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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Books v. Cigarettes by George Orwell

Photo Credit: Peter Kreten
I'm reading this very engaging collection of essays by the one and only George Orwell. They are in a collection entitled Books v. Cigarettes, and they are a collection of articles Orwell published throughout his life. And as the title suggests, books versus cigarettes is debated.

It begins with Orwell discussing an article he read about how "blue collar' workers weren't buying books anymore because they were far too expensive. So Orwell took an estimate of how many books he purchased throughout his life time and developed an average cost. He then did an estimate of how much money he spent on cigarettes for one year. As you might expect, cigarettes were more expensive than books.

But it doesn't end there. Orwell argues that yes books can be expensive, but their purchase should be seen as more of an investment. You can always learn something new from a book. If you keep a book for a long period of time, you could read it multiple times, and receive multiple experiences of entertainment. And finally, if worst came to worst, you can always re-sell any book you purchase at a second hand book story.

This is the first type of essay anthology of Orwell's that I have read. I am finding the material very engaging, and I think that it would be useful for any person who thinks books are a poor purchase choice to read.

1 comment:

Matt Maldre said...

I just read this essay--ironically, on my iPhone using instapaper (and not in a printed book). I appreciate Orwell's points and his desire to show that books are affordable. However, he rather misses the point of why people don't read books. The real cost is not shillings or dollars, but time. It takes longer to read a book than a movie; people don't want to spend their time reading a book. It simply costs them too much.

Orwell gets close to this point at the end of the essay, “at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.” However, excitement is one factor, but also is the time vested.