Bookish Quotations

Note: I stole the heading “Bookish Quotations” from Stefanie Hollmichael’s blog
So Many Books

Updated February 18, 2019

Books  //  Book Collecting  //  Bookstores  //  The Classics

Libraries  //  Readers & Writers //  Reading

// Selected Quotation Sources //


“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”  –  Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

“A book does not make bad jokes, drink too much, or eat more than you can afford to pay for.” – Kenneth Turan [“On Reading a Book While Dining Out,” New York Times, April 13, 1983)

“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 the Plymouth Pulpit: The Press, 1887)

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” — Garrison Keillor

“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.” – Edward P. Morgan

“A novel is a garden carried in the pocket.” – Arab proverb

“A wonderful thing about a book,  in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you.” – Daniel J. Boorstein

“All books aren’t worth reading; all books aren’t worth your reading; and some books aren’t worth your reading now.” – J. Bernard Haviland

“All that Mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of Books.” – Thomas Carlyle (“The Hero as a Man of Letters,” 1840; cited in Books: An Anthology compiled by James Thompson, 1968)

“All the glory of the world would be buried in oblivion, unless God had provided mortals with the remedy of books.” – Richard de Bury (Philobiblon, 1345; cited in Books: An Anthology compiled by James Thompson, 1968)

“Books add to our joy in prosperity, they provide refuge and comfort in adversity; they give pleasure at home and advancement abroad; they pass the night hours with us, accompany us on the road, share on holidays in the country.” – Cicero

“Books are carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculations at a standstill. Books are the engines of change, windows on the world, ‘lighthouses’ (as the poet said) ‘erected in the sea of time.’ They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.” – Barbara Tuchman

“Books are…a delight at home, and no hindrance abroad; companions at night, in travelling, in the country.” – Cicero

“Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.” – E.P. Whipple

“Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.” — James Russell Lowell
“…Books have a different place in our society than other media. Books are different from television or film because they ask you to finish the project. You have to be actively engaged to read a book. It’s more like a blueprint. What it really is, is an opportunity… A book is a place where you’re forced to use your imagination.” – Joe Meno (quoted by Edan Lepucki)

“Books have meant to my life what the sun has meant to the Planet Earth.” – Earl Nightingale

“Books may be the only true magic.” – Alice Hoffman

“Books should to one of these four ends conduce / For wisdom, piety, delight, or use.” – Sir John Denham (“Of Prudence,” 1668)

“Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi.” – Oprah Winfrey

“A book can be an escape from the house.” – Dove Ashton

“Death steals everything except our stories.” – Jim Harrison (“Larson’s Holstein Bull” from In Search of Small Gods, 2009)

“Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book! A message to us from the dead – from human souls we never saw, who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away. And yet these, in those little sheets of paper, speak to us, terrify us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers.” – Charles Kingsley

“Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend.” – William Feather (The Business of Life)

“Free men find in books the strength to keep themselves free.” – John B. Nicholson, Jr.

“I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to John Adams, 1815)

“I don’t believe that there is any involvement with the world I could find that would turn me from the immersions of fiction.” – Sven Birkerts (An Artificial Wilderness, 1987)

“In literature, as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.” – Andre Maurois (1885-1967)

“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.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Just the knowledge that a good book is waiting at the end of a long day makes that day happier.” – Kathleen Norris (Hands Full of Living, 1931)

“Knowledge and entertainment in the portable form of books came to America with its first colonist, and reading for profit or pleasure has ever since been an integral part of the life of this land.” – James D. Hart (The Popular Book, 1950)

“Life is too short for reading inferior books.” – James Bryce (address at Rutgers College, 1911; cited in Books: An Anthology compiled by James Thompson, 1968)

“Literature can shake our lives to the core. Our life can turn around corners by simply reading words on a page….Literature remains the only medium that gets directly inside our interior life.” – John Barth (quoted in the Baltimore Sun, October 7, 1975)

“Man builds no structure which outlives a book.” – Eugene Fitch Ware (1841-1911)

“Of all the needs a book has, the chief need is that it be readable.” – Anthony Trollope (An Autobiography, 1883)

“Pandora’s Box had nothing on a book.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (quoted in Books are Basic: The Essential Lawrence Clark Howell edited by John David Marshall, 1985)

“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic. – Margaret Lea (quoted by Diane Setterfield in The Thirteenth Tale)

“Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.” – W.H. Auden (“Reading,” The Dyer’s Hand, 1963)

“The one invincible thing is a good book; neither malice nor stupidity can crush it.”  – George Moore

“The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.” – Christopher Morley

“There are books…which take rank in our life with parents and lovers and passionate experiences.” – Emerson

“There is no such thing as an interesting book: there can only be interested readers.” – A.B. Herr (“A Teacher Looks at Reading”)

“There is nothing like books – of all things sold incomparably the cheapest, of all pleasure the least palling, they take up little room, keep quiet when they are not wanted, and, when taken up, bring us face to face with the choicest men who ever lived, at their choicest moments.”  –  Samuel Palmer (letter to Charles West Cape, January 31, 1880)

“There is scarce a single joy I know / That can persuade me from my books to go.” – Geoffrey Chaucer (The Legend of Good Women, c. 1385)

“This will never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum.” – Elbert Hubbard (1859-1915)

“You are never the same person when you finish a book—even one that is read purely for escape or entertainment. A conviction may take root or deepen, the imagination may be sparked, a new perspective may dawn.” –Philip Yancey (quoted in Indelible Ink (2003) edited by Scott Larsen (Waterbrook Press, 2003)

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin (television narration about his life, WNEW-TV, June 1, 1964; cited in the Home Book of American Quotations)

“We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves….Books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own.” – David L. Ulin (“The Lost Art of Reading,” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2009)

“Few pleasures, for the true reader, rival the pleasure of browsing unhurriedly among books: old books, new books, library books, other people’s books, one’s own books – it does not matter whose or where. Simply to be among books, glancing at one here, reading a page from one over there, enjoying them all as objects to be touched, looked at, even smelt, is a deep satisfaction. And often, very often, while browsing haphazardly, looking for nothing in particular, you pick up a volume that suddenly excites you, and you know that this one of all the others you must read. Those are great moments – and the books we come across like that are often the most memorable.” – Aidan Chambers

“Literature is the immortal part of history; it is the best and most enduring part of personality. But book-friends have this advantage over living friends; you can enjoy the most truly aristocratic society in the world whenever you want it. The great dead are beyond our physical reach, and the great living are usually almost as inaccessible; as for our personal friends and acquaintances, we cannot always see them. Perchance they are asleep, or away on a journey. But in a private library, you can at any moment converse with Socrates or Shakespeare or Carlyle or Dumas or Dickens or Shaw or Barrie or Galsworthy. And there is no doubt that in these books you see these men at their best. They wrote for you. They “laid themselves out,” they did their ultimate best to entertain you, to make a favorable impression. You are necessary to them as an audience is to an actor; only instead of seeing them masked, you look into their innermost heart of heart.” – William Lyon Phelps

“It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.” – William Ellery Channing

“Live for a while in the books you love. Learn from them what is worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be returned to you a thousand times over. Whatever your life may become, these books -of this I am certain- will weave through the web of your unfolding. They will be among the strongest of all threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys.” – R. M. Rilke,  Letters to a Young Poet

“I guess that’s the beauty of books. When they finish, they don’t really finish.” – Markus Zusak

“The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

“If I am open to it, reading allows a sort of magical transference to occur: the characters and their story–their joys and sorrows and longings and loves–settle in my heart and become part of me, and I never have to say goodbye to any of it. For someone who hates goodbyes–whether to loved ones or experiences or places I love–this is gold, the real thing. It’s like taking home a spice-bottleful of ocean, and still hearing it roar in my ear, miles and miles away.” – Bo Caldwell

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and donts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” – Philip Pullman

“Books lift us out of the smallness of the present and into history, out of the smallness of ourselves and into humanity.” – Brian Jay Stanley (“The Communion of Strangers,” The Sun, April 2012)

