. Misery of body, of mind and of heart. The essays about books and literature, which were for me the draw of the book, paled in comparison. (If you want to read something terrific about how much something actually costs, go for Lydia Davis’s “Break It Down” in the book of the same name. Much better than “Books v. Cigarettes.” Very different, of course, but way more entertaining and less obvious.) People admire Orwell mostly for his clean prose, and indeed that is enviable. Still, it doesn’t make you go “wow” at every turn; it works more subtly. For example, I realized how much the prose of another book I was reading simultaneously annoyed me. When I’d open “Books v. Cigarettes” it was like the doctor in the comedy sketch had come in and started the “Out with the bad air! In with the good air!” operation. I admit to having a trouble identifying what exactly the “Great Idea” is in this book. But I don’t think you should let that bother you.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Celtria

    The only Orwell I have read is Nineteen Eighty Four, and that a have-to-read for O-level English Literature. That was nigh on 40 years ago and recently I've been thinking about reading it again, and more of Orwell. I was having this thought when I bumped into a table in Waterstones bookshop and lying on that table was this gem. What have I been missing over the decades?! The most appealing thing about this book is its honesty and I'll re-read it for sure. Books v. Cigarettes is a collection of ess The only Orwell I have read is Nineteen Eighty Four, and that a have-to-read for O-level English Literature. That was nigh on 40 years ago and recently I've been thinking about reading it again, and more of Orwell. I was having this thought when I bumped into a table in Waterstones bookshop and lying on that table was this gem. What have I been missing over the decades?! The most appealing thing about this book is its honesty and I'll re-read it for sure. Books v. Cigarettes is a collection of essays, originally published between 1936 and 1952, brought together in this one thin volume in the Penguin Great Ideas series (I intend to have all of these one day). The first essay gives the book it's title and is a quirky bit of maths with a serious message: some people don't read because they think books are too expensive, but given what else one's money is spent on, how much does reading cost compared to other leisure activities? Bookshop Memories is entertaining, wry and amusing, with a sad kick, and provides wonderful sentences about the people of London and where bluebottles die. Confessions of a Book Reviewer is a masterclass in how to construct a word-portrait of a person. The Prevention of Literature and My Country Left or Right venture through Orwell's insightful, political mind, with Nineteen Eighty Four whispering on the horizon. How the Poor Die is an account of time spent in a French hospital and Orwell does not hold back on the descriptions of the grusome treatment of the patients or on his opinion of the wider injustice of the rich-poor divide. Such, Such Were the Joys is an account of Orwell's time spent at a private preparatory boarding school in Eastbourne. It is brutal and yet carries no bitterness or self-pity, and is the best of the collection. It is a masterclass in memoir writing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Annikky

    My already considerable respect for Orwell has increased further after reading his essays. This is maybe not quite as brilliant as Why I Write, but it's still very good. I vehemently agreed with the first essay (Books v Cigarettes) and felt almost unbearable sadness and empathy for Orwell as a small boy in the last one. I'm also constantly impressed that already in the 1940s, he was remarkably clear-eyed about Soviet Union. Incidentally, his thoughts on totalitarianism (and in particular the con My already considerable respect for Orwell has increased further after reading his essays. This is maybe not quite as brilliant as Why I Write, but it's still very good. I vehemently agreed with the first essay (Books v Cigarettes) and felt almost unbearable sadness and empathy for Orwell as a small boy in the last one. I'm also constantly impressed that already in the 1940s, he was remarkably clear-eyed about Soviet Union. Incidentally, his thoughts on totalitarianism (and in particular the constant need to rewrite history in such societies) reminded me of The Noise of Time that I just read. In reality, it's of course the other way around - Barnes echoing Orwell. I think I must eventually read everything this guy has written.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Thom Beckett

    I originally bought this because I loved the edition. In fact, I'd happily have all of the beautiful Penguin Great Ideas series. This is a collection of Orwell's essays, of which the title is just one. Most are literature-related, although the longest is delves into Orwell (or, at the time, Blair)'s time at Preparatory school. All are written faultlessly, have dated only through their content, and then only just. You won't get much more genius for your money than buying a book of Orwell essays, an I originally bought this because I loved the edition. In fact, I'd happily have all of the beautiful Penguin Great Ideas series. This is a collection of Orwell's essays, of which the title is just one. Most are literature-related, although the longest is delves into Orwell (or, at the time, Blair)'s time at Preparatory school. All are written faultlessly, have dated only through their content, and then only just. You won't get much more genius for your money than buying a book of Orwell essays, and this is, as I say, a beautiful edition. Highly recommended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rosianna

