Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else’s head instead of with one’s own.
—Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) German Philosopher
What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote.
—E. M. Forster (1879–1970) English Novelist, Short Story Writer, Essayist
Great literature cannot grow from a neglected or impoverished soil. Only if we actually tend or care will it transpire that every hundred years or so we might get a Middlemarch.
—P. D. James (b.1920) British Novelist
It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression
—Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) English Mathematician, Philosopher
Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.
—Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951) American Novelist, Short-Story Writer
Nothing lives in literature but that which has in it the vitality of creative art; and it would be safe advice to the young to read nothing but what is old.
—Edwin Percy Whipple (1819–86) American Literary Critic
There are some people who read too much: The bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as others are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.
—H. L. Mencken (1880–1956) American Journalist, Literary Critic
He who would understand the real spirit of literature should not select authors of any one period alone, but rather go to the fountain head, and trace the little rill as it courses along down the ages broadening and deepening into the great ocean of thought which the men of the present are exploring.
—James A. Garfield (1831–81) American Head of State, Lawyer, Educator
How has the human spirit ever survived the terrific literature with which it has had to contend?
—Wallace Stevens (1879–1955) American Poet
In literature, as in love, we are astonished at the choice made by other people.
—Andre Maurois (1885–1967) French Novelist, Biographer
Literature is a toil and a snare, a curse that bites deep.
—D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930) English Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Essayist, Literary Critic
Until it is kindled by a spirit as flamingly alive as the one which gave it birth a book is dead to us. Words divested of their magic are but dead hieroglyphs.
—Henry Miller (1891–1980) American Novelist
Any historian of the literature of the modern age will take virtually for granted the adversary intention, the actually subversive intention, that characterizes modern writing—he will perceive its clear purpose of detaching the reader from the habits of thought and feeling that the larger culture imposes, of giving him a ground and a vantage point from which to judge and condemn, and perhaps revise, the culture that produces him.
—Lionel Trilling (1905–75) American Literary Critic
I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.
—Vaclav Havel (1936–2011) Czech Dramatist, Statesman
The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.
—Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94) Scottish Novelist
A book worth reading is worth buying.
—John Ruskin (1819–1900) English Writer, Art Critic
Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.
—Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) Argentine Writer, Essayist, Poet
Literature must become party literature. Down with unpartisan litterateurs! Down with the superman of literature! Literature must become a part of the general cause of the proletariat.
—Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924) Russian Revolutionary Leader
An hour spent in the library is worth a month in the laboratory.
Literature could be said to be a sort of disciplined technique for arousing certain emotions.
—Iris Murdoch (1919–99) British Novelist, Playwright, Philosopher
There was a time when the average reader read a novel simply for the moral he could get out of it, and however naive that may have been, it was a good deal less naive than some of the limited objectives he has now. Today novels are considered to be entirely concerned with the social or economic or psychological forces that they will by necessity exhibit, or with those details of daily life that are for the good novelist only means to some deeper end.
—Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964) American Novelist
When a book, any sort of book, reaches a certain intensity of artistic performance it becomes literature. That intensity may be a matter of style, situation, character, emotional tone, or idea, or half a dozen other things. It may also be a perfection of control over the movement of a story similar to the control a great pitcher has over the ball.
—Raymond Chandler (1888–1959) American Novelist
‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem to be confidences or sides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profound thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.
—Katherine Mansfield (1888–1923) New Zealand-born British Author
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 (1880–1968) American Author
Literary imagination is an aesthetic object offered by a writer to a lover of books.
—Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) French Philosopher, Psychoanalyst, Poet
Whoever has the luck to be born a character can laugh even at death. Because a character will never die! A man will die, a writer, the instrument of creation: but what he has created will never die!
—Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936) Italian Dramatist, Novelist, Short Story Writer, Author
Let me walk three weeks in the footsteps of my enemy, carry the same burden, have the same trials as he, before I say one word to criticize.
Literature flourishes best when it is half trade and half an art.
—William Motter Inge (1913–73) American Playwright, Novelist
The attempt to devote oneself to literature alone is a most deceptive thing, and often, paradoxically, it is literature that suffers for it.
—Vaclav Havel (1936–2011) Czech Dramatist, Statesman