Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Quote File: Books

What I do sometimes is just walk up and down and think about what's in the books, because they remind me of all there is. And the world is so much bigger than what people remember. – Susan Sontag

There are books so alive that you're always afraid that while you weren't reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away. No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book? -- Marina Tsvetaeva

This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. – Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Good books don't give up all their secrets at once. – Stephen King

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. -- Italo Calvino

Like dreaming, reading performs the prodigious task of carrying us off to other worlds. But reading is not dreaming because books, unlike dreams, are subject to our will: they envelop us in alternative realities only because we give them explicit permission to do so. Books are the dreams we would most like to have, and, like dreams, they have the power to change consciousness, turning sadness to laughter and anxious introspection to the relaxed contemplation of some other time and place. – Victor Null

A book is like a man--clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun. – John Steinbeck

Of the needs a book has, the chief need is that it be readable. – Anthony Trollope

Only two classes of books are of universal appeal: the very best and the very worst. – Ford Madox Ford

The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing. . . . I wish that all my books were consigned to perpetual oblivion. – Martin Luther

Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them. –Samuel Butler

Readers may be divided into four classes: 1. Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied. 2. Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time. 3. Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read. 4. Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also. – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life. – Jesse Lee Bennett

You think your pains and heartbreaks are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who have ever been alive. -- James Baldwin

The books that help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty. — Pablo Neruda

A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us. – W. H. Auden

In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you. - Mortimer J. Adler

I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself. – Isaac Asimov

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book does not shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? – Franz Kafka

A book if necessary should be a hammer [or] a hand grenade which you detonate under a stagnant way of looking at the world. – Wole Soyinka

Some books leave us free and some books make us free. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

That is a good book which is opened with expectation, and closed with delight and profit. –Bronson Alcott

... a great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. - William Styron

You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel as if you’ve lost a friend.Zora Neale Hurston

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. - J.D. Salinger

Properly, we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand. – Ezra Pound

Ink is handicapped, in a way, because you can blow up a man with gunpowder in half a second, while it may take twenty years to blow him up with a book. But the gunpowder destroys itself along with its victim, while a book can keep on exploding for centuries. - Christopher Morley

Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. - Barbara Tuchman

For books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives. — Amy Lowell

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time. – Carl Sagan

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. – Gilbert Highet

Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn. – Joseph Addison

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead. -- Clarence Day

You must not refuse to lend a book, even to an enemy, for the cause of learning will suffer. – Rabbi Yehuda of Regensburg

It is far more seemly to have thy study full of books than thy purse full of money. -- John Lyly

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? -- Henry Ward Beecher

A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on, you are enriched threefold. – Henry Miller

The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all. – Voltaire

A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. Lend and borrow to the maximum. – Henry Miller

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. – Joseph Brodsky

Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself. – John Milton

The surest way to spot a nonreader: someone who comes into your house, looks at your books and asks, "Have you read all these?" - Charles Taylor

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book. -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency--the belief that the here and now is all there is. – Allan Bloom

A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood. - Chinese Proverb

There are books in which the footnotes or comments scrawled by some reader's hand in the margin are more interesting than the text. The world is one of these books. - George Santayana

Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier. -- Kathleen Norris


  1. What a fantastic collection of quotes. A 'print-worthy' blog, for sure, just the right amount of encouragement and ego-humbling to adorn my desk. Thanks.

  2. ... a great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. - William Styron

    How true. It explains why you sometimes just want to close a good book even in the middle of it amd just sit and think, or gaze out into space with wonder.

  3. I love the Salinger quote. So true.

  4. Ah, there's some really great ones here! Thanks for posting these.

  5. Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all. -- Henry David Thoreau

  6. Thanks so much for sharing - these are wonderful.

  7. You're a discriminating quote collector, Cheryl. Some really good ones here. Thank you!
    (PS: Help! Date of KT's birthday??)

  8. A great collection of quotes. Here's one of my favorites:

    "I've traveled the world twice over,
    Met the famous; saints and sinners,
    Poets and artists, kings and queens,
    Old stars and hopeful beginners,
    I've been where no-one's been before,
    Learned secrets from writers and cooks
    All with one library ticket
    To the wonderful world of books."
    ~ Anonymous ~

  9. Muwah! Made my day!

    Here are a couple of my favs...

    You may have tangible wealth untold; caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

    Richer than I you can never be, I had a mother who read to me.

    ~ Strickland Gillilan

    "You know you don't have to be an actor when you read a book to a child. All you need is to simply love what you're reading. Even just enjoying the pictures together is a great start. When you share a book with a child, you're saying to them that books are important. That's a gift that can nurture them all through their lives."
    ~ Mr. Rogers


    E. B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, once wrote “All I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.”