George Orwell: Essays (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell
Published by Penguin on January 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Non-Fiction, Political, Short Stories (single author), Social History
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This outstanding collection brings together Orwell’s longer, major essays and a fine selection of shorter pieces that includes My Country Right or Left, Decline of the English Murder, Shooting an Elephant and A Hanging.
With great originality and wit Orwell unfolds his views on subjects ranging from the moral enormity of Jonathan Swift’s strange genius and a revaluation of Charles Dickens to the nature of Socialism, a comic yet profound discussion of naughty sea-side picture postcards and a spirited defence of English cooking. Displaying an almost unrivalled mastery of English plain prose style, Orwell’s essays challenge, move and entertain.
I have always enjoyed Orwell’s writing. Like many people, Nineteen Eighty Four is one of my favourite books. But I had never read any of his essays before now. I chose this book specifically for Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge and I wasn’t disappointed.
This is a real mix bag of stories. From the short to the long; from diatribes on Charles Dickens to essays on “Bookshop Memories”; this book has it all. Although many of the essays are now 80 or more years old, they still hold a remarkable amount of relevance.
A lot of the writing is founded upon Orwell’s socialist leanings, and many essays cover uncomfortable topics such as war and death. The writing certainly isn’t what you would call “politically correct” in today’s terms, with numerous references to the N-word, C-word and F-word, among others. These are all in context – especially when viewed against the backdrop of the time – however if you’re likely to be offended by such language, then give this book a miss.
It would be a shame to miss out though, as this is a superb collection of essays, which are incredibly readable and still very relevant today.
The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons
Published by Amazon Publishing on December 1st 2015
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Espionage, Suspense, Political
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A decade ago, fourteen-year-old Suzanne Lombard, the daughter of Benjamin Lombard--then a senator, now a powerful vice president running for the presidency--disappeared in the most sensational missing-person case in the nation's history. Still unsolved, the mystery remains a national obsession.
For legendary hacker and marine Gibson Vaughn, the case is personal--Suzanne Lombard had been like a sister to him. On the tenth anniversary of her disappearance, the former head of Benjamin Lombard's security asks for Gibson's help in a covert investigation of the case, with new evidence in hand.
Haunted by tragic memories, he jumps at the chance to uncover what happened all those years ago. Using his military and technical prowess, he soon discovers multiple conspiracies surrounding the Lombard family--and he encounters powerful, ruthless political players who will do anything to silence him and his team. With new information surfacing that could threaten Lombard's bid for the presidency, Gibson must stay one step ahead as he navigates a dangerous web to get to the truth.
I chose this as one of my Kindle First picks, and I’m really glad that I did. This debut author has produced a fantastic tight-knit, political thriller, which was pretty unputdownable once I got into it.
If I had any criticism it would be that the ending dragged just a little too much. But overall this is a face-paced, well thought-out thriller, which is well worth reading if you like this kind of genre.
I Am Malala by Malala YousafzaiChristina Lamb
Published by Hachette UK on November 13th 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Political, Women, General, Historical, Social Activists
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*Winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize*
In 2009 Malala Yousafzai began writing a blog on BBC Urdu about life in the Swat Valley as the Taliban gained control, at times banning girls from attending school. When her identity was discovered, Malala began to appear in both Pakistani and international media, advocating the freedom to pursue education for all. In October 2012, gunmen boarded Malala's school bus and shot her in the face, a bullet passing through her head and into her shoulder. Remarkably, Malala survived the shooting.
At a very young age, Malala Yousafzai has become a worldwide symbol of courage and hope. Her shooting has sparked a wave of solidarity across Pakistan, not to mention globally, for the right to education, freedom from terror and female emancipation.
Malala is certainly one of the most inspirational people of our time. Shot by the Taliban for being outspoken about women’s rights to an education, she has since left Pakistan and become an ambassador for educational rights. As a person she is undoubtedly one of the most influential of current times, having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
That said, she was 16 when this autobiography was released; and no matter how remarkable a 16 year old she was, it’s still tricky to build a whole book about one’s life when you’re still so young. Due to this, the majority of the book is actually about her family (especially her father), and the history of Pakistan, which is sometimes hard to follow. She also seems to make sweeping generalisations about large portions of the Pakistani / Muslim population which, I fear, do nothing to encourage equality and peace in a difficult region.
It was a good book – but I think I would rather read an autobiography of a 40- or 50-year old Malala who has lived a bit, than that of a 16 year old girl (with all the usual teenage traumas and tantrums that encompasses).