Books on books

What do we get from reading? Books and their creators speak up for themselves.

Photograph: Getty Images

Photograph: Getty Images

Thu, Apr 24, 2014, 00:10

‘And now I have finished the work, which neither the wrath of Jove, nor fire, nor the sword, nor devouring age shall be able to destroy.’
Ovid, Metamorphoses (8 AD)

‘Provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.’
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1817)

‘Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.’
Robert Louis Stevenson, Memories and Portraits (1887)

‘There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.’
Oscar Wilde, A Picture of Dorian Grey (1890)

‘Classic. A book which people praise and don’t read.’
Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)

“The taste for books was an early one. As a child he was sometimes found at midnight by a page still reading. They took his taper away, and he bred glow-worms to serve his purpose. They took the glow-worms away and he almost burnt the house down with a tinder.”
Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

‘I read biographies backwards, beginning with the death. If that takes my fancy I go through the rest. Childhood seldom interests me at all.’
Alan Bennett, Writing Home (1994)

“An entire life spent reading would have fulfilled my every desire; I already knew that at the age of seven. The texture of the world is painful, inadequate; unalterable, or so it seems to me. Really, I believe that an entire life spent reading would have suited me best.”
Michel Houellebecq, Whatever (1994)

‘Readers and writers are united in their need for solitude.’
Jonathan Franzen, How to be Alone (2002)

“I go back to the reading room, where I sink down in the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fadeout, the real world evaporates. I’m alone, inside the world of the story. My favourite feeling in the world.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (2002)

“There was I, devouring books and yet allowing a man who had never read a book to walk me home for a bit of harmless fumbling on the front steps.”
Edna O’Brien, Country Girl (2012)

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