Category Archives: Quotations

Patriotism Means To Stand by the Country

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsPatriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him in so far as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth — whether about the President or about anyone else — save in the rare cases where this would make known to the enemy information of military value which would otherwise be unknown to him.

From the article entitled “Lincoln and Free Speech” published in Metropolitan Magazine (May 1918, Volume 47, Number 6) written by American statesman and writer Theodore Roosevelt, who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. A common variant of the quotation appears as “Patriotism means to stand with the country. It does not mean to stand with the President.”

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There Are Two Educations

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThere are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.

Although this quotation is often attributed to John Adams (1735-1826) — and it certainly sounds like something he would have said —  it was actually written by James Truslow Adams (1878-1949), an American historian and writer, in the essay “To Be or to Do: A Note on American Education,” appearing in the publication, Forum (June 1929). Adams (no relation to the second President of the United States) is best known for coining the term “American Dream” in The Epic of America (1931). Adams defined the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” Adams was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for History for the first volume of a three-volume history of New England.

Read related post: The Paradox of the American Dream

Books Are Like Seeds — They Lie Dormant for Centuries

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic. This room [in the New York Public Library] is full of magic… More recently, books, especially paperbacks, have been printed in massive and inexpensive editions. For the price of a modest meal you can ponder the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the origin of species, the interpretation of dreams, the nature of things. Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.”

Excerpt from American astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan’s thirteen-part television series, Cosmos: A Personal Journey, Episode 11 entitled “The Persistence of Memory.” The science-themed documentary, featuring music by Greek composer Vangelis, was broadcast on PBS in 1980. The mini-series, which won a Peabody Award and two Emmies, was watched by more than 500 million people in over 60 countries. 

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Read related posts: Carl Sagan’s Reflection on the Pale Blue Dot
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The Wisdom of Tom Wolfe

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsAcclaimed American author and journalist Tom Wolfe (not to be confused with another famous American author, Thomas Wolfe, who wrote You Can’t Go Home Again and Look Homeward Angel) passed away on May 14, 2018. He was instantly recognized wherever he went, because since the early sixties, he always wore a white suit (accessorized by a white homburg hat, white tie, and traditional two-tone shoes), in the style of a Southern gentleman (Mark Twain was also fond of white suits). Wolfe believed that his suit put people at ease; he figured they thought “[here is] a man from Mars, the man who didn’t know anything and was eager to know.”

Aside from his trademark white suite, Wolfe was known for his best-selling works — The Right Stuff, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Text, The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and I Am Charlotte Simmons. He is also recognized as a pioneer of “New Journalism.” “So what is new journalism?” you ask. Fair question. Literary critics believe that it emerged in the early 1960s and began its decline in the 1980s. Wolfe described it this way: “[New Journalism] is a form that is not merely like a novel. It consumes devices that happen to have originated with the novel and mixes them with every other device known to prose. And all the while, quite beyond matters of technique, it enjoys an advantage so obvious, so built-in, one almost forgets what power it has: the simple fact that the reader knows all this actually happened. The disclaimers have been erased. The screen is gone. The writer is one step closer to the absolute involvement of the reader that Henry James and James Joyce dreamed of but never achieved.” Thus, in general, New Journalism focuses on subjectivism and “truth” whereas traditional journalism is characterized by objectivity and facts. To present a subjective perspective, the new journalist employs four techniques borrowed form literary fiction: (1) presenting the narrative through scenes; (2) complete conversational dialogue; (3) multiple third-person point-of-view, and (4) recording everyday details. Pioneers of the New Journalism include Norman Mailer, Jimmy Breslin, Truman Capote, Gay Talese, Hunter Thompson, Joan Didion, and of course, Tom Wolfe. Most of these writers were often featured in the tend-setting magazines of their time — Esquire, The Rolling Stone, and New York.

Tom Wolfe was erudite and opinionated — and never afraid to speak his mind. Here are some of his insights on reading, writing, and the life of the mind:

“The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it. ”

“[Being a writer] is the hardest work in the world. The only thing that will get you through it is maybe someone will applaud when it’s over.”

“To me, the great joy of writing is discovering. Most writers are told to write about what they know, but I still love the adventure of going out and reporting on things I don’t know about.”

“I do novels a bit backward. I look for a situation, a milieu first, and then I wait to see who walks into it.”

