Quotations about   books

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There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Preface (1891)
Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 3-Jan-19
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But beware you be not swallowed up in books: An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

John Wesley (1703-1791) English cleric, Christian theologian and evangelist, founder of Methodism
Letter to Joseph Benson (7 Nov 1768)
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Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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If the books which you read are your own, mark with a pen or pencil the most considerable things in them which you desire to remember. Then you may read that book the second time over with half the trouble, by your eye running over the paragraphs which your pencil has noted. It is but a very weak objection against this practice to say, I shall spoil my book; for I persuade myself that you did not buy it as a bookseller, to sell again for gain, but as a scholar, to improve your mind by it; and if the mind be improved, your advantage is abundant, through your book yields less money to your executors.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) English theologian and hymnodist
Logic on the Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry after Truth (1724)
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Added on 9-Aug-18 | Last updated 9-Aug-18
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Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.

Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) American psychologist, educator
(Attributed)
Added on 5-Apr-18 | Last updated 5-Apr-18
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Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
“Papyrus to Paperbacks: The World That Books Made,” Washington Post (30 Dec 1979)
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Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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No furniture so charming as books.

Sydney Smith (1771-1845) English clergyman, essayist, wit
(Attributed)

Quoted in Lady Holland (Smith's daughter), Memoir, Vol. 1, ch. 9 (1855). See also Beecher.
Added on 2-Nov-17 | Last updated 2-Nov-17
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A bookstore is one of the only pieces of physical evidence we have that people are still thinking.

Jerry Seinfeld (b. 1955) American comedian
SeinLanguage (1993)
Added on 19-Oct-17 | Last updated 19-Oct-17
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Books, that paper memory of mankind.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
The Art of Literature, ch. 4 “On Men of Learning” [tr. Saunders (1851)]
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Added on 12-Oct-17 | Last updated 12-Oct-17
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Ah, Stefan, give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a dangerous enemy indeed.

Anne Rice (b. 1941) American author [b. Howard Allen Frances O'Brien]
The Witching Hour, Part 2 (1990)
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Added on 7-Sep-17 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
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Books have led some to learning and others to madness, when they swallow more than they can digest.

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) Italian scholar and poet [a.k.a. Petrarch]
Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul [De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae] [tr. Elton (1893)]

Alt. trans.: "Books have brought some men to knowledge, and some to madness. whilst they drew out of them more than they could digest." [tr. Dobson (1791)]

Alt. trans.: "Books have led some to knowledge and some to madness, who drew from them more than they could hold." [tr. Rawski (1991)]
Added on 24-Aug-17 | Last updated 24-Aug-17
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The thing about Tom Clancy is that you can start reading a Tom Clancy book when the plane takes off in London and you’re still reading it when the plane lands in Sydney. And then you can use it to beat snakes to death.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Interview, Science Fiction Book Club (1999)
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Added on 18-Aug-17 | Last updated 18-Aug-17
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My quarrel with him is, that his works contain nothing worth quoting; and a book that furnishes no quotations is, me judice, no book — it is a plaything.

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) English novelist, satirist, poet, merchant
Crochet Castle, ch. 9 (1831)
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Added on 3-Aug-17 | Last updated 3-Aug-17
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Back in the nineteen-hundreds it was a wonderful experience for a boy to discover H. G. Wells. There you were, in a world of pedants, clergymen and golfers, with your future employers exhorting you to “get on or get out”, your parents systematically warping your sexual life, and your dull-witted schoolmasters sniggering over their Latin tags; and here was this wonderful man who could tell you about the inhabitants of the planets and the bottom of the sea, and who knew that the future was not going to be what respectable people imagined.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Wells, Hitler, and the World State,” Horizon (Aug 1941)
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Added on 27-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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“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 re-read.

François Mauriac (1885-1970) French author, critic, journalist
(Attributed)
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
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For books are more than books, they are the life
The very heart and core of ages past,
The reason why men lived and worked and died,
The essence and quintessence of their lives.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) American poet
“The Boston Athenaeum,” A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass (1912)
Added on 13-Jul-17 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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All books are either dreams or swords,
You can cut, or you can drug, with words.

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) American poet
“Sword Blades and Poppy Seed,” l. 291 (1914)
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Added on 6-Jul-17 | Last updated 6-Jul-17
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Books to the ceiling, books to the sky.
My pile of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

Arnold Lobel (1933-1987) American author, illustrator
The Fiction Magazine, Vol. 5 (1986)
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Added on 15-Jun-17 | Last updated 15-Jun-17
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Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
(Attributed)
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Recounted in the Pennsylvania School Journal, Vol. 46, #7 (Jan 1898) as an anecdote from a clergyman printed in the New York Tribune.
Added on 25-May-17 | Last updated 25-May-17
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The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Morituri Salutamus,” st. 21 (1875)
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Added on 2-May-17 | Last updated 2-May-17
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The book has been man’s greatest triumph. Seated in my library, I live in a Time Machine. In an instant I can be transmitted to any era, any part of the world, even to outer space. I have lived in every period of history. I have listened to Buddha speak, marched with Alexander, sailed with the Vikings, ridden in canoes with the Polynesians. I have been at the courts of Queen Elizabeth and Louis XIV; I have been a friend to Captain Nemo and have sailed with Captain Bligh on the Bounty. I have walked in the agora with Socrates and Plato, and listened to Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount.

