The Quotable Book Lover


"Some books are unreservedly forgotten; none are unreservedly remembered."
-W. H. Auden

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."

"The proper study of mankind is books."
-Aldous Huxley

This collection of more than five hundred quotations captures the wisdom and wit of the most insightful things ever said about books, spoken and written by such legendary figures as: Aeschylus, Ernest Hemingway, John Ruskin, Woody Allen, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Scribner, Maya Angelou, Franz Kafka, George ...

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"Some books are unreservedly forgotten; none are unreservedly remembered."
-W. H. Auden

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."

"The proper study of mankind is books."
-Aldous Huxley

This collection of more than five hundred quotations captures the wisdom and wit of the most insightful things ever said about books, spoken and written by such legendary figures as: Aeschylus, Ernest Hemingway, John Ruskin, Woody Allen, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Scribner, Maya Angelou, Franz Kafka, George Bernard Shaw, Jane Austen, Helen Keller, Wallace Stevens, Francis Bacon, Malcolm X, Robert Penn Warren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Groucho Marx, William Carlos Williams, William Faulkner, John Milton, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Frost, George Orwell, and W. B. Yeats.

Encompassing the many facets of books and the pleasures and puzzlements they afford, The Quotable Book Lover includes chapters on writing, reading, and bookbinding, among other subjects.

With its wide range of commentary, this compilation will surely entertain and enlighten bibliophiles everywhere.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This volume is a fresh and handy addition to the already well-worn crop of quotation dictionaries. Publisher Jacobs and freelance journalist Hjalmarsson have compiled over 500 book-related quotes and divided them into ten thematic sections--from "Reading" to "On Writing" to "Censorship and the Destruction of Books." Drawing from the words of historians, entertainers, political activists, educators, authors, and statesmen, the authors have included everything from Thomas Jefferson's familiar "I cannot live without books" to Katharine Hepburn's "What in the world would we do without our libraries?" Each quote is attributed to an individual, for whom some biographical information is given, and each section contains a brief introduction. The volume also contains an excellent foreword by Nicholas Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books. Although some of the older quotations collected here, like Jefferson's, appear in standard quotation dictionaries, most of the more recent ones don't. In addition, the compilation of so many quotations on book-related topics--from "Libraries" to "Literacy" to "Literature"--makes this a uniquely valuable reference tool for patrons and librarians alike. Library staff and administrators might want to scan the book for quotations to use in promotional literature; for funding appeals; on library bookmarks, screensavers, or web sites; or in conjunction with traditional book displays. Recommended for all academic and public libraries.--Leah J. Sparks, Bowie P.L., MD Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
"I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot." This quotation from J.D. Salinger is among some 500 from contemporary and classic writers. Sections span writing, autobiography, biography, reading, libraries, literacy, censorship, publishing, literature, and book collecting. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620876251
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/1/2013
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 948,166
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Jacobs has worked in publishing for nearly ten years and has contributed to such publications as Kirkus Reviews.

Helena Hjalmarsson is a psychoanalyst and freelance journalist. She holds master's degrees in child development-with a dual focus on psychology and nonfiction essay writing-and social work.

Nicholas A. Basbanes is the author of the bestselling book on book collecting, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In Praise of Books

    The books we read help to shape who we are. Reading offers us, as children, our first independence—allowing us to travel far beyond the confines of our immediate world. Books introduce us to great figures in history, narratives that stir our spirit, fictions that tug us out of ourselves and into the lives of a thousand others, and visions of every era through which human beings have lived. And in the process of stretching who we are, books also connect us to all others—of our own or previous times—who have read what we've read. In the community of readers, we instantly become linked to those who share our love for specific characters or passages.

    "A well-composed book," says Caroline Gordon, "is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way."

    Here, then, are some words in praise of that magic carpet.

    Books may well be the only true magic.

Alice Hoffman

* * *

A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.

Caroline Gordon (1895-1981)

* * *

Books are the carriers of civilization ... They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989)

* * *

Good books are the warehouses of ideas.

H. G. Wells (1866-1946)

* * *

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

Jonathan Raban For Love and Money (1987)

* * *

I grew up kissing books and bread.

Salman Rushdie Imaginary Homelands (1992)

* * *

Bread and books: food for the body and food for the soul—what could be more worthy of our respect, and even love?

Salman Rushdie Imaginary Homelands (1992)

* * *

A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.

Salman Rushdie Imaginary Homelands (1992)

How beautiful to a genuine lover of reading are the sullied leaves and worn-out appearance, nay the very odour (beyond Russia) if we would not forget kind feelings in fastidiousness, of an old "Circulating library" Tom Jones or Vicar of Wakefield. How they speak of the thousand thumbs that have turned over their pages with delight.

Charles Lamb "Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading" (1822)

* * *

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 Last Essay of Ella (1833)

* * *

Books must be the axe to break the frozen sea inside me.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

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

John Milton "Areopagitica" (1644)

* * *

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

John Milton "Areopagitica" (1644)

* * *

An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.

Benjamin Disraeli A Speech in Glasgow (November 19, 1873)

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 (1904-1973) Memoirs (1974)

* * *

It is with the reading of books the same as with looking at pictures; one must, without doubt, without hesitations, with assurance, admire what is beautiful.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

* * *

It is with books as with men: a very small number play a great part.

