14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Books, Cigarettes, and Other Vices,
This review is from: Books v. Cigarettes (Penguin Great Ideas) (Paperback)
When George Orwell's diaries were released online as a daily blog, beginning about a year ago and still ongoing, I remembered how much I enjoyed his essays and how long it had been since I'd read any of them. I was reminded of The Road to Wigan Pier when I recently read The Road to Southend Pier: One Man's Struggle Against the Surveillance Society, about the recent proliferation of closed-circuit TV cameras throughout Britain. Very Big Brother-ish.
So when I saw Books v. Cigarettes on a display with others from the Penguin Great Ideas series, I grabbed it. Not only was I looking forward to reading the book-related essays of Orwell, but the design of the book itself is a delight. A smidgen taller and wider than a mass market paperback and considerably thinner, the cover evokes the old Penguins of the mid 20th century, right down to the price printed on the upper right hand corner : 3'/6. The cover is rough, not slick, with subtly embossed lettering. I love it.
There are only six essays here, 126 pages. Orwell gets off to a good start by taking to task those who complain that books cost too much. He compares the cost of the books he's bought over the years with the amount he's spent on booze and cigarettes, and finds that even with his above-average book consumption, books cost less than other vices. Essays about bookselling and book reviewing follow, then one about the British Left's lukewarm support for freedom of the press. According to Orwell, the Left's support of Soviet Russia made them overlook little things like censorship.
The final three essays are not really book-related at all. Following a 1940 essay about the coming war, there's a description of the miserable time Orwell spent in a hospital for the poor in Paris, then a long essay (nearly half the entire book) of his miserable time as a boy at boarding school.
I don't think I would recommend this volume as a good introduction to the essays of Orwell - Shooting an Elephant: And Other Essays would be a better choice. But for those looking to read a few favorites in an attractive new edition, this is just the ticket.
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Initial post: 12 Jul 2013 01:30:55 BDT
I was very pleased to find the essay on the school, as it was once read out at my school in assembly (about 20 years ago now), and I had no idea who had written it.
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jul 2013 19:52:29 BDT
Mystery solved! Although we were introduced to Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm in school, I only came across his essays much later and actually prefer them to the novels.
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