Books

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There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. - Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891, preface

Quotations about books:

Sourced

Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me From mine own library with volumes that I prize above my dukedom. - William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), The Tempest, Act 1 scene 2
  • Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me
    From mine own library with volumes that
    I prize above my dukedom.
  • The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
    And all the sweet serenity of books.
  • A single book at the right time can change our views dramatically, give a quantum boost to our knowledge, help us construct a whole new outlook on the world and our life. Isn't it odd that we don't seek those experiences more systematically?
    • Steve Leveen, The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, Levenger Press, 2005, p. 11
  • A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get.
    • Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Vermischte Schriften, K., 351
    • Original German: "Ein sicheres Zeichen von einem guten Buche ist, wenn es einem immer besser gefällt, je älter man wird."
  • A truly good book is something as natural, and as unexpectedly and unaccountably fair and perfect, as a wild-flower discovered on the prairies of the West or in the jungles of the East.
  • Any of us might live a long life or pass away tomorrow. I have come to believe that living your well-read life is measured not by the number of books read at the end of your life but by whether you are in book love today, tomorrow, and next week.
    • Steve Leveen, The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, Levenger Press, 2005, p. 7
  • A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.
  • Gutenberg, your printing press has been violated by this evil book, Mein Kampf!
  • Literature is news that stays news.
    • Ezra Pound, U.S. Poet, 1885-1972; ABC of Reading (1934) chapter 8
  • People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.
  • The first step to retention is to briefly review your book almost immediately after finishing it. It's easier if you've marked passages and taken notes in the margins and on the endpapers. You can then go back through your book, reminding yourself why you marked the particular passages and wrote the commentary you did. This may encourage you to add to your marginalia or write longer notes elsewhere.
    • Steve Leveen, The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, Levenger Press, 2005, p. 39
  • There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written.
    • Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891, preface
  • When a book and a head collide and there is a hollow sound, is that always in the book?
    • Original German: "Wenn ein Buch und ein Kopf zusammenstoßen und es klingt hohl, ist das allemal im Buche?"
    • Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799) E 103
  • Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a dangerous enemy indeed.
    • Anne Rice, The Witching Hour, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1990, p. 261
  • And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Unsourced

