Tag Archives: best quotes about books

A Book Can Be Lost But Its Truth and Poetry Remain With You Forever

alex atkins bookshelf booksIn My Life in Paris and Rome, James Arbuthnot (1799-1880) discussed a dedicated book lover that lived in his apartment building in Paris, France. “There was a very ancient man, who had a room above my apartment. His was a sad story; he had been tutor to a noble family but he had been abandoned by his employers in the upheavals of the Revolution. Fearing that their castle would be looted, he had fled, taking with him some of the rarest volumes in their library. Now, in distressed circumstances he was selling off his little hoard book by book. ‘But, do not pity me’ he said, ‘all I sell is the [leather] binding; the truth and poetry remain with me‘; and he would tap his dry, old pate.” (Emphasis added.)

What a beautiful sentiment: the truth and poetry remain with me. In the context of today’s world, we can rephrase it this way: books can disappear — they can be lost, banned, or burned — but once read, their truth and poetry remain with you for a lifetime, providing a wellspring of inspiration and insight. And no one can ever take that away from you. Share this story with a book lover you know.

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For further reading: Quotable Quotes: The Book Lover by Tony Mills


When You Read an Excellent Book, You Gain a New Friend

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I read a book over I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one.”

From The Citizen of the World, a series of letters and essays by Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), Irish poet, playwright, and novelist. Goldsmith is best known for writing the novel The Vicar of Wakefield, published in 1766, and the play She Stoops to Conquer (first performed in 1773), and the famous children’s tale, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765). Prior to his death, Goldsmith was working on writing and editing an encyclopedia with the working title Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences.

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I’ve Gone to the End of the World on the Wings of Words

alex atkins bookshelf quotations[Mrs. Merrett gives a book to American Dr. William Chester Minor, a patient at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum] Dr. Minor (the madman) responds: “You read? I will guess which one it is [if you provide me with] a paragraph, a sentence. [She turns and walks away, looking downward, ashamed]. Mrs. Merrett… What did I do? You cannot read. Forgive me, I should not have presumed. I do not need you to bring books Mrs. Merrett. It is your visits… I can teach you [to read]. Oh please, let me teach you. You can teach your children. It’s freedom, Mrs. Merrett. I can fly out of this place on the backs of books. I’ve gone to the end of the world on the wings of words. When I read, no one is after me. When I read, I am the one who is chasing, chasing after God. Please I beg you… join the chase.”

From the film, The Professor and the Madman (2019), by John Boorman and Todd Komarnicki based on the book The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. To set up the historical context, at the time that Shakespeare was writing his plays and sonnets, there were no English dictionaries. The first English dictionaries only began being published around the time of Shakespeare’s death (1616). Winchester writes: “The English language was spoken and written — but at the time of Shakespeare it was not defined, not fixed. It was like the air — it was taken for granted, the medium that enveloped and defined all Britons. But as to exactly what it was, what its components were — who knew?” Thus, it was very important to academics to develop the first, definitive English dictionary. When James Murray, a Scottish philologist and lexicographer (by trade, a former schoolmaster and bank clerk) began compiling the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1879 (although work had begun as early as 1857 but stalled), he sought the public’s assistance in providing entries (word with quotations from notable sources) for the dictionary. Dr. Minor contributed more than 10,000 entries in a period of 20 years. Throughout that period, Murray, grateful for Minor’s enormous contribution, invited him to Oxford so that he could visit the Scriptorium and meet the team. Finally, Murray travels to Crowthorne to visit Minor only to discover that he was incarcerated for life at a criminal lunatic asylum. After serving in the American Civil War, Minor suffered delusions that militant Irishmen were coming to kill him; one night, he ran out pursuing one of his imagined assassins, George Merrett, a brewery worker on his way to work (sadly, at the wrong place at the wrong time), and shot him several times. Minor’s army pension allowed him to live in Broadmoor and maintain a vast personal library of classic works; Minor also directed a portion of his resources to support the Merrett’s widow. Writing those dictionary entry slips, was perhaps, the madman’s therapy as well as his attempt at redemption. That activity also formed the foundation for a very profound, respectful friendship with a fellow word lover. When Murray first began work on the OED he told the delegates of the Oxford University Press that it would take seven to ten years. He was wildly optimistic. The first edition was completed, 13 years after he died. The first edition was published in 1928 — 50 years after Murray had begun; the dictionary, published in ten volumes, contained 414,825 words and 1.8 million citations to illustrate the keywords.

