Books on books

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

Photograph: Getty Images

Photograph: Getty Images


‘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)

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.