This is an enormous doorstop of a book, with over 1,300 pages of George Orwell’s essays. Of course that doesn’t cover everything he wrote, but it’s an awful lot. While best known for his novels Animal Farm
and Nineteen Eighty-Four
, Orwell was probably a better essayist than a novelist. This volume contains Orwell’s best and most famous essays, printed many places (including online), like “Such, Such Were the Joys,” “Shooting an Elephant,” and “Politics and the English Language." It also includes other thought-provoking but harder to find essays like “A Hanging,” and “Notes on Nationalism,” as well as the excellent and still very relevant preface to the first edition of Animal Farm
, “The Freedom of the Press.”
As you would expect, there’s plenty here of Orwell’s favorite topics, totalitarianism, fascism, communism, and imperialism, but also much about the little details of everyday life, from how to make the perfect cup of tea to his concept of an ideal pub. This collection has all 80 of the “As I Please” columns that Orwell wrote for the Tribune
, a column that can be political but just as often addresses grammar and word choice, attacks clichéd writing, and bemoans the lack of technological advancement in activities such as washing dishes. Orwell wrote many book reviews as well, most of which serve more as a format for him to express his opinions than as a discussion of the books themselves. Sometimes these are on surprising but intriguing topics, such as Orwell's criticism of Tolstoy's criticism of Shakespeare. There are also some funny little gems, like a rant of a letter Orwell wrote in response to a questionnaire he was sent about the Spanish Civil War that begins, “Will you please stop sending me this bloody rubbish” and escalates from there.
This book is organized chronologically, which makes sense, but unfortunately suffers from the lack of an index. Still, for those who want to go beyond the same 10-15 essays that are printed in most anthologies, this edition will provide as many Orwell essays as just about anyone could possibly want to read.