“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
“Books. They are lined up on shelves or stacked on a table. There they are wrapped up in their jackets, lines of neat print on nicely bound pages. They look like such orderly, static things. Then you, the reader come along. You open the book jacket, and it can be like opening the gates to an unknown city, or opening the lid of a treasure chest. You read the first word and you’re off on a journey of exploration and discovery.” – David Almond
“Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content.” – Paul Valery
“Books are like people. Some look deceptively attractive from a distance, some deceptively unappealing; some are easy company, some demand hard work that isn’t guaranteed to pay off. Some become friends and say friends for life. Some change in our absence — or perhaps it is we who change in theirs — and we meet up again only to find that we don’t get along any more.” – Mark Haddon (The Right Words in the Right Order)
“Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.”  – William Hazlitt
“…for some of us, books are as important as anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid pieces of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet you or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of the things that you don’t get in life…wonderful, lyrical language, for instance. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.” – Anne Lamott
“I admit it. I am an addict. Addicted to reading by those pavement magicians shouting at us like circus barkers: those booksellers endlessly rearranging their displays and corrupting us with their seductive litany of titles – as they lured us away from the little world of the self and into whole galaxies of the imagination.” – Gita Mehta, Snakes and Ladders

“Books and life are bonded at the molecular level. To remove one is to fatally wound the other. We learn about life from books, especially novels and Shakespeare, and life teaches us how to read them with growing discernment. Try to imagine your capacity for moral understanding and your at-homeness in the world if you had never read George Eliot, Tolstoy, James or Bellow.” – Patrick Kurp (Anecdotal Evidence)

“I talk about my books as if they were people, and I choose them the way I choose my friends: because somebody nice introduced us, because I liked their looks, because the best of them turn out to be smart and funny and both surprising and inevitable at the same time.” – Sara Nelson (So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, 2003)

“Part of the appeal of books…is that they’re the cheapest and easiest way to transport you from the world you know into one you don’t….Part time machine, part Concorde, part ejector seat, books are our salvation.” – Sara Nelson (So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, 2003)

“Books, by their very nature and variety, help us to grow in empathy for others, in tolerance and awareness. But they should increase our skepticism as well as our humanity.” – Michael Dirda (A Reading Life, p. 26)

“My home is where my books are.” – Ellen Thompson

“Our true birthplace is that in which we cast for the first time an intelligent eye on ourselves. My first homelands were my books.” – Marguerite Yourcenar

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser, “The Speed of Darkness”

“Certain things are perfect the way they are and need no improvement. The sky, the Pacific Ocean, procreation, and the Goldberg Variations all fit this bill, and so do books. Books are sublime, but books are also visceral. They are physically appealing, emotionally evocative objects that constitute a perfect delivery system. ” – Joe Queenan (One for the Books, p. 27)

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends, they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles W. Eliot

“Books support us in our solitude and keep us from being a burden to ourselves.” – Jeremy Collier

“Books are islands in the ocean of time. They are also oases in the deserts of time.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

“When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.” – Jules Renard

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” – Emerson

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King

Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever,” – Philip Pullman

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” – Anne Lamott

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” – Franz Kafka

“Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together – just the two of you.” – E.B. White

“Even today, I would go halfway round the world to find a book if I thought it essential to my needs, and I have a feeling of absolute veneration for those few authors who have given me something special. For this reason I can never understand the tepid youth of today who wait for books to be given to them and who neither search nor admire. I would go without eating in order to get a book, and I have never liked borrowing books, because I have always wanted them to be absolutely mine so that I could live with them for hours on end.

“As with men, it has always seemed to me that books have their own peculiar destinies. They go towards the people who are waiting for them and reach them at the right moment. They are made of living material and continue to cast light through the darkness long after the death of their authors.” – Miguel Serrano (1917-2009), C.G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships, tr. Frank MacShane (1966; rpt. Einsiedeln: Daimon Verlag, 1997), p. 14.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ― John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

“Books don’t make people good. Lots of terrible and mediocre people read (and write). Books aren’t medicine. They fix nothing. Good books ask little and repay us with enjoyment and endurance.” – Patrick Krup, from a blogpost at his blog Anecdotal Evidence

“The virtues of the book are independent of any bells, whistles or animation it might be made to contain… [and] in trying to make the case for books to our kids, exactly the case we want to make is not that they can compete with the virtues of computers or screens, but that they do something else: that they allow for a soulfulness the screens, with their jumpy impersonality, cannot duplicate – any more than the movies can duplicate the intimate intensity of theater, or than the computer can reproduce the shared-hearth-in-living-room experience of television that we now, ironically, recall nostalgically. …What books do depends on the totality of what they are – their turning pages, their sturdy self-sufficiency, above all the way they invite a child to withdraw from this world into a world alongside ours in an activity at once mentally strenuous and physically still.” – ~Adam Gopnik

“The unadmitted reason why traditional readers are hostile to e-books is that we still hold the superstitious idea that a book is like a soul, and that every soul should have its own body. The condensation of millions of books on a single device, or their evaporation in a data cloud, seems to presage what is destined to happen to our souls, to the coming end of selfhood, even of embodiment. If this sounds fanciful, imagine what a lover of hand-written codices might have thought in 1450 about the rise of print. Manuscripts, he would protest, were once rare, hard to create, dedicated to holy or venerable subjects; print would make them cheap, derivative, profane, and easily disposable. And didn’t exactly this happen to human beings in the age of print, which is the modern age?”~ Adam Kirsch, Rocket and Lightship

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic. This room [in the New York Public Library] is full of magic… More recently, books, especially paperbacks, have been printed in massive and inexpensive editions. For the price of a modest meal you can ponder the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the origin of species, the interpretation of dreams, the nature of things. Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.” – Carl Sagan (Source: Episode 11 (“The Persistence of Memory”) from the thirteen-part television series, “Cosmos: A Personal Journey”; quoted by Alexander Atkins at his blog Bookshelf, May 24, 2018)

Book Collecting

“A man’s library is a sort of harem, and tender readers have a great prudency in showing their books to a stranger.” – Emerson (“Society and Solitude”)

“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. … But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.” — Nick Hornby

“Anyone who has a book collection and a garden wants for nothing.” – Cicero

“Books will grow in a house like a vine if you provide something to support them.” – Billy Baldwin (quoted in the New York Times, September 5, 1985)

“The collecting instinct reaches its apotheosis in books.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (“Three Loves Have I” in A Passion for Books, 1958)

“A house without books is like a house without windows.” – Horace Mann

“If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying.” – John Ruskin (cited in the Harper’s Book of Quotations)

“If I were rich I would have many books, and I would pamper myself with bindings bright to the eye and soft to the touch, paper generously opaque, and type such as men designed when printing was very young. I would dress my gods in leather and gold, and burn candles of worship before them at night, and string their names like beads on a string.” – Will Durant

“Have no books so fine that they cannot be used. Have few or none under lock and key. Books were made for readers, not readers for books.” – Lyman Abbott (Hints for Home Reading, 1883)

“It is a good thing to read books, and need not be a bad thing to write them, but, in any case, it is a pious thing to collect them.” – Frederick Locker (quoted by William Alexander Jackson in “Thomas Frognall Dibkin,” in Records of a Bibliographer: Selected Papers of William Alexander Jackson edited by William H. Bond, 1967)

“Just to see my books, to note their presence, their proximity to other books, fills me with a sense of futurity….I have not read every one, nor is it likely that I will – but to know that I might!” – Sven Birkerts (An Artificial Wilderness, 1987)

“My house is a library with living rooms attached.” – Bernard Berenson

“…Of all…impassioned pursuits, there is none more disturbing, more distressing in deception and hope, more intellectually absorbing, more obstinate in ill-success, more insatiable in triumph, more abundant in joys, noble, healthy and pure, than book-hunting.” – Holbrook Jackson (The Anatomy of Bibliomania, 1950)

“A room without books is as a body without a soul.” – Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury (1834-1913)

“It is often said that books take up a lot of room. As a matter of fact a bookcase 3 feet 6 inches high by 3 feet 6 inches wide will take 180 books of assorted sizes, and this bookcase need not project more than 7 inches from the wall.” – Lionel McColvin (“How to Use Books”)

“Tough choices face the biblioholic at every step of the way – like choosing between reading and eating, between buying new clothes and buying books, between a reasonable lifestyle and one of penurious but masochistic happiness lived out in the wallow of excess.” – Tom Raabe (Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction)