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A Book is Not Only a Friend, It Makes Friends for You

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”

From The Books In My Life (1969) by American author Henry Miller (1891-1980), best known for his semi-autobiographical novels — which delight adolescents for their explicit language and very detailed sex scenes — Tropic of Cancer (1934), Black Spring (1936), and Tropic of Capricorn (1939). These three books had to be smuggled into the United States, where they were banned on the basis of obscenity and pornography. Nevertheless, these books truly made Miller many friends. Moreover, the books made a huge impact on the new Beat Generation of writers, like Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Allen Ginsberg (Howl), and William Burroughs (Naked Lunch). Reflecting on Miller’s legacy on the centenary of his birth, Ralph Sipper of the Los Angeles Times notes, “Miller’s revolution, though, was not a political one. It was the wedding of his life and his art. Actual and imagined experiences became indistinguishable from each other. ‘I am the hero and the book is myself,’ he says in Tropic of Cancer. In the hands of a less-gifted writer, such blurring of narrative voice invites disaster. Miller pulls it off seamlessly. Exactly how is not so easy to describe. His fictional persona is many things–graphically erotic, elliptically surrealistic, unevenly anarchistic, combatively philosophical, abidingly romantic, downright funny–and always deeply felt. He resoundingly deplores patriotism, modern medicine, financial responsibility and organized religion, presaging emulation by such latter-day iconoclasts as Norman Mailer and Lenny Bruce… Like Walt Whitman and Henry Thoreau, two authors whose work he loved, Henry Miller sang his own song, marched to his own gait. Like those noble literary dissenters, he remains an American original.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The Books in My Life by Henry Miller
http://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1991-01-06-bk-10584-story.html


Signs at an Indie Bookstore: Why Not Try a Book?

alex atkins bookshelf booksIndie bookstores are owned by some of the most passionate bibliophiles you will ever meet. They love books and are thrilled if you come in and just take a look around to see their treasures. What makes some of these indie bookstores so unique is not just about how they display their books, but by the clever signs they place around the bookshelves — to encourage you to read or to promote literacy. Recently, I found this sign, titled “Why Not Try a Book?” which makes a compelling case for why printed books are better than e-books. You be the judge.

Why Not Try a Book?

Infinite battery life

Page always loads

DRM free

Never loses your data

Immune to viruses

Compatible with all hands and eyes

Vibration and drop resistant

What else can we add to this list? Leave your suggestion in the comments.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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Each Rereading of a Book is Unique Because We Have Changed

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Emerson said that a library is a magic chamber in which there are many enchanted spirits. They wake when we call them. When the book lies unopened, it is literally, geometrically, a volume, a thing among things. When we open it, when the book surrenders itself to its reader, the aesthetic event occurs. And even for the same reader the same book changes, for the change; we are the river of Heraclitus, who said that the man of yesterday is not the man of today, who will not be the man of tomorrow. We change incessantly, and each reading of a book, each rereading, each memory of that rereading, reinvents the text. The text too is the changing river of Heraclitus.”

