I am a very big George Orwell fan. However rather than stating that I would read ’1984′ or ‘Animal Farm’ over and over again, despite being epic books in their own right – I would read Orwell’s collection of essays “Cigarettes vs. Books” over and over again. In this essay, Orwell argues that the common argument that the reason for not purchasing new books by the public or for public libraries is that they are too expensive.
He argues that “These figures are guesswork, and I should be interested if someone would correct them for me. But if my estimate is anywhere near right, 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 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.” It is a very very worthwhile read and funnily enough – here is an online copy here.
Another essay in this collection describes Orwell’s interpretation of his childhood memory in St. Cyprian’s boarding schools and the harsh realities of the British class system. I was particularly drawn at the time to his use of the following excerpt to describing the education/manipulation of youth: “The weakness of the child is that it starts with a blank sheet. It neither understands nor questions the society in which it lives, and because of its credulity other people can work upon it, infecting it with the sense of inferiority and the dread of offending against mysterious, terrible laws.”
I could also read Plato’s “The Symposium” over and over and get a new lesson from it every time. I particularly love the use of the following line as one of the oldest insults/putdowns I have had the pleasure of reading: “You in your turn may perhaps think me an unfortunate creature, and you are probably right, but my feeling about you is a matter not of opinion, but knowledge”.