“We cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their reading access, reassurance.” – A.E. Newton (1863-1940)

“What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden.” – Elizabeth Arnim

When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” –  Jane Austen

“Wherever there are books to be hunted is heaven for the bibliophile and doubly heaven in that his territories are in themselves beautiful to be remembered many years after with singular delight.” – Holbrook Jackson (The Anatomy of Bibliomania, 1950)

“It’s against my principles to buy a book I haven’t read, it’s like buying a dress you haven’t tried on.” – Halene Hanff, Letter to Frank Doel, February 9, 1952

“It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Books and Writing” (1851)

“A library represents the mind of its collector, his fancies and foibles, his strength and weakness, his prejudices and preferences. Particularly is this the case if to the character of a collector he adds—or tries to add—the qualities of a student who wishes to know the books and the lives of the men who wrote them. The friendships of his life, the phases of his growth, the vagaries of his mind, all are represented.”  Sir William Osler

“I would prefer to have one comfortable room well stocked with books to all you can give me in the way of decoration which the highest art can supply.” – John Bright

“…The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity, and this passion is the only thing that raises us above the beasts that perish…” – A. Edward Newton

“I love to own books. Though I read few books twice, I have filled every shelf in my house with books, have had more shelves made and filled those too. My books surround me like a cocoon. When I run my finger along the backs of my books they feel like the ribcage of an old familiar lover. Visit my shelves and you will learn much about me.” –  Joe Bennett, Bedside Lovers

“A bibliophile of little means is likely to suffer often. Books don’t slip from his hands but fly past him through the air, high as birds, high as prices.” —  Pablo Neruda
“The book must of necessity be put into a bookcase. And the bookcase must be housed. And the house must be kept. And the library must be dusted, must be arranged, must be catalogued. What a vista of toil, yet not unhappy toil!” – William Gladstone
“Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.” – Virginia Woolf (“Street Haunting”)
“Tough choices face the biblioholic at every step of the way–like choosing between reading and eating, between buying new clothes and buying books, between a reasonable lifestyle and one of penurious but masochistic happiness lived out in the wallow of excess.” – Tom Raabe (Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction)
“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
“Books are the compass and telescope and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.” ~ Jesse Lee Bennett
“People who need to possess the physical copy of a book, and not merely an electronic version, are in some sense mysteries. We believe that the objects themselves are sacred, not just the stories they tell. We believe that books possess the power to transubstantiate, to turn darkness into light, to make being out of nothingness.” – Joe Queenan (One for the Books, p. 26)
“My books have been part of my life forever. They have been good soldiers, boon companions. Every book has survived numerous purges over the years; each book has repeatedly been called onto the carpet and asked to explain itself. I own no book that has not fought the good fight, taken on all comers, and earned the right to remain. If a book is there, it is there for a reason….There are no books in my collection that I cannot link with a particular time and place….A few hundred books I have kept because they are classics that I constantly reread; another hundred or so were given to me by friends I hold in high regard. The rest remind me of something.” – Joe Queenan (One for the Books, p. 228, 231)
“In the bookcases round the wall are many that I love, but…in the center of the room, and easiest to get at, are those that I love the best – the very elect among my favorites. They change from time to time as I get older, and with years some that are in the bookcases come here, and some that here go into the bookcases, and some are removed altogether, and are placed on certain shelves…reserved for those that have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and from whence they seldom, if ever, return.” – Elizabeth Arnim
“An ordinary man can…surround himself with two thousand books…and thenceforward have at least one place in the world where it is possible to be happy.” – Augustine Birrell
“At night, when the curtains are drawn and the fire flickers, my books attain a collective dignity.” – E.M. Forster
“It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.” – Arthur Conan Doyle
“Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” – L.M. Montgomery
“It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read.” – Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)


“Alas! Where is human nature so weak as in the book-store!” – Henry Ward Beecher

“The bookman appraises towns by the number of their bookshops: if they be few, the towns are dull, monotonous, ugly; to be shunned, disliked, or, at best, endured.” – Holbrook Jackson (The Anatomy of Bibliomania, 1950)

“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you…And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. ” — Italo Calvino (If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler)

“Is there…a jungle more filled with adventure than a secondhand bookstore?” – Erik Christian Haugaard

“Many a time I have stood before a…bookseller’s window, torn by conflict or intellectual desire and bodily need. At the very hour of dinner, when my stomach clamored for food, I have been stopped by sight of a volume so long coveted, and marked at such an advantageous price, that I could not let it go; yet to buy it meant pangs of famine.” – George Gissing (The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, 1902)

“No city is civilized that does not support a variety of bookshops.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (The Little Package, 1964)

“Some books are to be read in an hour, and returned to the shelf; others require a lifetime to savor their richness. Such books should be owned in personal copies, to travel with and to sleep beside – the most fruitful of all companions. Only your bookseller can consummate such a union of book and reader.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

“My husband claims I have an unhealthy obsession with secondhand bookshops. That I spend too much time daydreaming altogether. But either you intrinsically understand the attraction of searching for hidden treasure amongst rows of dusty shelves or you don’t; it’s a passion, bordering on a spiritual illness, which cannot be explained to the unaffected.” – Kathleen Tessaro (Elegance)

“[A reader] should live with more books than he reads, with a penumbra of unread pages, of which he knows the general character and content, fluttering round him. This is the purpose of libraries…. It is also the purpose of good bookshops, both new and secondhand, of which there are still some, and would that there were more. A bookshop is not like a railway booking-office which one approaches knowing what one wants. One should enter it vaguely, almost in a dream, and allow what is there freely to attract and influence the eye. To walk the rounds of the bookshops, dipping in as curiosity dictates, should be an afternoon’s entertainment. Feel no shyness or compunction in taking it. Bookshops exist to provide it; and the booksellers welcome it, knowing how it will end.” – John Maynard Keynes

“Leaving any bookstore is hard, especially on a day in August, when the street outside burns and glares, and the books inside are cool and crisp to the touch; especially on a day in January, when the wind is blowing, the ice is treacherous, and the books inside seem to gather together in colorful warmth. It’s hard to leave a bookstore any day of the year, though, because a bookstore is one of the few places where all the cantankerous, conflicting, alluring voices of the world co-exist in peace and order and the avid reader is as free as a person can possibly be, because she is free to choose among them.” – Jane Smiley

“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.” – Vincent van Gogh, 1877

“The smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television.” – Andrew Ross

“When you sell a man a book, you don’t sell him just 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.” – Christopher Morley

“A fine bookstore makes a home for the great forgotten virtue: attention. It is not subjected to the whim of stockholders and committees, eager to dump stock in favor of digital innovations. It is curated, but not minimalist. There is texture, there is age, there is the joy that comes of having known something for more than a season.” – Tara Ann Thieke “The American Bookstore: A List”; posted February 6, 2019 to her blog Front Porch Republic; quoted February 18, 2019 by Patrick Kurp at his blog Anecdotal Evidence


The Classics

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” – Italo Calvino (The Literature Machine, 1986)

“A classic is a classic…because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.” – Ezra Pound (The ABC of Reading, 1934)

“A classic is something everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.” – Mark Twain

“A book must of necessity be put into a bookcase. And the bookcase must be housed. And the house must be kept. And the library must be dusted, must be arranged, must be catalogued. What a vista of toil, yet not unhappy toil! – William Gladstone

“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.” – Robertson Davies (1913-1995)

“All books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour, and the books of all time.”  – John Ruskin (Sesame and Lilies, 1865)

“Another odd thing about classics is that when their authors are writing them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” – Clifton Fadiman (Selected Writings, 1955)

“Choose an author as you would choose a friend.” – Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon (c. 1633-1685)

“In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read what is bad; for life is short and both time and strength are limited.”  – Arthur Schopenhauer (“On Reading and Books,” 1851)

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” – Mortimer Adler (cited in The Harper Book of Quotations)

“It is with books as with men: a very small number play a great part.” – Voltaire (1694-1778)

“The great books are those we want to spend our lives with because they never cease to reward our devotion.”  – Michael Dirda (Book by Book: Notes on the Reading Life, 2006)