  • A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.
  • A room without books is like a body without a soul.
  • A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.
  • Affect not as some do that bookish ambition to be stored with books and have well-furnished libraries, yet keep their heads empty of knowledge; to desire to have many books, and never to use them, is like a child that will have a candle burning by him all the while he is sleeping.
  • All my life I have been trying to learn to read, to see and hear, and to write.
  • An ordinary man can...surround himself with two thousand books..and thenceforward have at least one place in the world in which it is possible to be happy.
  • Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep; for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as by the latter.
  • Book-love...never flags or fails, but, like Beauty itself, is a joy forever.
  • Books... are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.
  • Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry.
    • Said by character William of Baskerville, originally in Italian
    • Umberto Eco, Il nome della rosa, 1980
  • Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.
  • Books must follow sciences, and not sciences books.
    • Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Proposition touching Amendment of Laws
  • Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. ~ Alfred Whitney Griswold
  • Don't deny a book a place in your collection simply because you may not find time to read it.
  • 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...
  • For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain, crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to this agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails...and when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.
    • Anonymous "curse" on book thieves from the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona, Spain
  • How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.
  • I think it's an essential need of the human being to hear another human being tell them a story...it makes us feel there's somebody else here with us.
  • I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage.
  • In all things I have sought rest, and nowhere have I found it save in a corner with a book.
    • Original Latin: "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro."
    • Thomas à Kempis
  • In the highest civilization, the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity.
  • If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.
  • Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.
  • Just the omission of Jane Austen's books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it.
  • Learn as much by writing as by reading.
  • Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books.
    • Bell Hooks, American critic and writer, O Magazine, December 2003
  • Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.
  • Live always in the best company when you read.
  • Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason; they made no such demand upon those who wrote them.
  • Never force yourself to read a book that you do not enjoy. There are so many good books in the world that it is foolish to waste time on one that does not give you pleasure.
    • Atwood H. Townsend, NYU Professor, chair of group that created Good Reading: A Helpful Guide for Serious Readers
  • Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.
  • No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading now, or surrender yourself to self-ignorance.
    • "On Reading", Good Reading: A Helpful Guide for Serious Readers, created by a group chaired by Atwood H. Townsend, NYU professor
  • Oh for a book and a shady nook...
  • One cannot begin too soon to buy one's own books, if for no other reason (and there are many more) than the freedom which they give you ton use their fly-leaves for your own private index of those matters in their pages which are particularly yours--those things which the index-makers never by any possibility include. To be able to turn at will, in a book of your own, to those passages which count for you, is to have your wealth at instant command, and your books become a record of your intellectual adventures...
  • One hour of steady thinking over a subject (a solitary walk is as good an opportunity for the process as any other) is worth two or three of reading only.
    • Lewis Carroll, on allowing time for what you're reading to sink in before you dive back in
  • One reader is better than another in proportion as he is able of a greater range of activity in reading and exerts more effort.
  • 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.
  • Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.
  • Reading good books implants good ideas in the mind, develops good aspirations, and leads to the cultivation of good friends.
  • Read not to contradict and confute…nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
  • Read the best books first, or (for) you may not have the chance to read them again.
  • Reading confirms your aliveness. It's very validating. That's what book groups ultimately are; you get validated in the human condition--the conditions and puzzles, the good stuff and the bad stuff, the aspirations and hopes and despairs. You're not alone out there.
  • Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.
  • Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.
  • Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.
  • Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
  • Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
  • Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
    • W. H. Auden, US (English-born) critic and poet, (1907 - 1973)
  • 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.
  • ...the book remains the carrier of civilization, the voice of the individual.
  • The contents of someone's bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait.
  • The dear good people don't know how long it takes to learn how to read. I've been at it eighty years, and can't say yet that I've reached the goal.
  • The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.
  • The multitude of books is making us ignorant.
    • Voltaire, French author, humanist, rationalist, and satirist (1694 - 1778)
  • The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting.
  • There are magic moments, involving great physical fatigue and intense motor excitement, that produce visions of people known in the past. As I learned later from the delightful little book of the Abbé de Bucquoy, there are also visions of books as yet unwritten.
    • Original in Italian
    • Umberto Eco, Il nome della rosa, 1980
  • There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.
  • There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It is like falling in love.
  • There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.
    • G. K. Chesterton, English author and mystery novelist, 1874-1936; Heretics, 1905
  • Truly, associating with bad books is often more dangerous than associating with bad people.
    • Original German: "Wahrhaftig, der Umgang mit schlechten Büchern ist oft gefährlicher als mit schlechten Menschen."
    • Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827), Das Buch und die Leserwelt
  • We are a listening animal. The human animal has had millenia listening to stories before there were books.
  • What counts, in the long run, is not what you read; it is what you sift through your own mind; it is the ideas and impressions that are aroused in you by your reading.
  • Whatever we read from intense curiosity gives us a model of how we should always read.
  • When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.
  • When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me.
  • When I step into this library, I cannot understand why I ever step out of it.
    • Marie de Sevigne, O Magazine, December 2003
  • When one stops to consider what life would be like without the ability to read after age forty or thereabouts, and the consequences for the life of the mind in general, eyeglasses suddenly appear as important as the wheel.
  • Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
  • Where one begins by burning books, one will end up burning people.
    • Original German: "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen."
    • Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), Almansor
  • Why is marking a book indespensible to reading it? First, it keeps you awake--not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in wordes, spoken or written...Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author...Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author, It is the highest respect you can pay him.
  • Without books, God is silent, justice dormant, natural science at a stand, philosophy lame, letters dumb, and all things involved in darkness.
  • Woe be to him that reads but one book.
    • George Herbet, English clergyman, metaphysical poet, 1593-1633
  • You can cover a great deal of country in books.
    • Andrew Lang, Scottish author and scholar, (1844 - 1912)
  • You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel as if you've lost a friend.
  • You will be surprised what psychological motivation there is in your having physical possession of the books you plan to read.
  • You will get little or nothing from the printed page if you bring it nothing but your eye.
  • Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
  • We never read without profit if with the pen or pencil in our hand we mark such ideas as strike us by their novelty, or correct those we already possess.
  • When what you read elevates your mind and fills you with noble aspirations, look for no other rule by which to judge a book; it is good, and is the work of a master-hand.
  • When in reading we meet with any maxim that may be of use, we should take it for our own, and make an immediate application of it, as we would of the advice of a friend whom we have purposely consulted.
  • We should accustom the mind to keep the best company by introducing it only to the best books.
  • If I were to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead under every variety of circumstances, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me through life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss, and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading.
  • Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.... Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.
  • Nothing, in truth, has such a tendency to weaken not only the powers of invention, but the intellectual powers in general, as a habit of extensive and various reading without reflection.
  • Mr. Johnson had never, by his own account, been a close student, and used to advise young people never to be without a book in their pocket, to be read at bye-times, when they had nothing else to do. "It has been by that means," said he to a boy at our house one day, "that all my knowledge has been gained, except what I have picked up by running about the world with my wits ready to observe, and my tongue ready to talk."
  • Reading without purpose is sauntering, not exercise. More is got from one book on which the thought settles for a definite end in knowledge, than from libraries skimmed over by a wandering eye. A cottage flower gives honey to the bee, a king's garden none to the butterfly.
  • Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
  • Much reading is like much eating,—wholly useless without digestion.
  • A book should never be lent from one person to another. For in the lending a sense of urgency or deadline for return is imparted, whether one truly exists is irrelevant, and this is anathema to the true joy of literature. Books should be read at ones leisure, marked upon, put down and picked up again, started and re-started, dog-eared, coffee stained and pregnant with the individual character of the owner. Truly books can only be given with the hope that the recipient will enjoy it in their own way and at their own pace, and that one day perhaps will pass the book along to another party to make their own mark on the work

Humourous

  • Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
  • Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
  • Books have a sense of honor. If they are lent out, they will not come back.
    • Original German: "Bücher haben Ehrgefühl. Wenn man sie verleiht, kommen sie nicht mehr zurück."
    • Theodor Fontane (1819-1898)
  • From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
  • I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
  • I have read your book and much like it.
  • It was a book to kill time for those who like it better dead.
  • Most new books are forgotten within a year, especially by those who borrow them.
  • Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
  • Reading this book is like waiting for the first shoe to drop.
  • Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I'll waste no time reading it.
  • The covers of this book are too far apart.
  • This book fills a much-needed gap.
  • This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
  • This paperback is very interesting, but I find it will never replace a hardcover book - it makes a very poor doorstop.
  • I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have gone ourselves.
  • So many people I know say they hate reading. What they seem not to get is that a book is an alternate universe, where you can go anywhere, or choose to just set the book down and leave that universe alone.
  • A big book is like a serious relationship; it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there's no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending. Kind of like going out with a girl, having to spend time every day with her - with absolutely no guarantee of nailing her in the end. No thanks.

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