Tag Archives: best quotes about reading

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


My Best Friend is a Person Who Will Give Me a Book I Have Not Read

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”

The quotation is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Although the phrase is not found in any of his writings, most likely it is a paraphrase of something he said. There are two sources that confirm this and both reveal a rather hayseed diction, inconsistent with the eloquence we expect from Lincoln. The first, is from Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926): “The next thing Abe would be reading between the plow handles, it seems to them. And once trying to speak a last word, Dennis Hanks [Lincoln’s cousin] said, “There’s suthin’ peculairsome about Abe.” Maybe in books he would find the answers to dark questions pushing around in the pools of this thoughts and the drifts of his mind. He told Dennis and other people, ‘The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll git me a book I ain’t read.” The second is a variation of that first source, found in the essay “Abe Lincoln and His Books” by Frances Cavanah included in the Wilson Library Bulletin (Volume 28, 1953): “For he was one of that fortunate group to whom a book could open a new world. ‘My best friend,’ he told his cousin, Dennis Hanks, ‘is a man who can give me a book I ain’t read.'”

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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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 Reader Lives a Thousand Lives Before He Dies

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

From George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the sprawling epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the source of HBO’s highly acclaimed series, Game of Thrones. The quotation appears in chapter 34, when Jojen Reed is talking to Bran Strark. Jojen, a member of the House Reed, possesses greensight, the power of prophetic green dreams. Although Jojen has greensight, he is not a greenseer, as he explains to Bran: “No, [I am not a greenseer] only a boy who dreams. The greenseers were more than that. They were wargs [a skinchanger, a person with the ability to enter the mind of an animal and control its actions] as well, as you are, and the greatest of them could wear the skins of any beast that flies or swims or crawls, and could look through the eyes of the weirwoods [deciduous trees of Westerns that have blood red leaves and bone white trunks] as well, and see the truth that lies beneath the world.”

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

Read related posts: Why Reading is Critical to the Writer
Why Read Dickens?
The Power of Literature
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Why Reading and Diction are Critical to the Writer


Serendipitous Discoveries in Used Bookstores

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Still, anyone with a taste for wonder — not all, apparently, have it — should learn to haunt used bookstores, even more than stores that sell new books… Each person should take pains to scout his own city on this score… The used bookstore, unlike the catalogue or even the library, puts us in a place where we can come across and buy some unsuspected title that turns out to get at the essence of what is.

From Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education by James Schall, S.J.

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I Am the Culmination of a Lifetime of Reading

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Who I am, what I am, is the culmination of a lifetime of reading, a lifetime of stories. And there are still so many more books to read. I’m a work in progress.”

American author Sarah Addison Allen, the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.


The 300 Book Vacation

alex atkins bookshelf booksMeet Hope Faith Wiggins — a sweet and precocious 8-year-old girl from Aldine, Texas who is a real inspiration for book lovers around the world. Her family could not afford a summer vacation, so Hope used her imagination and took a different kind a vacation — a voyage through the world of books. Specifically, she pledged to read 300 books before school began on August 19. Her proud mother reflected on the 300-book vacation: “The library opened up so many worlds. It was like a vacation, but inside our house.” Hope made dozens of trips to the library, collecting books by the armful, to exceed her goal. By mid-August, she had read 302 books. Hope’s profound love of books is infectious; she explains: “I like reading a lot because it’s fun. It’s like being inside of a whole other world. You can imagine that you’re the character, and for me, one thing that happens when I read a book or watch a video is I dream about it.”

One of her favorite books is Our Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Words to America. Hope recently experienced something very tragic: she lost a close childhood friend to cancer. Each day she wears a yellow bow in her hair to keep the memory of her friend alive. It is that profound loss that inspired her dream career: to be a pediatric oncologist. She is certainly well on her way — the best education, as many philosophers and writers know so well, is self-education motivated by the insatiable thirst for knowledge. Moreover, at such a young age, Hope understands the importance of having a good heart as well as a good head; in the words of another inspirational and remarkable human being, Nelson Mendala: “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” Indeed, the world is a better place because of Hope.

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: www.bookstr.com/8-year-old-girl-has-already-read-more-300-books-achieve-her-summer-goal


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