“I cannot understand the rage manifested by the greater part of the world for reading new books….if I have not read a book before, it is, to all intents and purposes, new to me, whether it was printed yesterday or three hundred years ago.” – William Hazlitt (“On Reading New Books”)

“Life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few, we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books.” – John Ruskin

“Literature is news that stays news.” – Ezra Pound (The ABC of Reading)

“Most books, like their authors, are born to die; of only a few books can it be said that death hath no dominion over them; they live, and their influence lives forever.” – J. Schwartz

“Nearly all the books I prize, and absolutely all that have been of any use to me, are books that don’t make easy reading.”  – Paul Valery

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” – Henry David Thoreau (A Week in the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849)

“Reading books is good, re-reading good books is better.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (quoted in Books Are Basic)

“Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.” – W.H. Auden (The Dyer’s Hand, 1962)

“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 (The Closing of the American Mind, 1987)

“The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them.” – Samuel Butler

“The only test of a work of literature is that it shall please other ages than its own.” – Gerald Brenan (Thoughts in a Dry Season, 1978)

“The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. We have all known women who remembered a novel so dimly that they had to stand for half an hour in the library skimming through it before they were certain they had once read it. But the moment they became certain, they rejected it immediately. It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s paper; they had already used it. Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life.” —C.S. Lewis (An Experiment in Criticism, 1961)

“The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” — Joseph Joubert

“To destroy the Western tradition of independent thought it is not necessary to burn the books. All we have to do is to leave them unread for a couple of generations.” – Robert M. Hutchins

“To read great books does not mean one becomes ‘bookish’; it means that something of the terrible insight of Dostoyevsky, of the richly-charged imagination of Shakespeare, of the luminous wisdom of Goethe, actually passes int the personality of the reader; so that in contact with the chaos of ordinary life certain free and flowing outlines emerge, like the forms of some classic picture, endowing both people and things with a grandeur beyond what is visible to the superficial glance.” – John Cowper Powys [quoted in The Great Books: A Journey through 2,500 Years of the West’s Classic Literature by Anthony O’Hear, 2009)

“When you re-read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before; you see more in you than there was before.” – Clifton Fadiman (Any Number Can Play, 1957)

Recent is not a synonym for relevant.” – Elizabeth Gumport, “Against Reviews,” n+1

“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.” –
Robertson Davies

“A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get.” – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

“The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not read them.” – Samuel Butler

“The greatest books are those we want to spend our lives with because they never cease to reward our devotion.”  – Michael Dirda (A Reading Life)

“When you read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than was there before.” – Clifton Fadiman

“An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. There is hope for a man who has never read Malory or Boswell or Tristram Shandy or Shakespeare’s Sonnets: but what can you do with a man who says he `has read’ them, meaning he has read them once, and thinks that this settles the matter?” –  C.S. Lewis, “Of Stories” (1947) in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, 1967; quoted by Mike Gilleland in his blog Laudator Temporis Acti and subsequently cited by Patrick Krup in his blog Anecdotal Evidence)


“A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear and tear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands….So the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.”  – Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose, 1984)

“A great library contains the diary of the human race.”  – George Dawson (Address at the opening of the Birmingham (England) library, October 26, 1866)

“A library is a church with books. It smells musty, fusty. Like a church it holds a hushed approximation to reverence and like a church it accepts all types – the shy, the serious, the desperate, the lonely, the scholarly and the drunk.”  – Joe Bennett (Mustn’t Grumble: In Search of England and the English, 2006)

“A library is for books, the books are for you….Read one, read a hundred, a thousand. They are unrationed, and they are fully packed with pleasure and with knowledge, yours free for the reading.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

“A library is not a luxury. It is one of the necessities of a full life.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“A library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one’s devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the  famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.”  – Norman Cousins (ALA Bulletin, October 1954)

An Afternoon In The Stacks

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here, the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.

–Mary Oliver [cited in]

“But there is no end to the praise of books, to the value of the library. Who shall estimate their influence on our population where all the millions read and write? It is the joy of nations that man can communicate all his thoughts, discoveries and virtues to records that may last for centuries.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Address at the Opening of the Concord Free Public Library”)

“Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a thousand years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is there written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Emerson said that if stars only shone once a century everyone would be out there in awe that whole night. Libraries are to me honest to God about that weird, but they’re out there all the time too….You can take out expensive things that do not belong to you and keep them for a month…just by proving that you live where you live – just because you exist essentially.” – Anne Herbert

“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” – Anne Herbert

“Every town ought to have a library containing as many volumes as the town has inhabitants.”  – Charles F. Richardson (1885)

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the county, under such regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.”  – Thomas Jefferson

“I saw the Carnegie Library as a kind of shrine to culture….It held everything from books written centuries ago to those published only a few weeks before….A great masterpiece might sit there beside some obscure and shoddy effort. Schools and universities told you what books were great and worthy and famous; a library sat there mutely and let you decide….There was something terribly moving to me about all that, all those obscure books and forgotten authors. I could bring them to life again.”  – David Guy (“The Reader Behind the Writer,” The Sun, October 17, 1986

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong,…public libraries…should be open to all – except the censor.”  – John F. Kennedy (Saturday Review, October 29, 1960)

“In libraries the lamp of learning should be kept always lighted, that here men of study and reflection may relight if need be their several torches.”  – John Cotton Dana

“It is not observed that…librarians are wiser men than others.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Spiritual Laws, 1841)

“Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give us is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed. – Germaine Greer (Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, 1990)

“Medicine for the soul.” – Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

“Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.”  – Barbara Tuchman (The New Yorker, April 21, 1986)

“Our whole American way of life is a great war of ideas, and librarians are the arms dealers selling weapons to both sides.” – James Quinn

“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” – Lady Bird Johnson

“Take books out of libraries, and they won’t need librarians for what’s left. Curled up films in cans, spools of wire and wheels of tape, shining disks and glassy slides – all the so-called nonbook material has its place in the modern library, yes, but not in the center.”  – Lawrence Clark Powell (Books in My Baggage, 1960)

“The library is for books, the books are for you….Read one, read a hundred, a thousand. They are unrationed, and they are fully packed with pleasure and with knowledge, yours free for the reading.”  – Lawrence Clark Powell (Books Are Basic, 1985)

“The library is my favorite place. It always was. I remember the incredible thrill of learning to read – when marks on paper suddenly, miraculously, became words. And I remember the wonder of going into the local library for the first time with my mother, and discovering that they would give you any book you wanted! Sometimes I fear for libraries because I fear for books. Will they vanish along with big movie theatres, glass bottles, trees, and songs without prepackaged visuals? Libraries should have stained glass windows.” – Renais Jeanne Hill

“…The library is one of our few remaining sanctuaries for the individual who when he enters wants to be together with books and not with people.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (Know Your Library, 1959)

“The only treasure-house open to all comers is a library.”  – J.A. Langford

“The public library has the great advantage over the bookshop that it does not have to get rid of its books as quickly as possible because of economic pressures.”  – Peter H. Mann (Books: Buyers and Borrowers, 1971)

“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists.” – Archibald MacLeish (“The Premise of Meaning, ” American Scholar, June 5, 1972)

“Whenever I need comfort, whenever I need some faint ray of hope, some desperate distraction from sadness, the library is where I find it.” – Miv Schaff

“Without libraries, my brain would be a cold, empty room.”  – Myla Goldberg (Bee Season)

“Library or bookstore, the principle is the same: the ineffable attraction of serious reader to book, an elective affinity untouched by marketing or psychology. A reader and his book is a sovereign country, open to treaties but jealously autonomous. Only such autonomy permits the paradisiacal pleasure one knows in libraries….” – Patrick Kurp (From a January 30, 2011 posting to the blog Anecdotal Evidence)

“It was through public libraries that I found my way into reading – real reading – and as often as not it was a book picked off the shelf on little more than a whim that changed everything, opening up a new path that would enlarge my mind and soul and become part of my life.” [From a posting to the blog Nigeness]

“A library is a metaphor for human beings and what’s best about human beings . . . A Library is total generosity.” – Roberto Bolano

“[A library] isn’t just a library. It is a spaceship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you–and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.” – Isaac Asimov in a March 16, 1971 letter to children at the newly opened Troy, Michigan public library, as posted on

