10 of Our Favorite Sentences in Literature

God Bless You Mr Rosewater

Sometimes when you’re reading a book, a particular sentence will jump out, grab you by the collar, and start beating you about the head. In a good way! These are the sentences we still remember years later, even when we no longer remember the name of the books they came from. The sentences we’re tempted to use as our Twitter bios, but that would be pretentious. The sentences we want to sign off with on birthday cards, but that would be confusing. Here they are, some of our favorite sentences in all of literature. What are yours?

“Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” –Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
–Melissa Albert

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. … I came upon it suddenly; the approach masked by the unnatural growth of a vast shrub that spread in all directions… There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and terrace. –Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
–Rebecca Jane Stokes

“Ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row.” –The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
–Lauren Passell

124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. –Beloved, by Toni Morrison
–Molly Schoemann-McCann

“That I can read and be happy while I am reading, is a great blessing.” –Autobiography of Anthony Trollope, by Anthony Trollope
–Emma Chastain

“[If] the world would stop indulging wars and famines and other perils, it would be possible for human beings to embarrass each other to death.” –from The Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving
–Kat Rosenfield

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” –God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut
–Nicole Hill

“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.” –A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
–Dell Villa

“Like many others before him, Abbott discovers, once married, that marriage is a battle—clinically, a negotiation—over the possession of the Bad Mood.” –Abbott Awaits, by Chris Bachelder
–Kathryn Williams

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful what we pretend to be.” –Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut
–Ester Bloom

What’s your favorite sentence in literature?

  • Betty D.

    “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Princess Bride by William Goldman.

  • Miryam Elkaim

    “Everybody dies at some point. More important is how you live.” –Soillier to Sarah (Lynn Kurland, ‘Spellweaver’) I’ll never forget this line. I came across it soon after my father was diagnosed with, what quickly became, terminal cancer. He died two weeks ago, and his death was not him. His LIFE…that was him.

  • chelseyam

    “You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?”
    ― Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie


    Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behaviour. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as some day, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.-Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

    • Michael1224

      One of my absolute favorite passages, (Salinger), I was going to post this also but you beat me to it! Nice!

  • blackbird13

    “There ought to be a law against the sun rising and setting for you in somebody else.”

    -Harry Crews, The Knockout Artist

  • “And here, poor fool! with all my lore, I stand, no wiser than before”

    Thanks, Goethe.

  • “The girls belong to anybody with access to a Dictaphone…. They serve science too” — Cat’s Cradle. Here’s my new music video for my song, “Girl Pool”–inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (Chapter 17) and my long-time stint working as an admin at Goldman Sachs.


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