Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why Do We Love Quotes About Books & Writing?

Quotes have their appeal.  They are short and to the point.  They play off of words, beliefs, contemporary fashion, and even our prejudices, fears, and longings.  They say something we agree with and usually someone famous is attached to it to give it further validity, even though the words should really speak for themselves.

After you read lots of quotes you begin to feel like they repeat themselves or comment on the same things, as if written by one individual.

Quotes give us a catchy way of capturing an insight we likely pondered on our own. But they usually are incomplete statements, lacking detail, proof, or balance the times when the opposite is true. But quotes aren’t intended to own the truth or be comprehensive – they give us a snapshot – a slogan – of something we can eagerly buy into.

Quotes can be ambiguous or read two different ways, placing you in the odd position of first trying to decipher what was said and then having to determine if you are in agreement.

I’m sure there are plenty of quotes out there about quotes and why we love them.  You can quote me on that.

Sometimes we learn that quotes were mis-attributed or incorrectly recorded, translated, or quoted.  They may have been taken out of context, or worse, recalled later by the one who crafted it determining he or she no longer agrees with his very words. But it doesn’t matter.  We are left to determine what value, if any, a quote or even a book, has.

One of the quotes in life that I’m driven by is the one from Ben Franklin where he tells us to not put off until tomorrow what can be done today.  Essentially, don’t delay and never stop working.

Why do we quote other people – in books, speeches, museum displays, and in our conversations?  Why do we feel more important to repeat the words of others rather than to originate them? Are we passing something down to the next generation with our quotes – not just their meaning, but their specific identification with a handful of icons, thought-leaders, and history-makers?

Of the thousands of quotes I’ve read about books, writing, reading, publishing free speech and the like, I find that they boil down to really a handful of universal, heartfelt views that cover these topics:

·         People love books because they connect us to history and generations past.
·         Books allow us to escape our life and live another.
·         We get to dream, fantasize, and imagine with a book far more then we could otherwise.
·         People value books more than they do other people.
·         Books can’t be banned or burned – their story will always be told.
·         Books shape our views and both change over time.
·         Few bad things come from reading, but many wonderful things happen from it.

We may end up producing more quotes today – and circulating them more readily – due to Twitter and social media.  It’s probably getting harder for a handful of quotes to have long staying power.  New quotes quickly replace old ones through the power of mass, global communication where everyone can say anything and share it but somehow manage to say very little.  We have a pollution of quotes that lack substance because they are too topical and contemporary, too personal and in the moment. Will I remember what Kim Kardashian said five minutes ago?  Certainly not, but she’s managed to commandeer too many people’s attention span.  There’s a battle for mindshare.

The best quotes are ones that you don’t doubt or question – they just instantly speak to you. They seem real, solid, factual, and permanent.  You end up referring to them from time to time, and as the years pass you realize just how true they really are.

It’s hard to set out to try to say something that’s quotable.  It just comes about when others find you have perfectly captured an important moment or aspect of life.  Many quotes have a time and place attached to them, such as the Revolutionary War cry of Patrick Henry:  “Give me liberty or give me death.”  FDR told us during WWII that “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” MLK ‘had a dream” during the Civil Rights Movement, and Reagan told Russia to “Tear down this wall,” during the Cold War.

There are many books published featuring just quotes, whether on a theme such as sports or leadership, or about life overall Bartlett’s Book of Quotations may still be the most popular one, but it has faded from its significance due in part that so many quotes just pop up online.

Let’s conclude with a bit of humor from author Steve Maraboli:  “If the self-help books worked it would be a shrinking industry, not a growing one.”

Books mean so much to so many of us. I scoured the Internet to find some of the best quotes that relate to books, people, and reading.  Here are 59 quotes to ponder.  Feel free to add in your own.

“No two persons ever read the same book.”
--Edmund Wilson

There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book.”
--Josh Jameson

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
--Haruki Murakemi

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”
--Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

“Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.”
--John Green

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it.”
--Edward P. Morgan

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”
--Henry Ward Beecher

“Men do not understand books until they have a certain amount of life, or at any rate no man understands a deep book, until he has seen and lived at least part of its contents.”
--Ezra Pound

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
--Oscar Wilde

“So many books, so little time.”
--Frank Zappa

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
--Jorge Luis Borges

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

“Classic – a book which people praise and don’t read.”
--Mark Twain

“I cannot live without books.”
--Thomas Jefferson

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”
--Mark Twain

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”
--Mortimer J. Adler

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
--Carlos Ruiz Zafon

“If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
--Jane Austen

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it.  It is like falling in love.”
--Christopher Morley

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”
--Charles Dickens

“The world was hers for the reading.”
--Betty Smith

“My library is an archive of longings.”
--Susan Sontag

“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.”
--Louis L’Amour

“My alma mater was books...I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”
--Malcom X

“I owe everything I am and everything I will ever be to books.”
--Gary Paulsen

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”
--Maya Angelou

“A literary academic can no more pass a bookstore than an alcoholic can pass a bar.”
--Carolyn G. Heilbrun

“We read books to find out who we are.”
--Ursula K. Le Guin

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”
--Jessamyn West

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”
--J.K. Rowling

“There’s no reason why the same man should like the same books at 18 and at 48.”
--Ezra Pound

“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.”
--Malcom X

“A good novels tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”
--G.K. Chesterton

“In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.”
--Anna Quindlen

“Books are a narcotic.”
--Frank Kafka

“It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home.”
--Elizabeth Kostova

“Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.”
--Heinrich Heine

“You’re never alone when reading a book.”
--Susan Wiggs

“We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share what we take away – our stories.  I guess that’s what I love about books – they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that makes us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.”
--Libba Bray

“Most of what makes a book ‘good’ is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.”
--Alain de Botton

“What refuge is there for the victim who is oppressed with the feeling that there are a thousand new books he ought to read, while life is only long enough for him to attempt to read a hundred?”
--Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors.”
--Carl Sagan

“Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.”
--Khaled Hosseini

“Books may not change our suffering, books may not protect us from evil, books may not tell us what is good or what is beautiful, and they will certainly not shield us from the common fate of the grave.  But books grant us myriad possibilities:  the possibility of change, the possibility of illumination.”
--Alberto Manguel

“You want to remember that while you’re judging the book, the book is also judging you.”
--Stephen King

“Books cannot be killed by fire.  People die, but books never die.”
--Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”
--Ray Bradbury

“Literature is my Utopia.”
--Helen Keller

“A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end.  You’ve several lives while reading it.”
--William Styron

“The point is it didn’t really matter what the book was about.  It was what it meant that was important.”
--Markus Zusak

“All books are divisible into two classes:  the books of the hours, and the books of all time.”
--John Ruskin

“Just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.”
--Pope John XXIII

“Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted…but to weigh and consider.”
--Francis Bacon

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
--Richard Steele

“I am a part of all I have read.”
--John Kieran

“Books can truly change our lives – the lives of those who read them, the lives of those who write them.  Readers and writers alike discover things they never knew about the world and about themselves.”
--Lloyd Alexander

“We become the books we read,”
--Matthew Kelly

“Books are all the dreams we would most like to have and liked dreams they have the power to change consciousness.”
--Victor Nell

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016.

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