Words for me are palpable bodies, visible sirens, sensualities made flesh. –Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

I read and am liberated. I acquire objectivity. I stop being myself and disperse. And what I read, instead of being like one of my suits, which I barely notice and which would annoy me if I did, is the great clarity of the external world, the sun everyone sees, the moon that beats the quiet earth with shadows, the long spaces that end up in the sea, the black solidity of trees nodding their green crowns, the solid peace of ponds on estates, paths overgrown with vines on low hills. –ditto

As they say, blíndur er bóklaus maður. Blind is a man without a book. –Hannah Kent, Burial Rites

Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading! –Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigg

Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music (oh yes), like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach. –Roberto Bolaño, 2666

Written pages are something that can be returned to, reclaimed, and when they are marvelous never lose their power. –James Salter, “The Gift”

The memory of love and the truth of any one life can be preserved in words for a while. But even the most crystalline sentences, full of truth so clear that each reader feels it like a piercing shard, cannot survive when paper burns, when the skies rain corrosive ashes, when thousand-foot tidal waves sweet continents clear, when grinding ice creeps relentlessly toward the equator. Perhaps the greatest beauty of words is not to be found in the observations conveyed by their meaning but in the faith with which we use them. –Dean Koontz, “Beautiful Death”

Reading books removes sorrows from the heart. –Moroccan proverb

I cannot live without books. –Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, June 10, 1815

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ... we need the 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 inside us. –Franz Kafka, in a letter to Oskar Pollak (January 27, 1904)

Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled “This could change your life.” –Helen Exley

I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage. –Montesquieu, Pensées Diverses

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore! –Henry Ward Beecher

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading. –Logan Pearsall Smith, Afterthoughts

A room without books is like a body without a soul. –Cicero

A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone. –Jo Godwin

My words are a divine potter’s wheel. –Hafiz, “Your Shape of Laughter”

… words
as slippery as smooth grapes,
words exploding in the light
like dormant seeds waiting
in the vaults of vocabulary,
alive again, and giving life:
once again the heart distills them.
–Pablo Neruda, “Ode to the Dictionary”

About this there can be no doubt. My skeleton
consisted, at times, in words hard
as bones exposed to the air and rain,
and I was able to celebrate what is happening
leaving behind instead of a song or testimony
a stubborn, enduring skeleton of words.
–Pablo Neruda, “Celebration”

And I watch my words from a long way off.
They are more yours than mine.
They climb on my old suffering like ivy.
–WS Merwin, “So That You Will Hear Me”

Everything was passed through the filter of words, everything trimmed to fit our fear. What does a child do when he’s afraid? He closes his eyes. What does a child do when he’s about to be raped and murdered? He closes his eyes. And he screams, too, but first he closes his eyes. Words served that purpose. –Roberto Bolaño, 2666

Words are like spears: Once they leave your lips they can never come back. –Beninese proverb

Words become seeds. –Korean proverb

Words have no wings but they can fly many thousands of miles. –Korean proverb

Words are like eggs: when they are hatched they have wings. –Madagascan proverb

God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide. –Rebecca West, The Strange Necessity

From books and words come fantasy,
and sometimes, from fantasy comes union.
–Rumi, “A Children’s Game”

Every spoken word is a covering for the inner self.
A little curtain-flick no wider than a slice
of roast meat can reveal hundreds of exploding suns.
–Rumi, “The Night Air”

All books are either dreams or swords,
You can cut, or you can drug, with words.
–Amy Lowell, “Sword Blades and Poppy Seed”

Words are so erotic, they never tire of their coupling. –Stanley Kunitz

A word after a word after a word is power. –Margaret Atwood, “Spelling”

When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness—I am nothing. –Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. –Rudyard Kipling, in a speech on February 14, 1923

Libraries are the one American institution you shouldn’t rip off. –Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread. –François Mauriac

We all know that books burn—yet we have the greater knowledge that books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books can never die. No man and no force can abolish memory. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny of every kind. In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom. –Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Message to the Booksellers of America”

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. –Joseph Brodsky, at a press conference May 15, 1991, on acceptance of the US poet laureateship

Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, First Series

The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. –Ray Bradbury, in the Coda to Fahrenheit 451

Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings. –Heinrich Heine, Almansor: A Tragedy

Books written out of fire give me a great deal of pleasure. You get the sense that the world for these writers could not have continued if the book hadn’t been written. When you come across a book like that it is a privilege. –Hisham Matar, in an interview in Goldlink

The simplest words, we do not know what they mean except when we love and aspire. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, First Series

There are many ways of discarding [books]. You can give them to friends—or enemies—or to associations or to poor Southern libraries. But the surest way is to lend them. Then they never come back to bother you. –Carolyn Wells, The Rest of My Life

Each time you reread you see or learn something new. –Ernest Hemingway

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

How to describe the delicate thing that happens when a brilliant insect alights on a flower? Words, with their weight, fall upon the picture like birds of prey. –Jules Renard

Words were unworthy stumbling blocks on the road leading to the treasures which each one of them still hoarded in his soul. –Arved Viirlaid, Graves without Crosses

Conversation isn’t just crossfire where you shoot and get shot at! Where you’ve got to duck for your life and aim to kill! Words aren’t only bombs and bullets—no, they’re little gifts, containing meanings! –Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint

For words are like the reality they precede, not like a stable body with given curves, angles, soft parts, and a given center, but like a swarm of insects, a swarm of bees of constantly changing shape and form without center but with a vast number of concentrated areas that coalesce and dissolve constantly, anywhere at all in the boundless world created by the swarm. –Christer Kihlman, The Blue Mother

