Title: Books v. Cigarettes
Author: George Orwell
Originally published: 1946
This is a top shelf book.
I find George Orwell’s works fantastic for a variety of reasons from his simple yet intelligent prose to his dominating yet calming voice. What I usually find most fascinating about him, however, is how much his pieces still resonate today. I’m not only talking about 1984 (although that clearly relates to the world we live in today) but his other stories and essays, as well. Books v. Cigarettes is a collection of six essays ranging in topics from his early schooling days to censorship to the book reviewer to a comparison of how much more expensive reading is than other hobbies.
In a world where the bookstore is becoming out of date and people seem unwilling to spend the money on literature anymore, or even read at all, the title essay is something that particularly resonated with me. It is likely that his findings that most people spend much less on books than they do on other items such as cigarettes or alcohol would still be true today yet, just as it were seventy years ago, people still balk at the cost of a book. Anyone who has an interest in reading and the book industry would find this piece of great interest as well.
Beyond his ability to seemingly see into the future, it is worth reading this volume for his masterful writing. He writes so succinctly and beautifully, never misusing a word or creating a clumsy sentence. It feels so perfectly revised and fluid, with each piece possessing its own personality and emotion without being out of place alongside the others. He is intelligent and well-researched, unafraid to show it, but does so without being condescending towards the reader. While Orwell assumes you will know what he is talking about he also provides enough background knowledge that you can understand his point without having to take up your own research project if you don’t wish to.
Simply as an example of perfected writing style, this collection of essays is worth picking up. If you ever need to see how a great author crafts a sentence, then a paragraph, then brings it all together into one coherent piece, pick up anything by Orwell. I highly recommend these works, though, for their thought-provoking subject matter, humour, insight, emotion, and honesty.