    Orwell's style never fails to delight and particularly never fails to delight this bookseller. His humour shines through, but above all he is master of the anecdote. He's the fantasy dinner party guest, but if I can't have that, at least I could have Books vs. Cigarettes (and pretty much everything else by him ever published). Orwell's style never fails to delight and particularly never fails to delight this bookseller. His humour shines through, but above all he is master of the anecdote. He's the fantasy dinner party guest, but if I can't have that, at least I could have Books vs. Cigarettes (and pretty much everything else by him ever published).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    DNF at a third of the way through this collection of essays. I was thoroughly entertained by the first, Books v. Cigarettes, which discusses the cost of books relative to alcohol and cigarettes and his conclusion that the reason people didn't buy books at the time was not because they were too expensive, but because reading is less interesting than other activities. The second essay, however, really brought an ugly light of George Orwell into view. The essay was absolutely filled with sexist comm DNF at a third of the way through this collection of essays. I was thoroughly entertained by the first, Books v. Cigarettes, which discusses the cost of books relative to alcohol and cigarettes and his conclusion that the reason people didn't buy books at the time was not because they were too expensive, but because reading is less interesting than other activities. The second essay, however, really brought an ugly light of George Orwell into view. The essay was absolutely filled with sexist comments and seeping with snobbery and feelings of superiority. The third essay bored me to bits and the fourth held my interest about halfway through. Honestly, I think I was so turned off by that second essay, I just couldn't see his writing in the same light anymore. It makes me very very sad. I do not recommend reading this if you love his other books.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marija Andreeva

    Beautiful and very insightful collection of essays by George Orwell. I could not let this book out of my hand. I enjoyed every page, as always with Orwell.

  29. 5 out of 5

    sevdah

    A rather thin but excellent collection of essays containing what might well be the first text on media manipulating and rewriting of history that we now call post-truth. I was mentioning this on the dinner table and what my partner said was "Orwell has only ever written warnings"... Hard to pick a favourite but his account on what it was to work in a bookshop in Camden and the various characters pestering him was hilarious. A rather thin but excellent collection of essays containing what might well be the first text on media manipulating and rewriting of history that we now call post-truth. I was mentioning this on the dinner table and what my partner said was "Orwell has only ever written warnings"... Hard to pick a favourite but his account on what it was to work in a bookshop in Camden and the various characters pestering him was hilarious.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ste Kitching

    Recently I have been having trouble finding time to set aside in order to read anything longer than a newspaper. This is a relatively new problem, but the advent of both my work and social life suddenly becoming much busier, a long term girlfriend who I do not see as much as I would like and a commute that has changed from an hour uninterrupted bus ride to a walk-tube-dash, all mean it is a reasonably serious one. If I wasn’t going to fall at the first hurdle of my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge Recently I have been having trouble finding time to set aside in order to read anything longer than a newspaper. This is a relatively new problem, but the advent of both my work and social life suddenly becoming much busier, a long term girlfriend who I do not see as much as I would like and a commute that has changed from an hour uninterrupted bus ride to a walk-tube-dash, all mean it is a reasonably serious one. If I wasn’t going to fall at the first hurdle of my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge, I would have to find something that would allow me to hit the ground running which could be consumed in short bursts and which would not suffer for it, before I become more “disciplined”. With all of the above in mind, Books vs Cigarettes (Penguin, 2009) was the perfect way to begin. Part of the penguin “Great Ideas” series, it collects a number of Orwell’s essays and journalism from the post war period, around the time of the publication of animal farm. The first thing that strikes you is the series this collection is a part of. I doubt that Orwell would ever have claimed to have been the originator of an original “great idea” and there certainly isn’t one to be found here. Orwell’s great strength, and what makes him as relevant today as he was in 1945, is his skill at interpreting the world - for seeing things clearly and reporting them to us with rare analysis, coupled with an even rarer skill as a writer. A strange decision indeed then, but who am I to argue with a marketing strategy which has been hugely successful? So to the meat; the actual collection itself. This is quite simply a wonderful collection; it begins with an essay arguing that one spends more on smoking than on books, concluding therefore that cost cannot be given as reason why reading is an unpopular pastime and ends with a broad and illustrative account of his time at St Cyprian's, an old fashioned pre-world war one prep school. Of particular interest to some will be “The Prevention of Literature” which can be used to make some of our party line following left-wing brothers and sisters squirm when they claim there is no left wing tradition backing up the last Labour government’s woeful record on civil liberties. Hyperbole is redundant when discussing Orwell, all imaginable praise that could be heaped on him as a writer has been, and by the shovel load. As such he’s become a sacred cow amongst the British chattering classes. This collection is fascinating also, because we see him as a more three dimensional character than perhaps we are used to. In “How the poor die” he slips in some quite horrific snobbery about English nurses as part of a back handed compliment, the afore mentioned essay on his school days drips with bitterness at the whole experience and now and again there’s more than a hint of xenophobia about his writing. None of this detracts from the great writing on offer here, and no one who has taken more than a passing interest in Orwell will be at all surprised by these ”flaws”. What it does do is give you a human writer, rather than the infallible commentator some would have you expect. There are better introductions to Orwell in general, and better introductions to Orwell as a journalist/essayist (I’d recommend “Shooting an Elephant”). But for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge, read some excellent thought provoking writing, discover more of Orwell than just 1984 and Animal Farm, or just needs something easy to read on the tube as I did, this cannot be recommended enough. 4.5/5 Books vs. Cigarettes George Orwell Penguin 2009

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