1. “I do love her, and that’s odd because she is everything I detest in anyone else.” John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent
You may be tempted to immediately parade your snappy new line, but don’t waste Steinbeck’s perceptive insight on a question unworthy of its brilliance. It’s not worth whipping this one out when your friend asks, “So how was your date?”
2. “Things are always better in the morning.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Sometimes the best advice you can give someone is also the most straightforward. Also, never underestimate the healing effects of a well-made waffle. I believe Harper Lee wrote that in one of her later, unpublished novels.
3. “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
While many may favor a more mainstream Gatsby quotation—”So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”—I’ve always been fond of this simple yet powerful line. It’s important to recite it with casual aplomb. “F. Scott Fitzgerald once said,” (pause to take a deliberate sip of your drink) “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” Then stare off into the sunset. If a sunset isn’t readily available, just try to avoid saying, “Can you believe I memorized that? Pretty neat, right?”
4. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved.” Jack Kerouac, On The Road
This Jack Kerouac quotation is provocatively appealing, stirring up feelings of discontent. He’s the type of author whose work will inspire you to roll the dice and say, “Screw it. You only live once. I would like to see a dessert menu!”
5. “People always clap for the wrong things.” J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
This thoughtful quote is just vague enough to work as a polite response after watching your friend’s community theater troupe’s portrayal of Our Town: The Musical.
6. “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
I’d memorize this in a box. I’d even memorize it with a fox. In a house? Yes! With a mouse? No thank you. That’s where I draw the line. Mice are disgusting.
7. “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings
The perfect quote for when you find yourself stuck in conversational purgatory at a party. While your friend’s friend’s friend makes with the yakety-yak, your mind wanders. Did you pay your credit card bill? Is Karate Kid 2 available on Netflix Instant? Is your 8th-grade camp girlfriend on Facebook? Suddenly there’s a pause in the conversation, and gulp, you’re lost. Luckily, you memorized this quote from Walden. Conversational embarrassment avoided!
Which literary quotations did we miss?