Voltaire (1694-1778)

* * *

Books are the true levellers.

William Ellery Channing
"Self-Culture" (1838)

My books are water; those of great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.

Mark Twain Notebook (December 11, 1885)

* * *

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 "Two Cheers for Democracy" (1951)

* * *

Laws die, books never.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)

* * *

Books are necessary to correct the vices of the polite.

Oliver Goldsmith (C. 1730-1774)

Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself. What better book can there be than the book of humanity?

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

* * *

I like a thin book because it will steady a table, a leather volume because it will strop a razor, and a heavy book because it can be thrown at a cat.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

* * *

Books will speak plain when counsellors blanch.

Francis Bacon "Of Counsel" (1625)

The pale usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars, it somehow mildly reminded him of his own mortality.

Herman Melville Moby Dick (1851)

* * *

The lessons taught in great books are misleading. The commerce in life is rarely so simple and never so just.

Anita Brookner Novelists in Interview (1985)

* * *

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.

Ralph Waldo Emerson "The American Scholar" (1837)

The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things.

Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose (1981)

* * *

Until it is kindled by a spirit as lovingly alive as the one which gave it birth a book is dead to us. Words divested of their magic are but dead hieroglyphs.

Henry Miller The Books in my Life (1951)

* * *

It is more of a job to interpret the interpretations than to interpret the things, and there are more books about books than about any other subject: we do nothing but write glosses about each other.

Michel de Montaigne
Essays (1580)

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some are to be chewed and digested.

Francis Bacon Essays (1625)

* * *

Of all the inanimate objects, of all men's creations, books are the nearest to us, for they contain our very thought, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to truth and our persistent leaning toward error.

Joseph Conrad "Notes on Life and Letters" (1857-1924)

* * *

Books, like proverbs, receive their chief value from the stamp and esteem of ages through which they have passed.

Sir William Temple (1628-1699)

* * *

Books, the children of the brain.

Jonathan Swift A Tale of a Tub (1704)

Books that you may carry to the fire, and hold readily in one hand, are the most useful after all.

Samuel Johnson In Sir John Hawkins, Life of Johnson (1787)

* * *

Your borrowers of books—those mutilators of collections, spoilers of symmetry of shelves, and creators of odd volumes.

Charles Lams "The Two Races of Men" Essays of Ella (1823)

* * *

Books think for me.

Charles Lamb Essays of Ella (1823)

* * *

The true university of these days is a collection of books.

Thomas Caryle "The Hero as Man of Letters" On Heroes and Hero Worship (1841)

Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson "The Poet" Essays: Second Series (1844)

* * *

All books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour, and the books of all Time.

John Ruskin "Of Kings' Treasuries" Sesame and Lilies (1865)

* * *

Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mightily bloodless substitute for life.

Robert Louis Stevenson "An Apology for Idlers" Virginibus Puerisque (1881)

Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.

W. H. Auden "Reading" The Dyer's Hand (1962)

* * *

"What is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

Lewis Carroll Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

* * *

For books are more than books. They are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men lived and worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

* * *

In some respects the better a book is, the less it demands from the binding.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834)

I devoured books like a person taking vitamins, afraid that otherwise I would remain this gelatinous narcissist, with no possibility of ever becoming thoughtful, of ever being taken seriously.

Anne Lamott Bird by Bird (1995)

* * *

There are many people—happy people, it usually appears—whose thoughts at Christmas always turn to books. The notion of a Christmas tree with no books under it is repugnant and unnatural to them.

Robertson Davies The Merry Heart (1997)

<<P ALIGN="CENTER"> * * *

What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of liberty and learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support.

James Madison (1751-1836) "On the Library of Congress"

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours.

J. D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

* * *

The love of novels is the preference of sentiment to the senses.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

* * *

People think that because a novel's invented it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Biography and memoirs can never wholly be true, since they cannot include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that.

Anthony Powell In the Independent (November 25, 1989)

* * *

A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life.

Saul Bellow Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (1976)

The novel remains for me one of the few forms where we can record man's complexity and the strength and decency of his longings. Where we can describe, step by step, minute by minute, our not altogether unpleasant struggle to put ourselves into a viable and devout relationship to our beloved and mistaken world.

John Cheever National Book Award Acceptance Speech (1958)

* * *

Novel, n. A short story padded.

Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

* * *

A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel.

John Steinbeck Writers at Work—Fourth Series (1976)

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

Fran Lebowitz Metropolitan Life (1978)

* * *

It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds.

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842)

* * *

There is a certain kind of child who awakens from a book as from an abyssal sleep, swimming heavily up through layers of consciousness toward a reality that seems less real than the dream-state that has been left behind. I was such a child.

Anne Fadiman Ex Libris (1998)

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 (1954- )

* * *

There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

* * *

The age of the book is about gone.

George Steiner (1929- )

    Comerado, this is no book, Who touches this touches a man.

Walt Whitman "So Long!" (1881)

* * *

I cannot live without books.

Thomas Jefferson In a Letter to John Adams (June 10, 1815)
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Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Preface xiii
1 In Praise of Books 1
2 On Writing 25
3 Autobiography and Biography 69
4 Reading 87
5 Libraries 117
6 Literacy 129
7 Censorship and the Destruction of Books 141
8 Publishing and Publishers 167
9 Literature 191
10 Collecting Books 209
Index 229
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