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My most favourite part of reading is that feeling you get when your eyes fall to a passage, a paragraph or even just a sentence, that seems as though it was written just for you. And you read those same words over and over, and you want to rip out the page to hug them close because you didn’t think anyone would ever put your feelings into print.
There are lots of good books and fewer great books and even fewer books with passages that draw out this feeling. When I first decided to compile a list of my favourite book quotes to celebrate the very best bits of books, I thought it’d be easy.
But I soon realised that some of my favourite books, despite how much I love them, don’t contain this mythical mixture of good writing, truth and a dash of relevance to my life. They’re good books, great books even, but their pages work best as one whole, not as individual pieces. Then there are the books that I don’t consider great or even good but hold words that have stayed with me, long after I slid them back onto my bookshelf.
I’ve found it’s rare, incredibly rare, to find a favourite book that also contains a favourite passage.
And that’s why my list of Top Ten Favourite Book Quotes (at the moment) contains a couple of my favourite books, a couple of great books and a couple of books that have only recently joined my collection.
So, without further ado, I give you:
From those of us who are left behind: you will be remembered, you were the one I needed, I loved you in my dreams.
Bret Easton Ellis, Lunar Park
Cal says that humans are made from the nuclear ash of dead stars. He says that when I die, I’ll return to dust, glitter, rain. If that’s true, I want to be buried right here under this tree. Its roots will reach into the soft mess of my body and suck me dry. I’ll be re-formed as apple blossom. I’ll drift down in the spring like confetti and cling to my family’s shoes. They’ll carry me in their pockets to help them sleep.
What dreams will they have then?
Jenny Downham, Before I Die
I have a million things to talk to you about. All I want in this world is you. I want to see you and talk. I want the two of us to begin everything from the beginning.
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
We’ll just start walking today and see the world and the way the world walks around and talks, the way it really looks. I want to see everything now. And while none of it will be me when it goes in, after a while it’ll all gather together inside and it’ll be me.
Look at the world out there, my God, my God, look at it out there, outside me, out there beyond my face and the only way to really touch it is to put it where it’s finally me, where it’s in the blood, where it pumps around a thousand times ten thousand a day. I get hold of it so it’ll never run off. I’ll hold onto the world tight some day. I’ve got one finger on it now; that’s a beginning.
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
He was gone, and I did not have time to tell him what I had just now realized: that I forgave him, and that she forgave us, and that we had to forgive to survive in the labyrinth. There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.
And as I walked back to give Takumi’s note to the Colonel, I saw that I would never know. I would never know her well enough to know her thoughts in those last minutes, would never know if she left us on purpose. But the not-knowing would not keep me from caring, and I would always love Alaska Young, my crooked neighbor, with all my crooked heart.
John Green, Looking For Alaska
It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown I back, throat to the stars, “more like deer than human being.” To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal!
These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.
Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Until that moment I had not understood that this was a story about lonely people, about absence and loss, and that that was why I had taken refuge in it until it became confused with my own life, like someone who has escaped into the pages of a novel because those whom he needs to love seem nothing more than ghosts inhabiting the mind of a stranger.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
‘You’re the Best Bear in All the World,’ said Christopher Robin.
‘Am I?’ said Pooh hopefully.
A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
And at night you realise, as you wake out of a dream, overcome and captivated by the enchantment of visions that crowd in on each other, just how fragile a handhold, how tenuous a boundary separates us from the darkness – we are little flames, inadequately sheltered by thin walls from the tempest of dissolution and insensibility in which we flicker and are often all but extinguished.
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
Patrick started driving really fast, and just before we got to the tunnel, Sam stood up, and the wind turned her dress into ocean waves. When we hit the tunnel, all the sound got scooped up into a vacuum, and it was replaced by a song on the tape player. A beautiful song called “Landslide”. When we got out of the tunnel, Sam screamed this really fun scream, and there it was. Downtown. Lights on buildings and everything that makes you wonder. Sam sat down and started laughing. Patrick started laughing. I started laughing.
And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
What are your favourite book quotes?