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Books v. Cigarettes (Penguin Great Ideas) Mass Market Paperback – 7 Aug 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141036613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141036618
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 0.8 x 17.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by his pen-name, George Orwell, was born in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. An author and journalist, Orwell was one of the most prominent and influential figures in twentieth-century literature. His unique political allegory Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with the dystopia of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame. His novels and non-fiction include Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.


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By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Aug. 2009
Format: Mass Market 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.
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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Nov. 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
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, an 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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not a big fan of Orwell's books, that is to say I dislike his style. They are of course good books but they all seem to follow the same rhythm, most ending in an inevitably depressing fashion that loses its power in its over use. However, this collection of essays where a joy to read. Reflective, brutally honest and a sign of a man who truly thought for himself. His condemnation of the useful idiots who blindly spouted the propaganda line of the soviet union and other hacks is a message still relivent to our time, and his reflection on his time at school makes interesting reading. On the topic of his time in public school, I couldn't help but draw comparisons (in the contrast) to Peter Hitchens' description in 'The Rage Against God'. While Hitchens seems to find no fault in his experience of education (a suspicious lack of criticism if truth be told, I suspect him to be one of those people who has forgotten all the problems of the past and is constantly comparing their fantasy of how things were to an overly negative version of today) Orwell gives a warts and all account of suffering the fate of being considered second rate in a elitist and hypocritical institution.

Well worth reading, and at the price its being offered you'd be mad not to give it a go.
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Oct. 2015
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I’ve bought several of the books in the admirable series released by Penguin Books: Great Ideas and this is the latest. It didn’t really resonate with me until it got onto “How The Poor Die. We British didn’t have a Health Service at this time. This was fascinating, covering his time in a hospital, in Britain somewhere, though not named here. The privations are great and sorrowful. The patients, according to Orwell, were not treated with any humanity at all and if this is accurate it must be one of the hidden scandals of war. The surgeons did not look at or speak to the patients, the food was disgusting, the nursing when present, rushed and unpleasant.

But the account given of his life as a schoolboy at St. Cyprians was almost unbelievably dreadful. It deserves to be known, however damning of an education system that makes one ashamed to be British.

Reading this account shocked me. Here was I thinking that to be privileged, to have a private education must have been a wonderful thing. Not by this account. Like other accounts of beatings, bad food, sadistic treatment one can hardly imagine how it was borne by children as young as eight or nine. You couldn’t just send off a letter asking to come home – that came under the heading of things that were simply “not done.” If you were a scholarship boy, you were the lowest of the low, and your treatment was in some way deserved in your own mind. Privilege had to be paid for by stoicism. This account is truly revelatory and well worth reading.
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