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quotations about books

Book quote

No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books.

ROMAIN ROLLAND, Journey Within

The books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation -- a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

FRANZ KAFKA, letter to Oskar Pollak, 1904

Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.

CARLOS RUIZ ZAFON, The Shadow of the Wind

No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot.

CHARLES DICKENS, Our Mutual Friend

Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.

JOHN MILTON, Areopagitica

A man who keeps a diary pays,
Due toll to many tedious days;
But life becomes eventful—then,
His busy hand forgets the pen.
Most books, indeed, are records less
Of fulness than of emptiness.


A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.

JOHN MILTON, Areopagitica

Books are not seldom talismans and spells.


We go to a book as Narcissus went to the fountain, see ourselves therein, and are enamored.

AUSTIN O'MALLEY, Keystones of Thought

What traitors books can be! You think they're backing you up, and they turn on you. Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives.

RAY BRADBURY, Fahrenheit 451

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.


The plainest row of books that cloth or paper ever covered is more significant of refinement than the most elaborately carved furniture.

HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feeling whatever.

GEORGE ORWELL, Confessions of a Book Reviewer

'Tis the good reader that makes the good book.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON, Society and Solitude

Books quote

In perusing the writings of sensible men, we have frequent opportunities of examining our own hearts, and by that means, of attaining a more certain knowledge of ourselves.

WELLINS CALCOTT, Thoughts Moral and Divine

What I look for most in the books I read is a sense of consciousness. It's so I know that I've lived. At the end, I can say, "Yes, I have been here--I was here, and I was paying attention."

LILI TAYLOR, O Magazine, Aug. 2006

Wise books
For half the truths they hold are honoured tombs.

GEORGE ELIOT, The Spanish Gypsy

Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.


I'm much more willing to buy a novel electronically by someone I don't know. Because if halfway through I think, I don't really like this, I can just stop. I can't throw books out, even if I think they're crummy. I feel like I've got to give it to the library. I've got to loan it to somebody, or I keep it on my shelf. It's like a plant.

SUSAN ORLEAN, Newsweek, Jul. 13, 2009

A good book is the purest essence of a human soul.

THOMAS CARLYLE, speech in support of the London Library, 1840

My last refuge, my books: simple pleasures, like finding wild onions by the side of the road, or requited love.

TRACY LETTS, August: Osage Country

Books were the sustenance of God. And His munitions.

RÉGIS DEBRAY, God: An Itinerary

Books! The chosen depositories of the thoughts, the opinions, and the aspirations of mighty intellects; like wondrous mirrors that have caught and fixed bright images of souls that have passed away; like magic lyres, whose masters have bequeathed them to the world, and which yet, of themselves, ring with unforgotten music, while the hands that touched their chords have crumbled into dust. Books! they are the embodiments and manifestations of departed minds--the living organs through which those who are dead yet speak to us.

E. H. CHAPIN, Living Words

A book is a garden; a book is an orchard; a book is a storehouse; a book is a party. It is company by the way; it is a counselor; it is a multitude of counselors.

HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Good books are to the young mind what the warming sun and the refreshing rain of spring are to the seeds which have lain dormant in the frosts of winter. They are more, for they may save from that which is worse than death, as well as bless with that which is better than life.


God be thanked for books! They are the voices of the distand and the dead.... They give to all, who will faithfully use them, the society ... of the best and greatest of our race.


He who possesses good books without gaining any profit from them, is like an ass that carries a rich burden and feeds upon thistles.

JOHN THORNTON, Maxims and Directions for Youth

A book is like a money-changer: it pays you back in another form what you brint to it.

AUSTIN O'MALLEY, Keystones of Thought

Books are a uniquely portable magic.

The burning of a book is a sad, sad sight, for even though a book is nothing but ink and paper, it feels as if the ideas contained in the book are disappearing as the pages turn to ashes and the cover and binding--which is the term for the stitching and glue that holds the pages together--blacken and curl as the flames do their wicked work. When someone is burning a book, they are showing utter contempt for all of the thinking that produced its ideas, all of the labor that went into its words and sentences, and all of the trouble that befell the author ...

