Books v. Cigarettes (Penguin Great Ideas) Mass Market Paperback – 7 Aug 2008
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Well worth reading, and at the price its being offered you'd be mad not to give it a go.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very moving and acerbic. For a slim tome it is insightful and feels good having the sense that he's on your side with views of the establishment and human behaviour.Published 24 months ago by Mr. WC Chambers
This handful of essays cover literature in various aspects, the public school system (a recurring topic of Orwell's) and how the NHS compares to his stay in a Paris hospital for... Read morePublished on 22 May 2014 by enthymeme
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... Read morePublished on 16 Feb. 2014 by Sam Quixote
What a wonderful book. Seven essays - all of which are interesting, insightful and readable - and it definitely saves the best until last... Read morePublished on 12 Nov. 2013 by nigeyb
Orwell puts forward a fascinating argument for the greater value for money of books than cigarettes! This article is only one of several collected here. Read morePublished on 29 Jun. 2013 by L. A. Witton
Anthology of short stories, essays and criticism. All very amusing, easy read and lots of ideas - but it's missing some of his best stuff - other collections are better value.Published on 13 May 2013 by PeterS