“Art is a creed, not a craft.”

“It’s fortunate that I am a writer, because that has helped me understand the properties of words. They are what have made life complex. In the battle for status in the animal kingdom, power and aggressiveness have been all-important. But among humans, once they acquired speech, all that changed.”

“Love is the ultimate expression of the will to live.”

“The modern notion of art is an essentially religious or magical one in which the artist is viewed as a holy beast who in some way, big or small, receives flashes from the godhead, which is known as creativity.”

“We must be careful to make a distinction between the intellectual and the person of intellectual achievement. They two are very, very different animals. There are people of intellectual achievement who increase the sum of human knowledge, the powers of human insight, and analysis. And then there are the intellectuals. An intellectual is a person knowledgeable in one field who speaks out only in others.”

“A lie may fool someone else, but it tells you the truth: you’re weak.”

“[Aldous Huxley] compared the brain to a ‘reducing valve’. In ordinary perception, the senses send an overwhelming flood of information to the brain, which the brain then filters down to a trickle it can manage for the purpose of survival in a highly competitive world. Man has become so rational, so utilitarian, that the trickle becomes most pale and thin. It is efficient, for mere survival, but it screens out the most wondrous part of man’s potential experience without his even knowing it. We’re shut off from our own world.”

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For further reading: The New Journalism by Tom Wolfe
The Gang That Wouldn’t Write Straight by Marc Weingarten

Every Human Creature is a Profound Secret and Mystery to Every Other

alex atkins bookshelf quotationswonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?

From Chapter 3, “The Night Shadows” from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. In this passage, the narrator reflects on one of the truisms of life: that each person remains a mystery to one another; each person is inscrutable all the way to the grave. Or expressed another way, if a person is a book, one might catch a glimpse of one or two pages, but the rest of the book remains unread and thus unknowable.

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The Wisdom of Mothers

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThere is a wonderful line in the play, Double Falsehood (or The Distrest Lovers) (1727) by Lewis Theobald: “The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven’s lieutenants.” (Incidentally, this quotation is often mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare.) The metaphor speaks to the enormous influence that parents have on their children — not only by what they say (as the quotation suggests), but what they doBookshelf honors mothers who have the most demanding and important job in the world, with the wisdom of mothers.

Zora Neale Hurston: ” Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

Mother Jones: “Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflicts.”

Alice Walker: “It’s so clear that you have to cherish everyone. I think that’s what I get from these older black women, that every should is to be cherished, that every flower is to bloom.”

Virginia Woolf: “But I don’t think of the future, or the past. I feast on the moment. This is the secret of happiness, but only reached now in middle age.”

Charlotte Bronte: “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among rocks.”

George Eliot: “That quiet mutual gaze of a trusting husband and wife is like the first moment of rest or refuge from a great weariness or a great danger.”

Agatha Christie: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushed down remorsely all that stands in its path.”

Coretta Scott King: “Struggle is never ending process. Freedom is never really won — you earn it and win it in every generation.

Marian Wright Edelman: “Never work just for money or for power. They won’t save your soul or help you sleep at night.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”

Jane Fonda: “I think that is one reason why women live longer than men. Friendship between women is different than friendship between men. We talk about different things. We delve deep… It’s my women friends that keep starch in my spine and without them, I don’t know where I would be.

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Read related posts: What is the Toughest Job in the World?
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For further reading: A Woman’s Book of Inspiration by Carol Kelly-Gangi
Mom Candy: 1,000 Quotes of Inspiration for Mothers by Jena Pincott


Books Are as Important as Friends

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“I know there are good books and bad books. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It can be philosophy. It can be history. Really, when it comes to books, it is its value, its depth. You make an acquaintance with a book as you do with a person. After ten or fifteen pages, you know with whom you have to deal. When you have a good book, you really have something of importance. Books are as important as friends and maybe more so. Because all of us are living in very limited circles, books enable us to run away from them.”

Shimon Peres, former Israeli Prime Minister, during an interview from Independence Hall (July 4, 1996), where he was awarded the Liberty Medal. The Liberty Medal is awarded each year by the National Constitution Center to “men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.” Previous medal award recipients include the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Malala Yousafzai, and Vaclav Havel.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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The Books that Most People Begin Reading but Don’t Finish

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