“The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.” – Carl T. Rowan

“In the library everyone was rich.” – Naomi Shibab Nye (Never in a Hurry)

“The world is a library of strange and wonderful books, and sometimes we just need to go prowling through the stacks.” – Michael Dirda

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries.” – John F. Kennedy

“Libraries are what is best about us as a society: open, exciting, rich, informative, free, inclusive, engaging.” – Susan Orlean

“Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this.” – Toni Morrison

“Book lovers…know that part of the pleasure of a library lies in its very existence.” – Jan Morris

“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists.” – Archibald MacLeish

“When I…discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day.” – Jean Fritz

“When live seems not worth living, ten minutes in a library proves otherwise.” – Miv Schaaf

“Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.” – Neil Gaiman

“The humble little school library…was a ramp to everything in the world and beyond, everything that could be dreamed and imagined, everything that could be known, everything that could be hoped.” – Lee Sherman

“I rarely feel happier than when I am in a library – very rarely feel more soothed and calm and secure; and there in the soft gloom of the stacks, I feel very much in my element—a book among books, almost.” Randall Jarreleverythingn unpublished talk to librarians excerpted by Stephen Burt in Randall Jarrell and His Age (2002); quoted by Patrick Krup in his blog Anecdotal Evidence)

Readers and Writers

“I think the happiness of a reader is beyond that of a writer, for a reader need feel no trouble, no anxiety: he is merely out for happiness. And happiness, when you are a reader, is frequent.” – Jorge Luis Borges (The Craft of Verse)

“Readers and writers are united in their need for solitude, in their pursuit of substance in a time of ever-increasing evanescence: in their reach inward, via print, for a way out of loneliness.” – Jonathan Franzen (“Perchance to Dream,” Harper’s, April 1996;  reprinted as “Why Bother?” in How to To Be Alone)

“The greater part of a writer’s life is spent reading.” – Samuel Johnson

“‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakenly meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Society and Solitude, 1870)

“To read means to borrow; to create out of one’s readings is paying off one’s debts.” – George Christoph Lichtenberg

“The world may be full of fourth-rate writers but it’s also full of fourth-rate readers.” – Stan Barstow (1989)

“Whether they think about it or not, novelists…are preserving a community of writers and readers, and the way in which members of this community recognize each other is that nothing in the world seems simple to them.” – Jonathan Franzen (“Perchance to Dream,” Harper’s, April 1966; reprinted as “Why Bother?” in How to Be Alone)

“Writing and reading are not all that distinct for a writer. Both exercises require being alert and ready for unaccountable beauty, for the intricateness or simple elegance of the writer’s imagination, for the world that imagination evokes. Both require being mindful of the places where imagination sabotages itself, locks its own gates, pollutes its vision. Writing and reading mean being aware of the writer’s notions of risk and safety, the serene achievement of, or sweaty fight for, meaning and ‘response-ability.'” – Toni Morrison (Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, 1992)

“Writers generally enjoy reading, just as readers feel they might have been writers.” – Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948)

“Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.” – Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)

“…When a reader finishes a great novel, he will immediately begin looking for another. If someone loves your book, it increases the chance that he or she will look at mine. So there is no competition between writers. Another writer’s success helps build a larger readership for all of us.” – David Farland

“Of course, literature is the only spiritual and humane career. Even painting tends to dumbness, and music turns people erotic, whereas the more you write the nicer you become.” – Virginia Woolf

Comerado, this is no book,
Who touches this, touches a man,
(Is it night? Are we here alone?)
It is I you hold, and who holds you,
I spring from the pages into your arms–decease calls me forth.
– Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”

“Books must be read as deliberately and as reservedly as they were written.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Biography is the medium through which the remaining secrets of the famous dead are taken from them and dumped out in full view of the world. The biographer at work, indeed, is like the professional burglar, breaking into a house, rifling through certain drawers that he has good reason to think contain the jewelry and money, and triumphantly bearing his loot away. The voyeurism and busybodyism that impel writers and readers of biography alike are obscured by an apparatus of scholarship designed to give the enterprise an appearance of banklike blandness and solidity. The biographer is portrayed almost as a kind of benefactor. He is seen as sacrificing years of his life to his task, tirelessly sitting in archives and libraries and patiently conducting interviews with witnesses. There is no length he will not go to, and the more his book reflects his industry the more the reader believes that he is having an elevating literary experience, rather than simply listening to backstairs gossip and reading other people’s mail. The transgressive nature of biography is rarely acknowledged, but it is the only explanation for biography’s status as a popular genre. The reader’s amazing tolerance (which he would extend to no novel written half as badly as most biographies) makes sense only when seen as a kind of collusion between him and the biographer in an excitingly forbidden undertaking: tiptoeing down the corridor together, to stand in front of the bedroom door and try to peep through the keyhole.” – Janet Malcolm, The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes [Source:

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” – Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

“Ours is an age of exposure and self-exposure. Only what happens in public, we tend to believe, is really real; and it becomes more real the more people see it happen. This way of thinking is, among other things, hostile to literature. For literary experience begins in privacy, in the mind of the writer, and it is consummated in privacy, in the mind of the reader. Books are printed and sold, and reviewed, only in order to facilitate this kind of invisible intimacy. It follows that it is always impossible to say with certainty just where the genuine literary and intellectual life of any period is taking place, at least until it is over. Only later, sometimes much later, do the hidden traces of that life begin to surface.” – Adam Kirsch (in a New Republic review of Leopardi’s Zilbaldone; quoted by Patrick Kurp in his blog Anecdotal Evidence)


“A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.” – Samuel Johnson (quoted in James Boswell’s Life of Johnson, 1791)

“All good and true book-lovers practice the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed.” – Eugene Field (Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, 1896)

“And indeed, what is better than to sit by one’s fireside in the evening with a book, while the wind beats against the window and the lamp is burning?” – Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)

“Apparently, there is a skill that people pay to acquire called speed reading. That makes as much sense as a course in speed love-making.” – Guy Browning (2003)

“Books at their best and in their most favorable moments of reception revitalize. The end of reading is not more books but more life.” – Holbrook Jackson (The Reading of Books)

“Books have their idiosyncrasies as well as people, and will not show me their full beauties unless the place and the time in which they are read suits them….I cannot read Thoreau in a drawing room….” – Elizabeth Arnim (The Solitary Summer)

“Books support us in our solitude and keep us from being a burden to ourselves.” – Jeremy Collier

“Charles Lamb once said, in his quaint and delightful way, that he wished to ask a ‘grace before reading’ more than a ‘grace before dinner.’ ”  – M.F. Sweetsr, “What People Read,” in Hints for Home Reading edited by Lyman Abbott, 1883

“Early on weekday mornings, I’d read in my bed. I’d feel a mysterious comfort then, reading in the dawn quiet – the blue-gray silence interrupted by the occasional churning of the refrigerator motor a few rooms away or the more distant sounds of a city bus beginning its run.”  – Richard Rodriguez

“Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant, and interesting.”  –  Aldous Huxley (Jesting Pilate; quoted by Helen E. Harris in Living with Books: The Art of Books Selection, 2nd ed., 1950)

“Every reader exists to ensure for a certain book a modest immortality. Reading is, in this sense, a ritual of rebirth.” – Alberto Manguel (The Library at Night)

“Every single pleasure I can imagine or have experienced is more delightful, more of a pleasure, if you take it in small sips, if you take your time. Reading is not an exception.”  – Amos Oz

“Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, Literature declines to eradicate one truth in favor of another; rather, it teaches us to abide with the fact that, in their own way, all things are true, and helps us, in the face of this terrifying knowledge, continually push ourselves in the direction of Open the Hell Up.”— George Saunders

“From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings.” – Helen Hayes

“Good reading does for the mind what good glasses do for the eyes: it lets you in on the details of living….Good reading is like being converted, or falling in love, or getting married: the whole world has a new smell!” – J. Bernard Haviland (“Reading More Effectively,” quoted in The Wonderful World of Books edited by Alfred Stefferud, 1953)

“I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book. ” – Groucho Marx (cited in A Little Learning is a Dangerous Thing edited by James Charlton, 1994)