Words can act like tongs to drag a squirming idea into view, or like a set of lenses to help focus our thoughts. Words can cap gushing emotions, and trawl for memories. They can highlight and frame things when we need perspective, and they’re excellent handles when we need to grip a slippery notion. As social beasts, we trade words with others, negotiate meanings, use words as currency. Words for the backbone of what we think. –Diane Ackerman, An Alchemy of Mind

Each word is a small story, a thicket of meaning. ... But words are powerful mental tools. We clarify life’s confusing blur with words. We cage flooding emotions with words. We coax elusive memories with words. We educate with words. –ditto

... words, being human made, can’t begin to capture the experience of being alive or the complex predicaments even simple people get into. Words are small shapes in the chaos of the world. They’re unwieldy, sloppy, even at their most precise. Nothing is simply blue. No one just walks. Words fail us when we need them the most. They fall into the crevasses between feelings. –ditto

Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself... You bring to a novel—anything you read—all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms. –Angela Carter, in Marxism Today, January 1985

… the words that touched and merged with the blood like an embrace … –George Seferis, “Erotikos Logos”

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used. –Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Towne v. Eisner, January 7, 1918

Words are the only things that last forever. –William Hazlitt

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. –Francis Bacon, “Of Studies”

Reading is actually plunging into one’s own identity and, one hopes, emerging stronger than before. –Amalia Kahana-Carmon

By words the mind is excited and the spirit elated. –Aristophanes

Words signify man’s refusal to accept the world as it is. –Walter Kaufmann

Oaths are but words, and words but wind. –Samuel Butler, Hudribas

Words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.
–Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In memoriam A.H.H.”

Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. –Nathaniel Hawthorne, in the December 1866 issue of The Atlantic Monthly

Words that do not match deeds are not important. –Che Guevara

Books are for nothing but to inspire. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar

Read in order to live. –Gustave Flaubert, in a letter to Mlle de Chantpie

Literature is my utopia. –Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

We should teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. –BF Skinner

Literature…becomes the living memory of a nation. –Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. –Richard Steele

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. –Henry David Thoreau, Walden

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a good book. –ditto

I was in Nashville, Tennessee, last year. After the show I went to a Waffle House; I’m not proud of it, I was hungry. And I’m alone, I’m eating, and I’m reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me, “Tch tch tch tch. Hey, what you readin’ for?” Is that like the weirdest fucking question you’ve ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading for. Well, godammit, you stumped me. Why do I read? Well...hmmm...I guess I read for a lot of reasons, and the main one is so I don’t end up being a fucking waffle waitress. –Bill Hicks, Revelations

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. –Chinese proverb

When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue—you sell him a whole new life. –Christopher Morley, Parnassus on Wheels

A blow with a word strikes deeper than a blow with a sword. –Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

When will people understand that words can cut as sharply as any blade, and that those cuts leave scars upon our souls. –(?)

Goddamn the wounds that show how deep a word can cut. –Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Before You were Born”

Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path. –Carl Sagan

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend. –(?)

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. –Edward P. Morgan

A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. –William Styron, in an interview in Writers at Work, First Series

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. –James Bryce

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. –(?)

If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. –Toni Morrison

A good book has no ending. –R.D. Cumming

A man’s library is a sort of harem. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. –Anna Quindlen, “Enough Bookshelves”

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. –Charles W. Eliot

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. –PJ O’Rourke

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. –Mark Twain

I know every book of mine by its smell, and I have but to put my nose between the pages to be reminded of all sorts of things. –George Robert Gissing

There’s nothing to match curling up with a good book when there’s a repair job to be done around the house. –Joe Ryan

Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own. –William Hazlitt, The Sick Chamber

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. –Thomas Helm

You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. –Paul Sweeney

What is more important in a library than anything else—than everything else—is the fact that it exists. –Archibald MacLeish, “The Premise of Meaning”

A library is thought in cold storage. –Herbert Samuel

... there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book. –Christopher Morley

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. –Jessamyn West

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare. –Kenko Yoshida

To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list. –John Aikin

Books: the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity. –George Steiner

In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation. –Stéphane Mallarmé

There is a wonder in reading Braille that the sighted will never know: to touch words and have them touch you back. –Jim Fiebig

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. –Cicero

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. –Mark Twain, “More Maxims of Mark”

If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions. –(?)

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. –Henry Ward Beecher

Children don’t read to find their identity, to free themselves from guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion or to get rid of alienation. They have no use for psychology.... They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.... When a book is boring, they yawn openly. They don’t expect their writer to redeem humanity, but leave to adults such childish illusions. –Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel lecture as quoted in The Observer on December 17, 1978

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting. –Edmund Burke

Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes. –John LeCarre

Never judge a book by its movie. –J.W. Eagan

Books are a refuge, a sort of cloistral refuge, from the vulgarities of the actual world. –Walter Pater

No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. –Mary Wortley Montagu

A good book is always on tap; it may be decanted and drunk a hundred times, and it is still there for further imbibement. –Holbrook Jackson

Reading—the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay. –William Styron

A large, still book is a piece of quietness, succulent and nourishing in a noisy world, which I approach and imbibe with “a sort of greedy enjoyment,” as Marcel Proust said of those rooms of his old home whose air was “saturated with the bouquet of silence.” –Holbrook Jackson

The time to read is any time: no apparatus, no appointment of time and place, is necessary. It is the only art which can be practiced at any hour of the day or night, whenever the time and inclination comes, that is your time for reading; in joy or sorrow, health or illness. –ditto

This nice and subtle happiness of reading, this joy not chilled by age, this polite and unpunished vice, this selfish, serene life-long intoxication. –Logan Pearsall Smith

Books support us in our solitude and keep us from being a burden to ourselves. –Jeremy Collier