bookish quotes

Quotes about books, reading, and writing

updated: 19 september 2016


Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books.   Kanye West [source]

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.   Jane Austen

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn't?
Easy. The Bible. Not even the fine translations of William Tyndale, largely adopted by King James's committee without sufficient acknowledgment, can conceal the grim tedium of this messy compilation of second-rate tribal legends and outrageous bigotry.   Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge and Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

I knew the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer.
  Hubert Selby Jr.

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.
  Louisa May Alcott

The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.
  Christopher Morley (1890-1957)

He would say only slightly facetiously that the main effort of arranging your life should be to progressively reduce the amount of time required to decently maintain yourself so that you can have all the time you want for reading.
  from Norman Rush's Mating

What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?
  Anthony Trollope


Forget narrative, backstory, characterisation, exposition, all of that. Just make the audience want to know what happens next.
  David Mamet

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
  E.L. Doctorow

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
  Thomas Mann

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
  Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him out to the public.
  Winston Churchill

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.   Ray Bradbury

How you uh, how you comin' on that novel you're working on? Huh? Gotta a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Gotta, gotta nice litte story you're working on there? Your big novel you've been working on for 3 years? Huh? Gotta, gotta compelling protaganist? Yeah? Gotta obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Gotta story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? (voice getting higher pitched) Yea, talking about that 3 years ago. Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah? (voice returns to normal) No, no, you deserve some time off.   Stewie on Family Guy

I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done, so now I just have to fill in the rest.
  Stephen Wright

I am glad you like adverbs — I adore them; they are the only qualifications I really much respect and I agree... in thinking that the sense for them is the literary sense.
  Henry James, letter to a young admirer, 1902

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
  Stephen King

What's the use of being a writer if you can't irritate a great many people?   Norman Mailer

I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.   Anna Quindlen

I have lost all sense of home, having moved about so much. It means to me now — only that place where the books are kept.
  John Steinbeck, novelist (1902-1968)

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.   P. J. O'Rourke

In literature as in love it is astonishing what is chosen by others.
  Andre Maurois


Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
  Henry Ward Beecher (1813 - 1887)

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
  Dorothy Parker
 

For him that steals, or borrows and returns not, a book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, and there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw at his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not. And when at last he goes to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.   an inscription in a book at the library of the San Pedro monastery in Barcelona

Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.   John Witherspoon (1723 - 1794)

I am simply a book drunkard.
  L. M. Montgomery


People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.
  Logan Pearsall Smith

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

All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.
  Bobby Knight

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
  Sir Richard Steele

People who don't read are brutes.
  Eugene Ionesco

When you re-read a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in yourself than was there before.
  Clifton Fadiman, editor & critic (1904 - 1999)

Wear the old coat and buy the new book.
  Austin Phelps

The reason we write fiction is because it's so much easier to exist spending part of each day in an imaginary world.
  Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Don't outline your stories. A lot of fiction workshops say you should. I say the opposite. I quote Grace Paley: "We write what we don't know we know."   Andre Dubus III

Personally, I would rather assemble a 1,500 piece puzzle of a Jackson Pollock painting than slog through Finnegan's Wake.
  Tom Raabe, Biblioholism

Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.
  Margaret Chittenden

Science Fiction is the jazz of literature.
  David Brin

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

Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.
  Thomas Berger


Two people getting together to write a book is like three people getting together to have a baby. One of them is superfluous.
  George Bernard Shaw

Never judge a book by its movie.   J. W. Eagan

The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
  Oscar Wilde

Easy reading is damned hard writing.
  Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.   Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Let us look at the writer. What do we see — only a person who sits with a pen in his hand in front of a sheet of paper? That tells us little or nothing.
  Virgina Woolf, The Leaning Tower

The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.
  Katharine Mansfield

Ninety percent of science fiction is crud. That's because ninety percent of everything is crud.
  Theodore Sturgeon

Sit in sun. Sun goes behind cloud. Look at watch. Notice that second-hand does not always point directly at little marks on dial. Sometimes it does, though. Then sometimes it doesn't. Why? Feel panic at how quickly life slips by. Get to work.
  Nicholson Baker, on overcoming writer's block

I have no respect for writers. They never make money. They're like poor people looking in the windows.
  Peggy Siegal, publicist

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 and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.   J. D. Salinger

No two people read the same book.
  Edmund Wilson, American writer (1895-1972)
 

You fail only if you stop writing.
  Ray Bradbury

I can't understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars.
  Fred Allen

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
  W. Somerset Maugham

A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.
  Jerry Seinfeld


Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.
  Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator and writer (106-43 BCE)

I wonder... why I keep so many books that I know I will not read again. I tell myself that, every time I get rid of a book, I find a few days later that this is precisely the book I'm looking for. I tell myself that there are no books (or very, very few) in which I have found nothing at all to interest me. I tell myself that I've brought them into my house for a reason in the first place, and that this reason may hold good again in the future. I invoke excuses of thoroughness, of scarcity, of faint scholarship. But I know that the main reason I hold onto this ever-increasing hoard is a sort of voluptuous greed. I enjoy the sight of my crowded bookshleves, full of more or less familiar names. I delight in knowing that I'm surrounded by a sort of inventory of my life, with intimations of my future. I like discovering, in almost forgotten volumes, traces of the reader I once was — scribbles, bus tickets, scraps of paper with mysterious names and numbers, the occasional date and place on the book's flyleaf which take me back to a certain cafe, a distant hotel room, a faraway summer so long ago. I could, if I had to, abandon these books of mine and begin again, somewhere else; I have done so before, several times, out of necessity. But then I have also had to acknowledge a grave, irreparable loss. I know that something dies when I give up my books, and that my memory keeps going back to them with mournful nostalgia.
  Alberto Manuel, A History of Reading

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.
  Groucho Marx

Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.
  Robert Louis Stevenson

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
  Robert Heinlein

You despise books; you whose lives are absorbed in the vanities of ambition, the pursuit of pleasure or indolence; but remember that all the known world, excepting only savage nations, is governed by books.
  Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

Writer's block is a luxury most people with deadlines don't have.   Diane Ackerman

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.
  E. L. Doctorow

I felt like poisoning a monk.   Umberto Eco, on why he wrote the novel The Name of the Rose.

My library
Was dukedom large enough.
  William Shakespeare, writer guy (1564-1616)

A room without books is like a body without a soul.
  Marcus Tullius Cicero

You know what would make a good story? Something about a clown who makes people happy, but inside he's real sad. Also, he has severe diarrhea.   Jack Handey

What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books.   Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)

Everyone has his escape, his panacea, drugs, drink, tobacco or, more cheaply and innocently, the steady and almost mechanical habit of reading light fiction.
  Ruth Rendell, One Across, Two Down

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
  Mark Twain
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