Best of all, I can do it all again, at any moment. The books are there. I have only to reach up to the shelves and take them down to relive the moments I have loved.

Louis L'Amour (1908-1988) American writer
The Sackett Companion (1988)
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Added on 20-Apr-17 | Last updated 20-Apr-17
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There is more reason for saying grace before a new book than before dinner.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) Welsh-English essayist
“Grace before Meat,” Essays of Elia (1823)
Added on 30-Mar-17 | Last updated 30-Mar-17
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The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ’em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ’em, ’cause that’s cool.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
The Paths of the Dead (2002)

In the essay "Some Notes Toward Two Analyses of Auctorial Method and Voice" by Teresa Nielsen Hayden.
Added on 17-Mar-17 | Last updated 17-Mar-17
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Your borrowers of books — those mutilators of collections, spoilers of the symmetry of shelves, and creators of odd volumes.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) Welsh-English essayist
“The Two Races of Men,” Essays of Elia (1823)
Added on 16-Mar-17 | Last updated 16-Mar-17
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People often say that a set of books looks ugly if all volumes are not in the same format, but I was impressed to hear the Abbot Koyu say, “It is typical of the unintelligent man to insist on assembling complete sets of everything. Imperfect sets are better.”

Yoshida Kenkō (1284-1350) Japanese author and Buddhist monk [吉田 兼好]
Essays in Idleness [Tsurezuregusa] (c. 1330)
Added on 9-Feb-17 | Last updated 9-Feb-17
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I am always for getting a boy forward in his learning; for that is a sure good. I would let him at first read any English book which happens to engage his attention; because you have done a great deal when you have brought him to have entertainment from a book. He’ll get better books afterwards.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson “16 April 1779” (1791)
Added on 26-Jan-17 | Last updated 26-Jan-17
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Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital. and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to James Madison (Sep 1821)
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Added on 19-Jan-17 | Last updated 9-Feb-17
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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. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
Over the Teacups, ch. 7 (1891)
Added on 29-Dec-16 | Last updated 29-Dec-16
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Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.

king-books-perfect-entertainment-wist_info-quote

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
“Stephen King’s Most Memorable Books of 2007,” Entertainment Weekly (21 Dec 2007)
Added on 14-Dec-16 | Last updated 14-Dec-16
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From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover you have wings.

Helen Hayes (1900-1993) American actress
On Reflection (2014)
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Added on 8-Dec-16 | Last updated 11-Dec-16
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In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. […] It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.

Samuel Ichiye "S. I." Hayakawa (1906-1992) Canadian-American academic and politician
Language in Thought and Action (1978)
Added on 1-Dec-16 | Last updated 1-Dec-16
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Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)
Added on 22-Nov-16 | Last updated 22-Nov-16
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You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a mother who read to me.

Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954) American poet and humorist
“The Reading Mother”
Added on 3-Nov-16 | Last updated 3-Nov-16
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Books are a delightful society. If you go into a room filled with books, even without taking them down from their shelves, they seem to speak to you, to welcome you, to tell you that they have something inside their covers that will be good for you, and that they are willing and desirous to impart it to you.

William Gladstone (1809-1898) English Liberal politician, Prime Minister
“The Workman’s Opportunities,” speech, Saltney (26 Oct 1889)
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Added on 20-Oct-16 | Last updated 20-Oct-16
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I have asked Mr Bernstein,
who is an excellent blesser
to bless you all and say
that in a country where Illiteracy is on the rise
and the economy is sinking low
and Chastity is out the window
it is comforting to know
that though the frost is on the pumpkin
and civilization is on the skids
you guys are ferociously working underground
smuggling books into the hands of kids.

Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) American author, illustrator [pseud. of Theodor Geisel]
“A Rather Short Epic Poem (size 6 and 7/8)” (1988)

Delivered by Robert Bernstein at the 1988 meeting of the American Booksellers Association.
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A house is no home unless it contain food and fire for the mind as well as for the body.

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) American journalist, critic, transcendentalist, reformer [Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli]
Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845)
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Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those that other people have lent me.

france-never-lend-books-wist_info-quote

Anatole France (1844-1924) French poet, journalist, novelist, Nobel Laureate [pseud. of Jaques-Anatole-François Thibault]
La vie littéraire (1888)
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Be as careful of the books you read as of the company you keep, for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.

