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Books v. Cigarettes

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  5,069 ratings  ·  430 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published August 7th 2008 by Penguin (first published 1946)
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Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was 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
Sep 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
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
Jacob Overmark
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Diane Barnes
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 28, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Laala Kashef Alghata
May 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
“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
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Lyn Elliott
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Sam Quixote
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Oct 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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 ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Thom Beckett
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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). ...more
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
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.
Jan 04, 2017 added it
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.
Ste Kitching
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
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 ...more
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is very much a book of two halves. The first consists of short pieces of five to ten pages on the subjects of literature, politics, and health. The latter half is a single extended account of Orwell's years at a boarding school called St Cyprian's. The tone of each half is rather different, but they still work well together as an anthology. The writing throughout is fluent, humane, dry, and beautifully expressed. The first few pieces made me laugh with their wittily expressed grumpiness, es ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, classics
I really enjoy Orwell’s essays. Having only read one of his works of fiction, that being Animal Farm, it’s really interesting to contrast and compare the political implications of both his fiction and non-fiction. While I don’t agree with all of Orwell’s political and moral views, I think his expression of these views was very impactful on the development of society and how we express our views today. Some essays I enjoyed more than others, my favourite being Such, Such Were the Joys, but overal ...more
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Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial

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