DANIEL HANDLER (as Lemony Snicket), The Penultimate Peril

Reading useless books is like sowing bad seed--your trouble does not reward you.


It is with books as with new acquaintances. At first we are highly delighted, if we find a general agreement--if we are pleasantly moved on any of the chief sides of our existence. With a closer acquaintance differences come to light; and then reasonable conduct mainly consists in not shrinking back at once, as may happen in youth, but in keeping firm hold of the things in which we agree, and being quite clear about the things in which we differ, without on that account desiring any union.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe

The history of books shows the humblest origin of some of the most valued, wrought as these were out of obscure materials by persons whose names thereafter became illustrious. The thumbed volumes, now so precious to thousands, were compiled from personal experiences and owe their interest to touches of inspiration of which the writer was less author than amanuensis, himself the voiced word of life for all times.


Books are but pictures--the world is their original; to know the former well, we must necessarily have much acquaintance with the colors and shades of the latter.

NORMAN MACDONALD, Maxims and Moral Reflections

Books admitted me to their world open-handedly, as people for their most part, did not. The life I lived in books was one of ease and freedom, worldly wisdom, glitter, dash and style.

JONATHAN RABAN, For Love and Money

The book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty — and vice versa.

DORIS LESSING, introduction, The Golden Notebook

The physical book really has had a 500-year run. It's probably the most successful technology ever. It's hard to come up with things that have had a longer run. If Gutenberg were alive today, he would recognize the physical book and know how to operate it immediately. Given how much change there has been everywhere else, what's remarkable is how stable the book has been for so long. But no technology, not even one as elegant as the book, lasts forever.

JEFF BEZOS, Newsweek, Dec. 20, 2009

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, "On Publishing," Writers at Work

A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.

JORGE LUIS BORGES, "Note on (toward) Bernard Shaw," Other Inquisitions

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.


The Book: Man's Chief Weapon Against Tedium.

GARRISON KEILLOR, "How I Spent My Winter Vacation,", Jan. 5, 2010

What makes the success of many books consists in the affinity there is between the mediocrity of the author's ideas and those of the public.

CHAMFORT, The Cynic's Breviary

Everybody can tell a story but it is different to create a real book, a real literary text that has several voices in itself and that breathes with its own mouth and has its own lungs and looks toward its own body. To create that body you have to start out with a stone and stones do not have lungs or air in themselves.

CARMEN BOULLOSA, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1995

There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times.


There's nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become a part of you, in a way that words in a book you've read only once can't.


Parents should leave books lying around marked "forbidden" if they want their children to read.

DORIS LESSING, The Times, Nov. 23, 2003

I always assume that a good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of.

UMBERTO ECO, The Paris Review, summer 2008

The greatest advantage of books does not always come from what we remember of them, but from their suggestiveness. A good book often serves as a match to light the dormant power within us.

ORISON SWETT MARDEN, Architects of Fate

The greatest book is not the one whose message engraves itself on the brain, as a telegraphic message engraves itself on the ticker-tape, but the one whose vital impact opens up other viewpoints, and from writer to reader spreads the fire that is fed by the various essences, until it becomes a vast conflagration leaping from forest to forest.

ROMAIN ROLLAND, Journey Within

We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth.

JOHN LUBBOCK, The Pleasures of Life

Books are the training weights of the mind.

EPICTETUS, The Art of Living

If you want to read a perfect book there is only one way: write it.

AMBROSE BIERCE, "Epigrams of a Cynic"

The world has been printing books for 450 years, and yet gunpowder still has a wider circulation. Never mind! Printer's ink is the greater explosive: it will win.

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY, The Haunted Bookshop

Man, that’s the only kind of book I like – one that’s so real you want to find out everything there is to know about the person who wrote it, like how tall he is and what kind of music he likes and whether or not he really went through all the stuff he was writing about.

ADAM RAPP, Under the Wolf, Under the Dog

Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later--no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover or how much we learn or forget--we will return.

CARLOS RUIZ ZAFON, The Shadow of the Wind

If you love books enough, books will love you back.

JO WALTON, Among Others

I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.

C. S. LEWIS, letter to Arthur Greeves, February 1932

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.

CHARLES LAMB, letter to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Oct. 11, 1802


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