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.” – E. M. Forster

“I would sooner read a timetable or a catalogue than nothing at all.” – W. Somerset Maugham (cited in The 21st Century Dictionary of Quotations edited by the Princeton Language Institute, 1993)

“It is a tie between men to have read the same book.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals, 1864)

“I’ve never known any troubles that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” – Montesquieu (1689-1755)

“Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.” – Voltaire (1694-1778)

“Life is a perpetual plot to keep us from reading.” – Daniel Pennac (Better Than Life)

“It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read we can live as many more lives and as many kinds as we wish.” – Senator S.I. Hayakawa

“I’ve never had the time to read. But no one has ever kept me from finishing a novel I loved.” – Daniel Pennac (Better Than Life)

“I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” – Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu (Pensees Diverses)

“Most of us at one time or another have had the experience of being totally absorbed in a work of fiction. Phones go unanswered, meals uneaten, the lawn unmowed, the chickens unfed, while we linger in the spell of a master storyteller.” – Robert D. Jacobs (“Recreation: Fiction’s First Reward” in The Wonderful World of Books edited by Alfred Stefferud, 1953)

“My reading list grows exponentially. Every time I read a book, it’ll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It’s like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.” — A.J. Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible)

“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.”  – Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

“One of the amusements of idleness is reading without the fatigue of close attention; and the world therefore swarms with writers whose wish is not to be studied, but to be read.” – Samuel Johnson (The Idler, #30, 1758)

“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.” – Logan Pearsall Smith (Afterthoughts, 1931)

“People who say they don’t have time to read simply don’t want to.” – Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy (A Book Lover’s Treasury, 2006)

“Reading is a lot like sex. It is a private and often secret activity. It is often undertaken in bed, and people are not inclined to underestimate either the extent or the effectiveness of their activity.”  – Daniel Boorstein (Life Magazine, January 1984)

“Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.”  – Florida Scott-Maxwell (Publishers Weekly, March 30, 1984)

“Reading is not a duty, and has consequently no business to be made disagreeable.”  – Augustine Birrell (The Office of Literature, 1887)

“Reading is one of the true pleasures of life. In our age of mass culture, when so much that we encounter is abridged,adapted, adulterated, shredded, and boiled down, it is mind-easing and mind-inspiring to sit down privately with a congenial book….” — Thomas S. Monson

“…Reading…is supposed to be, and often is, a pleasure: there is no possible reason why it should be elevated to a duty.” – Harold Nicolson (“How to Read Books,” 1937)

“Reading is the work of an alert mind, is demanding, and under ideal conditions produces finally a kind of ecstasy. This gives the experience of reading a sublimity and power unequalled by any other form of communication.” – E.B. White (cited in The Harper Book of Quotations)

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Sir Richard Steele [also attributed to Joseph Addison]

“Reading, like prayer, remains one of our few private acts.” – William Jovanovich (cited in The Harper Book of Quotations)

“Reading means approaching something that is just coming into being. ” – Italo Calvino (If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller, 1981)

“Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.” – Harold Bloom

“‘Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are’ is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.” – Francois Mauriac

“The beauty of words, the sound and fall of sentences, a writer’s distinctive voice rising from the page – these,  in the end, provide the greatest and most lasting pleasures of the reading life.” – Michael Dirda (Book by Book: Notes on the Reading Life, 2006)

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” – Alan Bennett (The History Boys, 2004)

“The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you, and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known.” – Kenko (Essays in Idleness)

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.” — Katherine Mansfield

“The time to read is any time: no apparatus, no appointment of time and place, is necessary. It is the only art which can be practised at any hour of the day or night; whenever the time and inclination comes, that is your time for reading; in joy or sorrow, health or illness.” – Holbrook Jackson (The Delights of Reading: Quotes, Notes and Anecdotes compiled by Otto L. Bettmann, 1987)

The worst way to read, he said, is with the thought that you do not have enough time. The only way to read is in the knowledge that there is an infinite amount of time stretching ahead, and that if one wishes to taste only a few sentences per day one is free to do so. – Gabriel Josipovivi (Moo Pak)

“The beauty of opening a new pursuit, or a new course of reading, imparts the vivacity and novelty of youth even to old age.” – Benjamin Disraeli (cited in The Harper Book of Quotations)

“The habit of reading is the only enjoyment I know in which there is no alloy. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will be there to support you when all other resources are gone. It will be present to you when the energies of your body have fallen away from you. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.” – Anthony Trollope

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” – Mark Twain

“The very language with which we talk about reading metaphorically conveys its pleasures: ‘I devoured it,’ ‘I lapped it up,’ ‘I took it all in,’ ‘I  couldn’t put it down,’ ‘I savored it page by page.’…Reading may be an alternative to lived experience, but it also makes it own physical as well as imaginative demands and offers its own sensuous gratifications….Like lovers, books entice, attract, sometimes disappoint, sometimes even repel.” – Willard Speigelman (“Reading,” from Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, 2009)

“There are two forms of recreation which are of almost universal appeal among cultivated people: first, the observation of nature; secondly, the reading of books.” – Theodore Wesley Koch (“Reading: A Vice or a Virtue,” a speech in Dayton, Ohio on June 10, 1928)

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” – Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

“There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.” – G.K. Chesterton

“There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“There is no hour of the twenty-four which may not be profitably spent in reading. In the lonely watches of a sleepless night; in the precious hours of early morning; in the busy forenoon, the leisurely afternoon, or in the long winter evening; – whenever the time and inclination comes, that is your time for reading….I know of a woman who read Paradise Lost…aloud to her husband in a single winter, while he was shaving, that being the only available time.” – Charles F. Richardson (The Choice of Books, 1885)

“There is no pleasure so cheap, so innocent, and so remunerative as the real, hearty pleasure and taste for reading.” – Robert Lowe (1869)

“There is no reason why the same man should like the same books at eighteen and at forty-eight.” – Ezra Pound (ABC of Reading, 1934)

“Time spent reading is always time stolen. Like time spent writing, or loving, for that matter. Stolen from what? From life’s obligations. Which is probably why the subway – the very symbol of life’s many obligations – is the world’s largest reading room.” – Daniel Pennac (Better Than Life)

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” – W. Somerset Maugham

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Harper Lee

“…We can read…to refresh and exercise our own creative powers. Is there not an open window on the right side of the bookcase?” – Virginia Woolf (The Common Reader, 1932)

“We live not with books themselves but with our memories of books: the bits and pieces we recall, the pages we dog-ear, the lines we highlight.” – Seth Lerer (quoted by Willard Speigelman in “Reading,” from Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, 2009)

“What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.” – Samuel Johnson

“When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.” – Jule Renard

“Whether it is the well-thumbed reference book in the study, workshop, or kitchen, whether it is the biography or the novel borrowed from the library, or whether it is the personal copy always there on one’s own bookshelves, the book is a private medium of communication in a world where privacy is becoming more difficult to attain and maintain.” – Peter H. Mann (Books: Buyers and Borrowers, 1971)

“You may perhaps be brought to acknowledge that it is very well worthwhile to be tormented for two or three years of one’s life, for the sake of being able to read all the rest of it.” – Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey, 1818)

“You must read as you live: promiscuously. You must go…to the local libraries and scan the shelves, pulling things out randomly, thumbing the pages, reading the openings, and allowing your eyes to wander where they will. Take shopping bags, backpacks, with you. Fill them up. Bring them home. Some things will command your attention for more than a minute; those that don’t, take back. Reading must be violently fickle, experimental, capricious, and even dangerous.” – Willard Speigelman (“Reading,” from Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, 2009)

“A book, like a person, has its fortunes with one; is lucky or unlucky in the precise moment of its falling in our way, and often by some happy accident counts with us for something more othan its independent value.” – Walter Pater (Marius the Epicurean, 1885)

“…there are books meant for daytime reading and books that can be read only at night.” – Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being)

“We read, most of the time, not because we wish to instruct ourselves, not because we long to have our feelings touche and our imaginaion fired, but because reading is one of our bad habits, because we suffer when we have time to spare and no printed matter with which to plug the void.” – Aldous Huxley (“Writers and Readers,” 1936)

