Reading is beyond a doubt my favorite hobby. You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if it wasn’t one of yours as well. One of the many things I love about books is finding words that express what I feel. So often authors concisely say in a few lines concepts I have been struggling to give words to. Over the years many of those lines, or rather quotes, have made up a large part of the thread from which I weave my beliefs and behaviors. But some I collect just for fun. And among those just for fun favorite quotes are pithy comments about reading. I am surprised – and delighted – at how I find them everywhere. For example, I was tickled when in the film Ratatouille brother Emile asks hero Remy, “You read?” in an accusatory voice. His slightly defensive response? “Well, not excessively.” Yep, I’ve been in that defensive position myself when someone asks, “Is that another book?” in much the same tone you would ask, “Good Lord, is that heroin in your pocket?”
Most of my favorite quotes aren’t a defense of reading though but a celebration of it. They describe why it’s great and how important it can be to those of us who love it. Take for example the poem by Strickland Gillian Richer Than Gold:
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.
Another favorite is from Nancy Byrd Turner:
The bookshop has a thousand books
All colors, hues, and tinges
And every cover is a door
That turns on magic hinges
The famous Abraham Lincoln quote I have on a book bag resembles my character very much: “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” And I have sadly lived my life by the words of Erasmus: “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”
I don’t quite agree with Louisa May Alcott who said, “Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.” Few is not a word I would choose in defining my reading habits. However, thanks to the public library I can agree (partially) with Lady Mary Wortley Monague, “No entertainment is so cheap as reading nor any pleasure so lasting.” The latter half of that saying really is something I can personally vouch for. Of all my hobbies, none has lasted so long nor brought so much pleasure.
Phil Collins must understand these feelings as well. He wrote a song called Hero which, among other things, captured the feeling many readers get when they encounter a great novel:
Well it was one of those great stories
That you can’t put down at night
The hero knew what he had to do
And he wasn’t afraid to fight
The villain goes to jail
While the hero goes free
I wish it were that simple for me
And the reason that she loved him
Was the reason I loved him too
And what about the armchair adventuring aspect of the experience? As Jean Rhys says, “Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere.” Too true. I have learned so much about foreign cultures just by reading what they write.
I have to absolutely agree with the statement, “When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before.” Books not only reflect our growth they help us achieve it. As Franz Kafka said, “A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.” In other words, it defrosts the surface and bring forth the richness that lies beneath.
I conclude with what Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live without books.” I probably could – but I sure wouldn’t want to.
What are your favorite quotes about reading?
– Maggie Boyd