Edwin Paxton Hood (1820-1885) English nonconformist minister and author
Self-Formation (1858 ed.)
Added on 22-Sep-16 | Last updated 22-Sep-16
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We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read.

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864)
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I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
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Consider as well that, however one may sing the praises of those who by their virtue either defend or increase the glory of their country, their actions only affect worldly prosperity, and within narrow limits. But the man who sets fallen learning on its feet (and this is almost more difficult than to originate it in the first place) is building up a sacred and immortal thing, and serving not one province alone but all peoples and all generations. Once this was the task of princes, and it was the greatest glory of Ptolemy. But his library was contained between the narrow walls of its own house, and Aldus is building up a library which has no other limits than the world itself.

Desiderius Erasmus (1465-1536) Dutch humanist philosopher and scholar
The Adages, “Make Haste Slowly [Festina Lente]” (1508 ed.)
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Discussing the Aldine Press, the first modern publishing house. In Margaret Mann Phillips, ed., Erasmus on His Times (1967).
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The profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader. The profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until an equal mind and heart finds and publishes it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Letters and Social Aims, “Quotation and Originality” (1876)
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Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a thousand years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Society and Solitude, “Books” (1870)
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To be a book collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope-fiend with those of a miser.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks (1985)
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There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main … and, best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day
of your life.

Walt Disney (1901-1966) American entrepreneur, animator, film producer, showman
(Attributed)
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The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest men of past centuries.

René Descartes (1596-1650) French philosopher, mathematician
Discourse on Method [Discours de la méthode] (1637)
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The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.

Clarence Day (1874-1935) American author and cartoonist
The Story of the Yale University Press (1920)
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He that studies books alone, will know how things ought to be; and he that studies men will know how things are.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, Preface (1821 ed.)
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Why are not more gems from our early prose writers scattered over the country by the periodicals? Selections are so far from preventing the study of the entire authors that they promote it. Who could read the extracts which Lamb has given from Fuller, without wishing to read more of the old Prebendary? But great old books of the great old authors are not in every body’s reach; and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them only here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither time nor means to get more. Let every bookworm, when, in any fragrant, scarce old tome, he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it the widest circulation that newspapers and magazines, penny and halfpenny, can afford.

Coleridge - fragrant scarce old tome - wist_info quote

Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849) English poet, biographer, essayist, teacher
Biographia Borealis: or, Lives of Distinguished Northerns, “Roger Ascham” (1833)
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Speaking of the practice of including brief extracts -- quotations -- from famous authors in magazines and newspapers to fill up columns or create a break between stories. Ironically, this extracted quotation -- slightly paraphrased -- was widely circulated in the mid-late 19th and early 20th Century misattributed to his father, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or simply labeled as "Coleridge" without citation, leading to the same confusion.

Usually quoted more succinctly as: "Why are not more gems from our great authors scattered over the country? Great books are not in everybody's reach; and though it is better to know them thoroughly, than to know them only here and there; yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither time nor means to get more. Let every bookworm, when in any fragrant, scarce old tome he discovers a sentence, a story, an illustration, that does his heart good, hasten to give it."
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No matter how poor I am; no matter though the prosperous of my own time will not enter my obscure dwelling; if the sacred writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise; and Shakespeare to open to me the worlds of imagination and the workings of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich me with his practical wisdom, I shall not pine for want of intellectual companionship, and I may become a cultivated man though excluded from what is called the best society in the place where I live.

William E. Channing (1780-1842) American moralist, author, cleric, Unitarian theologian
“Self Culture,” lecture, Boston (Sep 1838)
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It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds, and these invaluable means of communication are in the reach of all. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.

William E. Channing (1780-1842) American moralist, author, cleric, Unitarian theologian
“Self Culture,” lecture, Boston (Sep 1838)
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There are persons who honestly do not see the use of books in the home, either for information — have they not radio and even television? — or for decoration — is there not the wallpaper?

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) American writer
“In Search of Readers,” in Helen Hull, The Writer’s Book (1950)
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The covers of this book are too far apart.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
(Attributed)

One-sentence book review. First attributed to Bierce in 1923, but showing up in anonymous humor as early as 1899. See here for more information.
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The best of all ways to make one’s reading valuable is to write about it, and so I hope my Cousin Elizabeth has a blank book where she keeps some record of her thoughts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Letter to Elizabeth Tucker (1832)
Added on 30-Mar-16 | Last updated 30-Mar-16
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Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Eyes and Ears, “The Duty of Owning Books” (1862)

See Sydney Smith.
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One sure window into a person’s soul is his reading list.

Tabor - reading list - wist_info quote

Mary B. W. Tabor (b. 1964) American journalist [Mary Britt Wellford Tabor]
“Book Notes,” New York Times (14 Jun 1995)
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Added on 18-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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