“Let us admit that reading…is just a drug that we cannot do without – who…does not know the restlessness that attackes him when he has been severed from reading too long, the apprehension and irritability, and the sigh of relief which the sight of a printed page extracts from him? – And so let us be no more vainglorious than the poor slaves of the hypodermic needle or the pint-pot.” – Somerset Maugham (“The Book Bag,” 1951)

“Whenever I have come out without a book in my pocket I have been put to the expense of buying one before I have got through the day. On the whole, perhaps the best thing to do is to give up the idea of giving up reading.” – Daniel George (“The Reading Habit,” 1954)

“I should never call myself a book lover, any more than a people lover: it all depends on what’s inside them.” – Philip Larkin (“Books,” 1972)

“The ideal reader is both generous and greedy. The ideal reader reads all literature as if it were anonymous. Reading a book from centuries ago, the ideal reader feels immortal. The ideal reader must be willing, not only to suspend disbelief, but to embrace a new faith. The ideal reader proselytizes. The ideal reader is guiltlessly whimsical. The ideal reader is capable of falling in love with one of the book’s characters. The ideal reader is not concerned with genres.” – Alberto Manguel, A Reader on Reading

“Reading has become an act of meditation, with all of meditation’s attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It’s harder than it used to be, but still, I read.” – David L. Ulin (“The Lost Art of Reading,” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2009)

“Reading is not just acquainting ourselves with a text or acquiring knowledge; it is also, from its first moments, an inevitable process of forgetting. Even as I read, I start to forget what I have read, and this process is unavoidable. It extends to the point where it’s as though I haven’t read the book at all, so that in effect I find myself rejoining the ranks of the non-readers, where I should no doubt have remained in the first place. At this point, saying we have read a book becomes essentially a form of metonymy. When it comes to books, we never read more than a portion of greater or lesser length, and that portion is, in the longer or shorter term, condemned to disappear. When we talk about books, then, to ourselves and to others, it would be more accurate to say that we are talking about our approximate recollections of books, arranged as a function of our current circumstances.” – Pierre Bayard (How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, 2007, page 47)

“Reading is that fruitful miracle of communication in the midst of solitude.” – Marcel Proust

“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head.” – Paul Auster (The Brooklyn Follies)

“The written word, obviously, is very inward, and when we’re reading, we’re thinking. It’s a sort of spiritual, meditative activity. When we’re looking at visual objects, I think our eyes are obviously directed outward, so there’s not as much reflective time. And it’s the reflectiveness about reading that appeals to me.” – Joyce Carol Oates

“I read so that I can live more than one life in more than one place.” – Ann Tyler

“Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed ’till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up.” – Barbara Kingsolver

“A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.” – Vladimir Nabokov

“In the case of books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” – Mortimer J. Adler

“In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with the busiest, kaleidoscopic dance of images, incapable of sleep or of continuous thought. The words, if the book be eloquent, should run thence-forward in our ears like the noise of breakers, and the story, if it be a story, repeat itself in a thousand coloured pictures to the eye.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain.” – Roberto Bolaño

“Book-love, I say again, lasts throughout life, it never flags or fails, but, like Beauty itself, is a joy forever.” – Holbrook Jackson

“In its silence, a book is a challenge: it can’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room; you have to listen to it in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won’t do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to become it – everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not ‘interactive’ with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer’s mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

“I know there are people who don’t read fiction at all. And I find it hard to understand how they can bear to be in the same head all the time.” – Diane Setterfield

“And maybe the measure of our reading should therefore be, not the number of books we’ve read, but the state in which they leave us. What does it matter how cultivated and up-to-date we are, or how many thousands of books we’ve read? What matters is how we feel, how we see, what we do after reading; whether the street and the clouds and the existence of others mean anything to us; whether reading makes us physically more alive.” – Gabriel Zaid

“Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.” – John Witherspoon

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley

“Children are made readers in the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

” Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading!” – Rainer Maria Rilke

“Along with the love of style, I read in the hope of laughter, exaltation, insight, enhanced consciousness, and dare I say it, wisdom; I read, finally, hoping to get a little smarter about the world.” – Joseph Epstein, “The Pleasures of Reading,” in Narcissus Leaves the Pool, 1999

“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” – Nora Ephron

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley

“What makes lovemaking and reading resemble each other most is that within both of them times and spaces open, different from measurable time and space.” — Italo Calvino

“I’ve never read a book solely because it was old – or new. I’ve read it because it looked interesting, regardless of publication date, or because someone whose judgment I trust recommended it. Let’s face it: Today is a small place and the past is enormous. They wrote a lot more good books then than now.” – Patrick Kurp, Anecdotal Evidence

“Allowing yourself to stop reading a book – at page 25, 60, or even, less frequently, a few chapters from the end – 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: A Year of Passionate Reading (2003)

“People seem to think there is something inherently noble and virtuous in the desire to go for a walk. Any one thus desirous feels that he has a right to impose his will on whomever he sees comfortably settled in an arm-chair, reading.” – Max Beerbohm (From “Going Out for a Walk,” in And Even Now, 1920)

“If you want to make the book god laugh, show him your reading list.”- Sara Nelson (So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, 2003)

“Reading is a way to live more lives, to experience more worlds, to meet people we care about and want to know more about, to understand others and develop a compassion for what they confront and endure. It is a way to learn how to knit or build a house or solve an equation, a way to be moved to laughter and wonder and to learn how to live….Everywhere, every day, someone is changed, perhaps even saved, by words and stories.” – Connecticut bookseller Roxanne J. Coady, in the introduction to the book she co-edited with Joy Johannessen, entitled The Book that changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books that Matter Most to Them (Gotham Books, 2006)

“If you’re not prepared to read to your children an hour a day, you shouldn’t have any.” – Joan Aiken

“The beauty of words, the sound and fall of sentences, a writer’s distinctive voice rising from the page – these, in the end, provide the greatest and most lasting pleasures of the reading life.”  – Michael Dirda (A Reading Life)

“At the day of judgment we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done.” – Thomas a Kempis

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” – Ursula Le Guin

“And indeed, what is better than to sit by one’s fireside in the evening with a book, while the wind beats against the window and the lamp is burning?” – Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)

“But he who truly loves books loves all books alike, and not only this, but it grieves him that all other men do not share with him this noble passion. Verily, this is the most unselfish of loves!” – Eugene Field (Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac)

“Woke up this morning with a terrific urge to lie in bed all day and read.” – Raymond Carver

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” – Helen Keller

“Magazines all too frequently lead to books, and should be regarded by the prudent as the heavy petting of literature.” – Fran Lebowitz

“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of the viol or lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?” – Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray)

“Read in order to Live.” – Gustave Flaubert

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” – Hazel Rochman

“A great novel is a kind of conversion experience. We come away from it changed.” – Katherine Patterson

“There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” – Bertrand Russell

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” – Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

“I seldom read on beaches or in gardens. You can’t read by two lights at once, the light of day and the light of the book. You should read by electric light, the room in shadow, and only the page lit up.” – Marguerite Duras

“It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”- S.I. Hiyakawa

“The dear good people don’t know how long it takes to learn to read. I’ve been at it eighty years, and can’t say yet that I’ve reached the goal.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“The confraternity of serious readers is united by a conviction that literature is an endless series of expeditions, some planned, some unplanned, all elating.” – Joe Queenan (One for the Books, p. 21)

“Have you ever rightly considered what the mere ability to read means? That it is the key which admits us to the whole world of thought and fancy and imagination? To the company of saints and sages, of the wisest and wittiest at their wisest and wittiest moment? That it enables us to see with the keenest eyes, hear with the finest ears, and listen to the sweetest voices of all time?” – James Russell Lowell (“Books and Libraries,” Democracy and Other Addresses)

“…Reading 15 minutes a day…means you will read half a book a week, 2 books a month, 20 a year, and 1,000 or more in a reading lifetime.” – Louis Shores (“How to Find Time to Read,” in The Wonderful World of Books edited by Alfred Stefferud, 1953, pp. 78-79)

“It should always be borne in mind that the busiest reader must leave unread all but a mere fraction of the good books in the world. …The reading of a book a fortnight, or say twenty-five books a year, is quite as much as the average reader can possibly achieve – a rate at which only 1,250 books could be read in half a century. Since this is so, he must be very thoughtless and very timid who feels any shame in confessing that he is wholly ignorant of a great many books; and on the other hand, none but a very superficial and conceited reader will venture to express surprise at the deficiencies of others, when a little thought would make his own so clearly manifest.” – Charles F. Richardson (The Choice of Books, 1885)

