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Trends, Recommended Reads

45 of the best literary quotes from our favorite books


Mar 15, 2024
"One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us." - Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

The average novel contains thousands of words. Strewn together, they give us ideas, construct new worlds and connect us to the characters. And every once in awhile, you stumble upon a sentence or two that makes you stop. This line can leave a mark, whether we write it on our hearts or even tattoo it on our arms.

To highlight some of these words we won’t forget, the Libby Life writers compiled a few of the most memorable and moving quotes from literature - both classic and modern. May these literary quotes inspire you to take a look at the book behind these famous lines.

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” - Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

"Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves." - Patti Smith, Just Kids

“You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you. If you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.” - Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

"There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar." - Herman Melville, Moby Dick

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." - Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk, Diary

"Passion is... it's fire. And fire is great, man. But we're made of water. Water is how we keep living. Water is what we need to survive. My family was my water. I picked water. I'll pick water every time." - Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six

"I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying - trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself." - Roxanne Gay, Bad Feminist

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!” - Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” - Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

"Thus we see how that the spine of even the hugest of living things tapers off at last into simple child's play." - Herman Melville, Moby Dick

"When I visit the past now, it is for wisdom and experience, not for regret or shame. I don't attempt to erase it, only to accept it. Whatever my physical circumstances are today, I will deal with them and remain present. If I fall, I will rise up. As for the future, I haven't been there yet. I only know that I have one. Until I don't. The last thing we run out of is future." - Michael J. Fox, No Time Like the Future

“‘Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’” - E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day,” Wild and Precious: A Celebration of Mary Oliver

“I am a sick man… I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground

"He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave." - Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” —Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Bell Jar

“My house. My chair. My woman.” - Rebecca Yarros, Iron Flame

“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” - Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

"In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart." - Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

"Saying yes doesn't mean I don't know how to say no, and saying please doesn't mean I am waiting for permission. 'Yes, please' sounds powerful and concise; it's a response and a request. It's not about being a 'good girl.' It's about being a real woman." - Amy Poehler, Yes Please

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” - Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

“I think now that if I had had any intimation that the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight, I would have stayed at home." - James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

"I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled." - P. G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” - Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

"It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment's carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did." - Madeline Miller, Circe

"What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?" - Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.” - Cormac McCarthy, The Road

“Courage does not always roar. Valor does not always shine.” - Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone

“It always comes down to just two choices. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” - Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.” - John Green, Looking for Alaska

“But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” - J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child - What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” - Michelle Obama, Becoming

*Title availability may vary by library and region.

Find more words to inspire and borrow a book on the Libby reading app from your library.

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RELATED READ: 12 of the best opening lines in books


About the Author

Annie Suhy has been working in the book industry since 2006. When she’s not working, practicing yoga, or petting cats, she’s doing paint-by-numbers and buying more plants. An avid poetry fan, her favorite collection is "The Splinter Factory" by Jeffrey McDaniel.


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