Mike's Literary Quotes

Collected Book Quotes: My Idea of Literary Humanism 

 
I’ve been a collector of literary quotes for 25 years, extracting from the books I’ve read the words that have impressed a stirring sense of connection, butterfly dancing wonder, or a lightning bolt hitting me with such clarity the world stopped moving. In writing this article I went back to my old journals, rediscovering sentences that moved me, and finding patterns as to what grabbed my attention: Interpretations to the meaning of life; The pursuit of living authentically; Quiet insights that reveal larger truths; Small sudden moments that suddenly appear like light after rain; Or just good writing by a talented, practiced hand. 

I hope these quotes inspire you as they continue to inspire me and that you’ll perhaps dive in and find a new book or author to take on. 


 

The Open Road By Jean Giono, Paul Eprile (Translated by), Jacques Le Gall (Preface by) Cover Image
By Jean Giono, Paul Eprile (Translated by), Jacques Le Gall (Preface by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9781681375106
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: NYRB Classics - October 12th, 2021

When you're face to face with the problem of what we call living - which is, at bottom, simply the problem of passing your time - you soon realize that nothings going to change unless you change the way you think about things. Father and mother, wife and child, male and female neighbors: If you deal with them the way you’re expected to, you get nowhere. But if you don’t, what a miracle! Then things really do start to move: Green turns red, trout build their nests in bushes, mountains march on the slightest command. It’s the only way not to end up empty-handed.


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The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories By Mariana Enriquez, Megan McDowell (Translated by) Cover Image
By Mariana Enriquez, Megan McDowell (Translated by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780593134092
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hogarth - February 1st, 2022

At that age there’s music playing in your head all the time, as if a radio were transmitting from the nape of your neck, inside your skull. Then one day that music starts to grow softer, or it just stops. When that happens, you’re no longer a teenager


Novel 11, Book 18 By Dag Solstad, Sverre Lyngstad (Translated by) Cover Image
By Dag Solstad, Sverre Lyngstad (Translated by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9780811228268
Availability: Ships Today - Not Currently In-Store
Published: New Directions - June 1st, 2021

...he had also caught sight of something else about her, namely, that she was all the time under the influence of something that had long ago come to an end, which did not exist.


Birthday By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by) Cover Image
By César Aira, Chris Andrews (Translated by)
$13.95
ISBN: 9780811219099
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions - February 26th, 2019

At my age, it’s impossible to contemplate the eternities of time that I wasted in my youth without a certain horror. The lack of method, the capricious detours, the waiting for nothing. The hours, the days, the years, the decades squandered. And it is poetically just, in a way, that the apparent victim should have been the moon, that poetic reminder of wasted time.


The Book of Delights: Essays By Ross Gay Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781616207922
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Books - February 12th, 2019

Is sorrow the true wild?
And if it is - and if we join
them - your wild to mine -
what’s that?

For joining our sorrows, I’m saying. 
I’m saying: What if that is joy?


In Her Feminine Sign By Dunya Mikhail Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780811228763
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions - July 30th, 2019

All children are poets
until they quit the habit 
of reaching for butterflies
that are not there.

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I am haunted by the melody
of a forgotten song
sung while two hands
tied my sneakers into a ribbon
and waved me goodbye to school.


Hopscotch: A Novel By Julio Cortazar Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780394752846
Availability: Ships Today - Not Currently In-Store
Published: Pantheon - February 12th, 1987

...I wanted myself and I did not want anything else; I was what I wanted and I wanted what I was, and I was free of God and of everything…

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She would smile and show no surprise, convinced as she was, the same as I, that casual meetings are apt to be just the opposite, and that people who make dates are the same kind who need lines on their writing paper, or who always squeeze up from the bottom on a tube of toothpaste.


Complete Stories By Clarice Lispector, Katrina Dodson (Translated by), Benjamin Moser (Editor) Cover Image
By Clarice Lispector, Katrina Dodson (Translated by), Benjamin Moser (Editor)
$21.95
ISBN: 9780811227933
Availability: Ships Today - Not Currently In-Store
Published: New Directions - June 26th, 2018

...I forgive everything in people who can’t get ahold of themselves, people who ask themselves questions. People who look for reasons to live, as if life alone didn’t justify itself.

-----

The courage to be something other than what one is, to give birth to oneself, and to leave one’s former body on the ground. And without having answered to anyone about whether it was worthwhile.


Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962 - 1972 By Alejandra Pizarnik, Yvette Siegert (Translated by) Cover Image
By Alejandra Pizarnik, Yvette Siegert (Translated by)
$18.95
ISBN: 9780811223966
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Published: New Directions - May 17th, 2016

Solitude is not being able to articulate the solitude, being unable to circumvent it, unable to give it a face, unable to make it a synonym for any landscape. Solitude would be this torn melody of my phrases.

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The most beautiful of all
on the night of those who leave me:
You whom I long for, 
how endless your not-returning, 
you as shadow till the day of days.


2666: A Novel By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by) Cover Image
By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by)
$28.00
ISBN: 9780312429218
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Published: Picador - September 1st, 2009

You, eternal solitary wanderer, you who are so pensive, it may be you understand this life on earth, what our suffering and sighing is, what this death is, this last paling of the face, and leaving earth behind, abandoning all familiar, loving company.


The Spirit of Science Fiction: A Novel By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by) Cover Image
By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by)
$16.00
ISBN: 9780735222878
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Published: Penguin Books - February 4th, 2020

But the sunrise came, and the fear went away. It was a sunrise that said hello, hello, little cowards, hello, hello. Do you know who I am? as it pushed on the windowpane and pressed our shadows against the wall.


The End of the Affair: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) By Graham Greene, Michael Gorra (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Graham Greene, Michael Gorra (Introduction by)
$18.00
ISBN: 9780142437988
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Classics - August 31st, 2004

To me comfort is like the wrong memory at the wrong place or time: If one is lonely one prefers discomfort.


Jakob von Gunten By Robert Walser, Christopher Middleton (Translated by), Christopher Middleton (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Robert Walser, Christopher Middleton (Translated by), Christopher Middleton (Introduction by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9780940322219
Availability: Ships Today - Not Currently In-Store
Published: NYRB Classics - September 30th, 1999

Something great and audacious must happen in secrecy and silence, or it perishes and falls away and the fire that was awakened dies again.


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Her Body and Other Parties: Stories By Carmen Maria Machado Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555977887
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Published: Graywolf Press - October 3rd, 2017

Only then did I understand. Only then did I see the crystal outline of my past and future, conceive of what was above me (immerable stars, incalculable space) and what was below me (miles of endless dirt and stone). I understood that knowledge was a dwarfing, obliterating, all-consuming thing, and to have it was to both be grateful and suffer greatly. I was a creature so small, trapped in some crevice of an indifferent universe. But now, I knew.


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Binstead's Safari By Rachel Ingalls Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780811228466
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Directions - February 26th, 2019

If I don’t do something, she thought, nobody else will. I’ve got to do something. It’s already too late anyway, so why not? Could anything be worse than the way things are?


The Carrying: Poems By Ada Limón Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781571315137
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Published: Milkweed Editions - April 13th, 2021

I am always in too many worlds, sand sifting through my hands
    another me speeding through the air, another me waving
from a train window, watching you
    waving from a train window watching me.


Bright Dead Things: Poems By Ada Limón Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781571314710
Availability: Ships Today - Not Currently In-Store
Published: Milkweed Editions - September 15th, 2015

I like the lady horses best, 
how they make it all look easy, 
like running 40 miles per hour 
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass. 
I like their lady horse swagger, 
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up! 
But mainly, let’s be honest, I like 
that they’re ladies. As if this big 
dangerous animal is also a part of me, 
that somewhere inside the delicate 
skin of my body, there pumps 
an 8-pound female horse heart, 
giant with power, heavy with blood. 
Don’t you want to believe it? 
Don’t you want to lift my shirt and see 
the huge beating genius machine 
that thinks, no, it knows, 
it’s going to come in first.


Bluets By Maggie Nelson Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781933517407
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Wave Books - October 1st, 2009

For a wish to forget how much you loved someone - and then, to actually forget - can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart.


Infinite Jest (20th Anniversary Edition): A Novel By David Foster Wallace, Tom Bissell (Foreword by) Cover Image
By David Foster Wallace, Tom Bissell (Foreword by)
$22.99
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780316306058
Published: Back Bay Books - February 23rd, 2016

Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.

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The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.

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Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.

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It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.

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You can be shaped, or you can be broken. There is not much in between. Try to learn. Be coachable. Try to learn from everybody, especially those who fail. This is hard. ... How promising you are as a Student of the Game is a function of what you can pay attention to without running away.


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