“It is a pleasure to read good books and to talk about them. But there is another pleasure connected with books which is less often enjoyed and more difficult to secure. This is the pleasure of learning how the books we love were made.” – Gilbert Highet (“The Making of Literature,” in The Wonderful World of Books edited by Alfred Stefferud, p. 188; reprinted from Highet’s Talks on Books)

“A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” – William Styron

“After three days without reading, talk becomes flavorless.” – Chinese proverb

“I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” – Charles de Secondat

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” – W. Somerset Maugham

“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 that we may feel again their majesty and power?” – Annie Dillard

“There may be no more pleasing picture in the world than that of a child peering into a book – the past and the future entrancing each other.” – Roger Rosenblatt

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” – Confucius

“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after aday of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” – Nora Ephron

“Knowing you have something good to read before bed is among the most pleasurable of sensations.” – Vladimir Nabokov

“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.” – John Edward Williams (Stoner)

“Tastes in books and authors, and probably in sandwiches and neckties and everything else, are idiosyncratic and most likely inexplicable, even to ourselves. Certainly childhood associations are involved, and our educations in the broadest sense. Once we get past fashion and peer pressure and the desire to be admired for our exquisite taste, what’s left? Why an affinity for some things and not others? What, in the privacy of our skulls, gives us true pleasure and consolation, and keeps us coming back?” – Patrick Krup (from his blog Anecdotal Evidence, November 4, 2013)

“When shall I be tired of reading? When the moon is tired of waxing and waning, when the sea is tired of ebbing and flowing, when the grass is weary of growing, when the planets are tired of going.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (Journals – entry for July 31, 1835)

“People who have read with love and respect understand that the larger message behind all books, great and good and even some not so good as they might be, is, finally, cultivate your sensibility so that you may trust your heart.” – Joseph Epstein (“The Pleasures of Reading,” Narcissus Leaves the Pool, 1999; quoted by Patrick Krup at Anecdotal Evidence, February 24, 2014)

“A book is not a code to crack or a test to pass. Literature comes down to you and the text, a minimalist, low-tech pastime requiring no training or additional equipment. You bring to it all you know, all you have read, all you have experienced. You read, enjoy, get lost, get bored, get thrilled, find a path, and change a little.”  – Patrick Krup at Anecdotal Evidence

“The number of routes followed by serious readers is vast but finite. We operate without benefit of GPS. We favor side roads and off-road detours, and are not intimidated by cul-de-sacs. Speed is not a priority. We are tortoises, not hares. Along the way we stop for other readers and compare itineraries, which often prompts further detours. A life spent reading is filled with fellow travelers carrying news of yet more books to read.” = Patrick Kurp, “`God or the Dulcimer May Meet You,’” Anecdotal Evidence (entry for May 13, 2016)

“So it comes down, as it must, to one reader reading, one person who understands that he or she, while alone, is still part of a select society, a gallery of like-minded readers who, though they may disagree about this or that book, know that literature matters in a way that life matters.” – Arthur Krystal (This Thing We Call Literature)

“A lifetime of reading can be likened to the motion of tectonic plates, forever shifting, colliding, sinking and erupting.” – Patrick Kurp, “This is a Partial List, Of Course,” Anecdotal Evidence (entry for October 3, 2016)

“…Like any love, [reading] has a physical dimension. There is more to it than simply ingesting print. Love of reading begins with pleasure in the look, feel, and weight of a book. Even the smell of books—seasoned ones—carries an enchantment. Redolent with memory, they do more than conjure the past for us. They bind us to it.” – Maureen Mullarkey, “Because The Incarnate Matters, E-Readers Can Never Replace Real Books,” The Federalist (entry for September 27, 2016; quoted by Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence (entry for September 29, 2016)

“When I think of all the books I have left to read, I have the certainty of being still happy.” – Jules Redard

“…What I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive–all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” – Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008)

“Books we first loved long ago and return to with some regularity become suffused with our various selves. A book is a palimpsest of “old associations.” While reading it, we read ourselves.” – Patrick Kurp, from his blog Anecdotal Evidence (entry for March 6, 2018)

“What is the object of reading unless something definite comes of it? You would be better advised to play billiards. Where is the sense of reading history if you do not obtain from it a clearer insight into actual politics and render yourself less liable to be duped by the rhetoric of party propagandaArnold Bennett, Things That Have Interested Me (New York: George H. Doran, 1921)? Where is the sense of reading philosophy if your own attitude towards the phenomena of the universe does not become more philosophical? Where is the sense of reading morals unless your own are improved? Where is the sense of reading biography unless it is going to affect what people will say about you after your funeral? Where is the sense of reading poetry or fiction unless you see more beauty, more passion, more scope for your sympathy, than you saw before?” –  Arnold Bennett, Things That Have Interested Me (1921); quoted by Andrew Rickard at his blog Graveyard Masonry

“…New and unexpected interests will crop up in most readers’ lives. Some of these come and go, while others come and stay.” – Douglas Dalrymple at his blog Idlings (entry for July 2, 2018)

Selected Quotation Sources

The Anatomy of Bibliomania, rev. ed. by Holbrook Jackson.  Scribner’s Sons, 1932.

Ballads of Books edited by Andrew Lang. Longmans, Green & Co., 1888.

Bibliomania by Thomas Frognall Dibdin. McCreery, 1811.

A Book Addict’s Treasury by Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy. London: Frances Lincoln,  2006.

The Book Book by Steven Gilbar. Bell Publishing, 1985.

The Book Fancier by Percy Fitzgerald Sampson. Low, Marston & Co., no date.

The Book of Literary Lists by Nicholas Parsons. Facts on File, 1987.

“Bookish Quotes,” a section of Stefanie Hollmichael’s blog So Many Books.

The Book-Lover by James Baldwin. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1986.

Books by Gerald Donaldson. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981.

Books: An Anthology compiled by James Thompson. London: Anne Bingley, 1968.

Books are Basic: The Essential Lawrence Clark Powell edited by John David Marshall. University of Arizona Press, 1985.

Books in My Baggage by Lawrence Clark Powell. World Publishing, 1960.

The Books You Read edited by Charles E. “T” Jones. Executive Books, 1985.

Bouillabaisse for Bibliophiles edited by William Targ. Scarecrow, 1955.

The Delightful Diversion by Reginald Brewer. Macmillan, 1935.

The Delights of Reading: Quotes, Notes & Anecdotes selected by Otto L. Bettmann. Godine/Library of Congress Center for the Book, 1987.

Desktop Retreat: A Reading Journal

A Dictionary of Literary Quotations compiled by Meic Stephens. Routledge, 1990.

The Excursions of a Book-Lover by Frederic Rowland Marvin. Sherman, French & Co., 1910.

Harper Book of Quotations, 3rd ed. edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry. HarperPerennial, 1993.

Humanist Discussion Group. Vol. 6, No. 0685 (Apr 20, 1993):

International Federation of Library Association: IFLANet’s “Quotations about Libraries and Librarians: Subject List”

Library Quotes (, a website of the American Library Association.

The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac by Eugene Field. Scribner’s Sons, 1896.

1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said selected and compiled by Robert Byrne. Fawcett Columbine, 1988.

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms chosen by John Gross. Oxford University Press, 1983.

The Love of Books: The Philobiblon by Richard de Bury. Translated by E.C. Thomas. Chatto & Windus, 1925; originally published 1473.

A Passion for Books by Lawrence Clark Powell. World Publishing, 1958.

The Quotable Book Lover edited by Ben Jacobs and Helena Hjalmarsson. The Lyons Press, 1999.

Quotations about Books posted by GoodReads’ Members

“Quotations about Books and Reading,” (accessed 12/17/09).

The Reader’s Quotation Book: A Literary Companion edited by Steven Gilbar. Pushcart, 1990.

“Reading Remarks” section of BiblioBuffet

The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page: Reading

Tales for Bibliophiles edited by William Targ. Philip C. Duschnes, 1947.



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