From Seven Nights, a collection of seven lectures, that Argentine poet, short-story writer, and literary critic Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) delivered in Buenos Aires between June and August 1977. During the lecture series, Borges shared his profound and thought-provoking insights on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, nightmares, Buddhism, The Thousand and One Nights, poetry, The Kabbalah, and blindness. Borges’s father was a lawyer and aspiring writer who owned an incredible library of more than 1,000 books. Borges was home schooled up to the age of 11 and enjoyed exploring the treasures in his father’s library. By the age of 12 he had read most of Shakespeare’s works. Reflecting upon his education, Borges said, “If I were asked to name the chief event in my life, I should say my father’s library.” Borges was very near-sighted all his life. Sadly by the age of 29, Borges began losing his eyesight due to cataracts. Operations help extend his eyesight, but it deteriorated gradually over the years. Twenty years later he had lost vision in one eye and the other eye was barely functional. When he was 55 he fell during a walk that caused retinal detachment in his good eye. After an operation, Borges could see a little, but soon he was completely blind. In his thirties, Borges began his career as a public lecturer, and since he was losing his eyesight, he would write his lectures and commit them to memory. Alastair Reid notes, “Yet the obligation to memorize his material did Borges a great service, for, as his blindness encroached, he was at the same time memorizing a considerable private library of reference and quotation. Asked a question now, he will pause, as though riffling through bookshelves in his head, and come up with a verse from one of his essential texts, and idiosyncratic collection familiar to his readers.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: Seven Nights by Jorge Luis Borges
https://www.benjamineye.com/blog/why-did-borges-go-blind/


Confessions of a Book Scout: Old Bookstores Have Been the Hunting Grounds of My Life

alex atkins bookshelf books“What is a book scout?” you ask. A self-confessed “book scout,” David Meyer author of “Memoirs of a Book Snake,” explains it this way: “Book scouting has been a pursuit of mine since my high school days. The term ‘scout’ is used in the antiquarian book trade to describe a person who buys old books to sell to old book sellers. [Meyer is being facetious here, books don’t necessarily need to be old; neither do the book sellers.] A dealer, operating a store or office with business hours, can’t obtain all his stock by buying at auction or estate sales or from people offering to sell accumulations of old books. Often the best books, the choice and rare titles which make up a good bookseller’s stock, are found in out-of-the-way places where a bookdealer hasn’t had the time to search.” And as any dedicated book collector will readily admit, the hunt for the elusive Holy Grail or the “unknown unknown” (the book you didn’t even know existed) is half the fun.

If you are a book lover you will definitely find a kindred soul in Meyer as he describes his passion for seeking out literary treasures: “Old bookshops have been the hunting grounds of my life. Also antique shops, Salvation Army, Goodwill and other second-hand resale shops, sometimes attics and basements, and just plain junk shops. No respectable dealer in antiquarian books would admit to visiting such places, but that’s where the book scouts, true treasure hunters that they are, usually go. It’s not the place that matters, its what you find there… The treasures that I have rescued are simply survivors in the sea of old books that washes back and forth across this country — through towns, cities, basements and attics, bookstores, garage sales and junk shops — books deserving of better fates.” Amen, brother.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: Memoirs of a Book Snake by David Meyer


Books Are as Important as Friends

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“I know there are good books and bad books. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It can be philosophy. It can be history. Really, when it comes to books, it is its value, its depth. You make an acquaintance with a book as you do with a person. After ten or fifteen pages, you know with whom you have to deal. When you have a good book, you really have something of importance. Books are as important as friends and maybe more so. Because all of us are living in very limited circles, books enable us to run away from them.”

Shimon Peres, former Israeli Prime Minister, during an interview from Independence Hall (July 4, 1996), where he was awarded the Liberty Medal. The Liberty Medal is awarded each year by the National Constitution Center to “men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.” Previous medal award recipients include the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Malala Yousafzai, and Vaclav Havel.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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Reading Is, in the Highest Sense, Exercise

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsBooks are to be call’d for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is nor a half-sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay — the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds well-train’d, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, not on a few coteries of writers.

