Books v. Cigarettes by George Orwell [Book Thoughts]

Books v. Cigarettes shares many themes with Orwell’s more well-known Animal Farm and 1984. Intellectually honest and fascinating reading if you appreciate Orwell’s ideas.
-Imran

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(Essay compilation)

George Orwell is among the most well-known of all English authors particularly for his final two books: Animal Farm and 1984. For those of you who haven’t read it already, Animal Farm gets my strong recommendation for people of all ages and interests and if you’ve enjoyed that then 1984 is its spiritual successor in many respects (Its sales also shot up by 7000% recently in the wake of that whole PRISM scandal. Click here. Skip the movie).

 Books v. Cigarettes is a 120-page collection of some of Orwell’s essays and those familiar with his work will notice a lot of currents from Animal Farm and 1984 running through these pages. The book opens with Orwell attempting to debunk the myth that most people don’t read because it’s ‘too expensive’ and from there he moves onto essays about working in a book store, the careers of book-reviewers, totalitarianism’s effect on literature, patriotism and public hospitals before concluding with a 6-part 60 page memoir of his school days.

There’s a wealth of personal experience in these pages from a man who’s lived through hardships and questioned a lot of things his contemporaries have taken for granted. Orwell has had quite a few interesting and difficult experiences and he knows how to share them.

One thing I certainly admire about Orwell’s writing is his intellectual honesty. He was willing to tackle unsavoury or unpleasant topics and he was willing to openly criticize even the most popular of opinions. He also writes in a rather conversational style and I quite enjoyed the his continuous self-reflection as he takes you through each essay; it’s a book of essays but it reads like a book of narratives.

The book is also filled with much food for thought. Between the 120 pages, Orwell shares thoughts on everything from self-censorship to England’s class-based society before World War II. In particular, I enjoyed the 60-page on his school days which both surprised me by its insight and shocked me a bit by it’s contents.

I can’t say I agree with everything that Orwell says, particularly his political sentiments, but anyone who’s enjoyed his other work will most likely walk away from this feeling like they’ve gained something. And for those of you who haven’t, skip this and read Animal Farm instead. Both are short reads. I like short books. After this, I might pick up a few more essay collections from time to time.

Books v. Cigarettes shares many themes with Orwell’s more well-known Animal Farm and 1984. Intellectually honest and fascinating reading if you appreciate Orwell’s ideas.

See you next week

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