Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bookish Quotes - updated 9/16/2012

A list of my favorite quotes about books, reading, etc.

"A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."   (Penelope Fitzgerald: the bookshop)

"Reading is a comfortable, solitary, slow and sensuous task."  (Alberto Manguel: A Reading Diary)

"..every book exists in a dreamlike condition until the hands that open it and the eyes that peruse it stir the words into awareness."     (Alberto Manguel: A Reading Diary)

"I will sleep one night in the library to make the space truly mine.  C. says this is equivalent to a dog peeing in the corners."   (Alberto Manguel: A Reading Diary)

"Hovering over all the ruminations about literature and life that follow is the cosmic question of why so many of us feel compelled to go through life with our noses stuck in a book.  I'd like to propose....what we readers do each time we open a book is to set off on a search for authenticity.  We want to get closer to the heart of things, and sometimes even a few good sentences contained in an otherwise unexceptional book can crystallize vague feelings, fleeting sensations, or, sometimes, profound epiphanies....Readers, professional or casual, are alert to passages in a book that illuminate what was previously shadowy and formless.  In our daily lives, where we're bombarded by the fake and the trivial, reading serves as a way to stop, shut out the noise of the world, and try to grab hold of something real, no matter how small."  (Maureen Corrigan: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading)

"The utter trust that exists between reader and author is like the trust between lovers."  (Erica Jong)

"The central role of literature is the transmission of the details of human experience by artifice that intensifies aesthetic and emotional response."  (E.O. Wilson)

"Literature, like magic, has always been about the handling of secrets, about the pain, the destruction and the marvelous liberation that can result when they are revealed."  (Michael Chabon)

"Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we turn to books: to find words for what we already know."  (Alberto Manguel: A Reading Diary)

"I recall the physical pleasure of coming to the end of my book and then daydreaming about the characters (if I liked them) for many days after, imagining their ongoing lives and other endings."  (Alberto Manguel: A Reading Diary)

"That for me was the perfect nightmare, to wake up and discover that the place in which I kept my books had vanished, making me feel that I no longer was who I thought I was."  (Alberto Manguel: A Reading Diary)

"Books, what jolly company they are."  (Siegfried Sassoon)

"Book lovers always have to touch books."   (Maureen Corrigan: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading)

"One of the most magical and liberating things about literature is that it can transport us readers into worlds totally unlike our own."  (Maureen Corrigan: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading)

"...books, a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might become a newcomer but was never really a stranger.  My real, true world. My perfect island." (Anna Quindlen: How Reading Changed My Life)

"My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read." (Abraham Lincoln)

"A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us." (Kafka)

"The mere brute pleasure of reading - the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing." (G.K. Chesterton)

"Books are the plane and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home." (Anna Quindlen: How Reading Changed My Life).

"Books are the means of immortality: Plato lives forever, as do Dickens, and Dr. Seuss, Soames Forsyte, Jo March, Scrooge, Anna Karenina, and Vronsky." (Anna Quindlen: How Reading Changed My Life).

"Explaining the moment of connection between a reader and a book to someone who's never experienced it is like trying to describe sex to a virgin." (Sara Nelson: So Many Books, So Little Time).

"A book is a way to shut out the noise of the world. It is a way to be alone without being totally alone." (Sara Nelson: So Many Books, So Little Time).

"Allowing yourself to stop reading a book - is a rite of passage in a reader's life, the literary equivalent of a bar mitzvah or a communion, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult. I can make my own decisions." 

(Sara Nelson: So Many Books, So Little Time)

"My books are my secret lovers, the friends I run to to get away from the daily drudgeries of life, to try out something new and yes, to get books are the affairs I do not have."

(Sara Nelson: So Many Books, So Little Time)

"I cannot live without books."  (Thomas Jefferson)

"When I have a little money I buy books.  And if any is left, I buy food and clothing." (Desiderius Erasmus)

"When we are collecting books, we are collecting happiness."  (Vincent Starrett)

"The contents of someone's bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait." (Anatoly Broyard)

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention." (Francis Bacon)

"Books are the windows through which the soul looks out.  A home without books is like a room without windows." (Henry Ward Beecher)

"A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life." (Henry Ward Beecher)

"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." (Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger)

"The world is full of chaos and an artful novel satisfied our human desire for order..." and "the novel excavates meaning from the rubble of incomprehension."  (Tom Grimes in Mentor: A Memoir)

"Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?...Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?"  (Annie Dillard in The Writing Life)

"Few things linger longer or become more indwelling than that feeling of both completion and emptiness when a great book ends.  That the book accompanies the reader forever, from that day forward, is part of literature's profligate generosity."  And later.... "I take it as an article of faith that the novels I've loved will live inside my forever."  (Pat Conry in My Reading Life)

"Now and then there are readings that make the hairs on the neck, the non-existent pelt, stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark -  readings when the knowledge that we shall know the writing differently or better or satisfactorily, runs ahead of any capacity to say what we know, or how.  In these readings, a sense that the text has appeared to be wholly new, never before seen, is followed, almost immediately, by the sense that it was always there, that we the readers, knew it was always there, and have always known, it was as it was, though we have now for the first time recognized, become fully cognisant of, our knowledge.  (Narrator in A.S Byatt's Possession)

All following quotes are from the short essay How Should One Read A Book? by Virginia Woolf
"The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions." 
"Do not dictate to your author; try to become him.  Be his fellow worker and accomplice.  If you hang back, and reserve and criticize at first, you are preventing yourself from getting the fullest possible value from what you read." 
"Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words."  
"To read a novel is a difficult and complex art.  You must be capable not only of great fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination if you are going to make use of all that the novelist - the great artist - gives you." 
"I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgement dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards - their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble - the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy, when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, "Look, these need no reward.  We have nothing to give them here.  They have loved reading."
"Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book.  People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment.  The temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is one not easy to manage." (Sara Crewe in Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Little Princess)

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