Tag Archives: book quotes

A Good Book Is a Necessary Commodity

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life, and as such it must surely be a necessary commodity.”

From The Bookshop, published in 2008, by British novelist, essayist, and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000). The British Daily, The Times, ranked her as “one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.” Fitzgerald did not begin writing until she turned 58; nevertheless, she published nine novels and three biographies, winning several literary awards, including the Booker Prize and the Golden PEN Award.

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The Happiest Place in the World

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsAn ordinary man can surround himself with two thousand books and thenceforward have at least one place in the world in which it is possible to be happy.

Augustine Birrell (1850-1933) English attorney, essayist and Chief Secretary of Ireland.

The Importance of Books

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsOf all the inanimate objects, of all men’s creations, books are the nearest to us for they contain our very thoughts, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to the truth, and our persistent leanings to error. But most of all they resemble us in their precious hold on life.

Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski; 1857-1924), Polish-born British author from the essay Books (1905), included in The Works of Joseph Conrad.

All You Need Are Books

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsIf you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC), statesman and orator of Ancient Rome, in a letter (dated June 13, 46 BC) to his friend Terentius Varro (contained in Epistulae Ad Familiares, book IX, epistle 4). The original text in Latin, ““Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil” translated literally means “If you have a garden in your library, nothing will fail” that is paraphrased as “If you have a garden and a library, you will want for nothing.” A common misquotation substitutes a book for the library: “If you have a garden and a book, you have everything you need.”

The Legacy of a Life

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.

African proverb. Variants include: “When an old man dies, a library burns down.” or “Every time an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.”

The proverb was popularized by William R. Ferris (1942-2008), a respected professor of English and History with a special focus on African American folklore and culture, co-founder and director of the Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis Tennessee, and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1997-2001). As chairman, Ferris argued eloquently and passionately for the establishment of oral history projects throughout the country: “We must establish oral history projects in every American community. I often quote an African proverb that says, ‘When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.’ It we tape a single hour of conversation with a grandparent, think what a legacy their voice will be for the grandchildren. We must encourage our students to be writers, historians, and teachers. We must educate students to understand the culture into which they are born and teach them to drink from its rich waters as they educate future generations of Americans.”

For further reading: You Live and Learn. Then You Die and Forget it All by William Ferris, Anchor Press (1992).

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