Writers on Reading

From Emily Temple:

Which is your favorite quote and why?

“When I get a little money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes.” — Erasmus

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

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” — Sherman Alexie

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

“You should never read just for “enjoyment.” Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick “hard books.” Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, “I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.” Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of “literature”? That means fiction, too, stupid.” — John Waters

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” – Ernest Hemingway

“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

“I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’ Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” — L.M. Montgomery

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” — Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” – Franz Kafka

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  • “All serious creation requires intellectual courage. It is frightening to enter your workroom early in the morning and face an empty canvas, a blank sheet of paper, or a score sheet, knowing you must inscribe the marks of a completely original work.” Paul Johnson. The Creators.

  • Kelly

    Love the Kafka quote. I’m a firm believer in reading for cognitive dissonance rather than reading that which will corroborate what we already believe.

  • Susan N.

    There is no frigate like a book
    To take us lands away,
    Nor any coursers like a page
    Of prancing poetry.
    This traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of toll;
    How frugal is the chariot
    That bears a human soul!

    ~Emily Dickinson

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” -Groucho Marx

  • Kris

    Erasmus most def.

  • Sally

    The L.M. Montgomery quote reminds me of one by Madeline L’Engle – “I’m apt to get drunk on words.”

  • Tom

    “Those who lead read.” -unknown

  • D. Foster

    “A classic is a book that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.” –Mark Twain

  • Phillip

    “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” (attributed to Francis Bacon)

    I also like the observation that “instant classic” with respect to books is an oxymoron (but I can’t remember who pointed said it).

  • JJobe

    “We read to know we are not alone.”
     C.S. Lewis

  • Paul D.

    “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” The Preacher – (It’s too hard to even try to keep up with Scot.)

  • “[R]eading and critical thinking are dangerous, indeed subversive, in an unjust society.” – Carl Sagan

  • The Kafka quote is my favorite. It explains why I can’t stop reading Flannery O’Connor and won’t stop recommending her.

  • Diane

    I too like the Kakfa quote but wanted to add one from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

    ” I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book!”

    Of course, it’s spoken by someone who has no interest in reading … 🙂

  • C.S. Lewis’ rule for reading: “…after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one…keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds…”