George Orwell's Books v. cigarettes is a recent volume in Penguin's "Great Ideas" series. I'm a fan of Orwell's essays and, between the eye-catching title and the old-style Penguin cover design, I couldn't resist this slim volume of them. It contains a couple of my favourites, including "Confessions of a Book Reviewer," which I've quoted from here in past posts, and some I'd never read before, such as the title essay, "Books v. cigarettes." In the latter, Orwell sets out to prove that the buying and reading of books is not "an expensive hobby" that is "beyond the reach of the average person." I don't think it will ruin the suspense to tell you that he succeeds, and that he makes many entertaining observations along the way. Here's a snippet:
It is difficult to establish any relationship between the price of books and the value one gets out of them. 'Books' includes novels, poetry, textbooks, works of reference, sociological treatises and much else, and length and price do not correspond to one another, especially if one habitually buys books second-hand. You may spend ten shillings on a poem of 500 lines, and you may spend sixpence on a dictionary which you consult at odd moments over a period of twenty years. There are books that one reads over and over again, books that become part of the furniture of one's mind and alter one's whole attitude to life, books that one dips into but never reads through, books that one reads at a single sitting and forgets a week later: and the cost in terms of money, may be the same in each case.
That final bit would make a fine meme don't you think? List: 1. A book you read over and over again; 2. A book that has become part of the furniture of your mind and has altered your whole attitude to life; 3. A book that you dip into but never read through; and, 4. A book that you read at a single sitting and forgot a week later. I'll have to think a bit on which book or books I'd list under each category. In the meantime though, I recommend Orwell's Books v. cigarettes as a book for dipping into and reading all the way through (and I note that at $9.99 Canadian, it doesn't cost much more than a pack of cigarettes!).