Writers on Reading: 48 Inspiring Quotations


August 16, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

This post is part of a blog series that compiles quotations from authors on subjects I am currently pondering. The premise is explained in this post. The first post in the series was quotations on family – I had just returned from my family reunion – and the second post on aging. As regular readers will know, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2012. Each visit home is a new encounter with that shifting reality.

My mother has always been a great reader, and she passed that love on to me. It is difficult for her to read now, but not, I learned on my last visit, impossible. I’ve chosen this next topic in her honor.

There are at least 100 pages of quotations on reading from authors in Goodreads alone, so this compilation is in no way exhaustive, and I eliminated some rather good quotations simply because the author had appeared in a previous post. If you have one you love that you want to see represented, feel free to add it in the comments!


The world was hers for the reading.
― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Peggy Ann Garner as Francie Nolan in Elia Kazan's adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Peggy Ann Garner as Francie Nolan in Elia Kazan’s adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Courtesy The Film Temple


Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars


Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ― C.S. Lewis


Think before you speak. Read before you think. ― Fran Lebowitz


What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though. ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


I spent my life folded between the pages of books. In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction. ― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me


Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them. ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish


“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you’ve read it several times?” Mo had said…”As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells…and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower…both strange and familiar.” ― Cornelia Funke, Inkspell


You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive. ― James Baldwin

Photo courtesy Esquire

Photo courtesy Esquire


Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. ― Margaret Fuller


“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that’s because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.” ― Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides


I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print, the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig-tree. ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment. ― W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage


A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity. ― Germaine Greer


Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head. ― Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies


Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree. ― Tina Fey, Bossypants


A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. ― Franz Kafka


She did not care very much for other little girls, but if she had plenty of books she could console herself. ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess


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


“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain” ― Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

Alcott: Unknown. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Alcott: Unknown. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. ― Italo Calvino, The Uses of Literature


You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it. ― Adrienne Rich


What a blessing it is to love books as I love them;- to be able to converse with the dead, and to live amidst the unreal! ― Thomas Babington Macaulay


It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else. ― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making


Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book. ― Stéphane Mallarmé


I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours. ― Dorothy Parker


Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is 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


Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. ― Helen Keller, The Story of My Life


Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

Photo: Ignacio Gill. Courtesy ABC Spain

Photo: Ignacio Gill. Courtesy ABC Spain


Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes–characters even–caught in the fibers of your clothes, and when you open the new book, they are still with you. ― Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale


Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind. ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote


She never managed to find herself in these books no matter how hard she tried, exhuming traits from between the pages and donning them for an hour, a day, a week. We think in some ways, we have all done this our whole lives, searching for the book that will give us the keys to ourselves, let us into a wholly formed personality as though it were a furnished room to let. As though we could walk in and look around and say to the gray-haired landlady behind us, “We’ll take it.” ― Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters


Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw. ― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas


It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. ―Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings


People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned. ― Saul Bellow


I think it’s the books that you read when you’re young that live with you forever. ― J.K. Rowling


Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
― Albert Einstein


I grew up on a mixed diet of mass and class, and I still read that way. I hate it when people apologize for what they read. Some bestsellers aren’t exactly literary. So what? They’re fun and rip-roaring, Who instituted the book police and why do we have to answer them? Grrrrr! ― Jennifer Donnelly


Anyway—because we are readers, we don’t have to wait for some communications executive to decide what we should think about next—and how we should think about it. We can fill our heads with anything from aardvarks to zucchinis—at any time of night or day. ― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage


You don’t read Gatsby, I said, to learn whether adultery is good or bad but to learn about how complicated issues such as adultery and fidelity and marriage are. A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil.
― Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Photo: S. J. Staniski. Courtesy New York Times

Photo: S. J. Staniski. Courtesy New York Times


A good book is an event in my life. ― Stendhal, The Red and the Black


When at last I came upon the right book, the feeling was violent: it blew open a hole in me that made life more dangerous because I couldn’t control what came through it. ― Nicole Krauss, Great House


I love the smell of book ink in the morning. ― Umberto Eco


Readers are plentiful; thinkers are rare. ― Harriet Martineau


There is creative reading as well as creative writing. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson


I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too. ― Mary Oliver, Wild Geese


Young men, especially in America, write to me and ask me to recommend “a course of reading.” Distrust a course of reading! People who really care for books read all of them. There is no other course. ― Andrew Lang, Adventures Among Books

33 thoughts on “Writers on Reading: 48 Inspiring Quotations

  1. Wonderful!Thank you.


  2. srha1987 says:

    I’m really enjoying your AUTHORity posts, Paula. Great idea! I think I will print this one off to post in my classroom this fall! :)



  3. Judith Post says:

    Each of these was interesting, but I really liked Germaine Greer’s quote and Albert Einstein’s warning.


  4. Lidy says:

    These are some great quotes. Here’s a quote I ran across on FB and pinned to my Pinterest board a while ago: “To read a book is to hold an entire world in the palm of your hand. That world is unique to you; no two readers can ever inhabit the same world.”- Arthur Schopenhauer

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Norah says:

    I was particularly intrigued by the quotes of Martineau and Einstein. I wonder what the particular age is, referred to by Einstein. Their quotes contrast with the connection Stephen King made with reading and writing.


    • Yes, that perspective on reading is troubling in a way. I’ve had both experiences. Many times books challenge me to think for myself; sometimes, however, I get infatuated by a particular author, and swallow their thoughts whole. And there are times when I would rather read someone else’s writing than do the work of writing myself; that, I think, is where Einstein’s comment on laziness resonates with me. But I also believe every writer who says that reading, and reading widely, is fundamental to creativity. “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” ;-)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. dominique says:

    I loved this blog Paula and since rediscovering Salinger recently I smiled when reading Holden’s words which resonated so completely and John Green’s in Fault in our Stars which in my view could be referring to Catcher! Third best would have to go to Carlos Ruiz Zafon which I completely agree with which I think is precisely why some books and stories resonate more fully than others. Sylvia Plath too. Thank you! Love being inspired to read more.


  7. Anita Kushwaha says:

    I so enjoyed these quotes! Thanks for sharing, Paula. It’s funny, I do find that I get a little grumpy if I don’t get enough book time each day, as per #12, ha ha. :)


  8. I haven’t heard so many of these wonderful quotes. So glad I read them! This is a quote in A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.”


  9. Absolutely fantastic! Love these. It’s impossible to choose from them. You sort of prepared me for these in your comment on my blog but, really, these are amazing. Yes, I love first lines but when you can choose quotes from books/authors about reading… It’s magic. :-)


  10. I loved this! My local German library has a sign that says “Lesen gefährdet die Dummheit” (reading endangers stupidity). That sums it all up for me.


  11. stephanie710 says:

    This was great. Thanks for sharing these wonderful quotes. :-)


  12. Elissaveta says:

    I love this series, Paula. So many inspiring quotes and you are a good “quote curator”!


  13. […] degrees of fame on topics I happen to be mulling over. So far we have covered family, aging, and reading. The topic this time is memory. You’ll find a couple of my favorite writers on memoir, as […]


  14. somemaid says:

    Love the quote from Andrew Lang, sums up my entire attitude to books, they must all be read.


  15. […] Source: Writers on Reading: 48 Inspiring Quotations […]


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