11 Quotes on How Reading Transforms Us

Friday afternoon I picked up a library book I’d been waiting a long time for; Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Sunday afternoon, I read the final pages. It’s rare that I devour a book this way, but I needed a good book this weekend.

I needed a book to stay sane. I needed temporary escape from the whirlwind that is my current life. A massive basement renovation. Two major art exhibitions. Writing assignments. Music simmering on the back burner. Being a dad and a husband. Books calm my hurricane mind into a crystal sea. They allow me to float on that singular sea for a time. Books offer a depth of immersion I don’t find anywhere else.

You may be well on your way to a year of good reading or you may need a little nudge. Here are 11 quotes to draw you toward a cozy chair under soft orange light. 11 reminders that reading is important. Reading transforms us.

ONE, On choosing good books

"Only in the most unusual cases is it useful to determine whether a book is good or bad; for it is just as rare for it to be one or the other. It is usually both."

Robert Musil


TWO, On reading what you want

“Read widely, and without apology. Read what you want to read, not what someone tells you you should read.”

Joyce Carol Oates


THREE, On reading ‘achaelogically’

"I do it the other way, as if I'm conducting a dig. I start with where the author ended and finish where he started. I've done this with Melville and Balzac well as Dostoyevsky - and each time I feel like a detective solving the mystery of how the writer got that way, not how the writer ended up. A story told backwards is just as interesting as a story told the traditional way, maybe more so.” 

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, p.110-112


FOUR, On living several lives

"A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading."

William Styron


FIVE, On how books tell the truth

"Good books tell the truth, even when they're about things that never have been and never will be. They're truthful in a different way” 

Stanisław Lem


SIX, On books as lights

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”

Madeleine L'Engle


SEVEN, On words and fear

“I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear when fear seems more awful than life is good.” 

Andrew Solomon,The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression


EIGHT, On books as a laboratory

"A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it."

Edward P. Morgan


NINE, On reading and small TVs

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”

Zig Ziglar


TEN, On destroying a culture

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

Ray Bradbury


ELEVEN, A final warning

“People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.” 

Saul Bellow

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