From Prose Works of Walt Whitman (1819-1892),one of the most influential American poets, considered the father of free verse. He believed that there was s symbiotic relationship between society and the poet: “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.” His seminal work, Leaves of Grass, published in 1855, celebrates nature and man’s relationship to it. Whitman was known for his unfettered experience of nature: he was an unabashed nudist and greatly enjoyed sunbathing in the nude.


Books are Magic Doors

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsBooks are, indeed, “Magic Doors” through which one can walk into innumerable wonderful worlds. The desirable thing — if chance has not solved the matter for us — is to enter first through the door which attracts us personally. The book to start with is the book which will cause the most intense mental excitement and leave an indelible impression that books can be alive. The individual should begin with those books which deal with subjects or people or places which exercise some strong attraction on his curiosity.

American journalist Jesse Lee Bennett (1885-1931) from What Books Can Do For You: A Sketch Map of the Frontiers of Knowledge (1923)

For further reading: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b658756;view=1up;seq=34


Books: The Best Companions

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsWhile you converse with lords and dukes,
I have their betters here, my books:
Fix’d in an elbow-chair at ease,
I choose companions as I please.
I’d rather have one single shelf
Than all my friends, except yourself;
For, after all that can be said,
Our best acquaintance are the dead.

Excerpt from a letter written in 1726 by Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738), an Anglican cleric, essayist, poet, and schoolmaster, to his close friend, Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) who was at that time the Dean (senior cleric) of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. The letter appears in The Poems of Thomas Sheridan edited by Robert Hogan. 

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Judging Books

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsNever judge a book by its movie.

Anonymous

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I Am What Libraries Have Made Me

atkins-bookshelf-booksThe wise philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus was extremely curious and according to biographer Diogenes Laetius (Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, circa 250 AD), taught himself by asking himself questions. In this regard, Heraclitus (for the prurient-minded, the correct pronunciation is: “HARE-ah-clie-tuss”) had a very unconventional — not to mention low-cost — education; he was a walking classroom, absorbing everything around him: “the things that can be seen, heard, and learned are what I prize the most.” But the greatest teacher for Heraclitus were the books he discovered in the libraries of Greece; his famous statement, which has resounded throughout the centuries, is the ultimate testament to libraries: “I am what libraries and librarians have made me, with little assistance from a professor of Greek and poets.” Astute readers will note Heraclitus’s subtle dig at the academe — which explains why you will never see this quote on a college recruitment brochure or website.

Heraclitus, and any bibliophile, would welcome the stunningly beautiful coffee table book that honors the glorious library, the temple of books: The Library: A World History by James Campbell. In the introduction, Campbell, who is fellow and director of studies in architecture and history of art at Queens’ College, Cambridge, notes the critical role of libraries in culture: “Libraries can be much more than simply places to store books. Throughout the ages, the designs of the greatest library buildings have celebrated the act of reading and the importance of learning. They have become emblems of culture, whether it be for an individual, an institution, or even a whole nation.” Campbell’s oversized book is full of engravings and lush photos (by London photographer Will Pryce) of some of the world’s greatest libraries from the Middle Ages to the modern age. The author introduces the reader to the very first libraries of the ancient world, established between 5400 BC to 600 AD, that were lost to the sands of time: the library at Ebla, the library of Ashurbanipal, the Temple of Horus, the Attalid library, the library of Pergamum, the library of Celsus, and the legendary library of Alexandria that  housed up to 700,00o works. The book concludes by showcasing the libraries of the modern, digital world: the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum (Japan); the Information, Communications and Media Center, BTU Cottbus (Germany), the Ultrecht University Library (Netherlands); the National Library of China (China); the Bodleian Library (England); the Grimm Center (Germany), and the very humble, by comparison to the others, Liyuan Library (China). After reading this book, you cannot help but develop a profound appreciation for Heraclitus’s remark about libraries. This book, awash in a sea of  thousands of ebooks, is truly remarkable and belongs on the bookshelf of every bibliophile.

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For further reading: The Library: A World History by James Campbell, University of Chicago Press (2013)


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