Tag Archives: best quotes about books

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.

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Reading Is, in the Highest Sense, Exercise

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsBooks are to be call’d for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is nor a half-sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay — the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds well-train’d, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, not on a few coteries of writers.

From Prose Works of Walt Whitman (1819-1892),one of the most influential American poets, considered the father of free verse. He believed that there was s symbiotic relationship between society and the poet: “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.” His seminal work, Leaves of Grass, published in 1855, celebrates nature and man’s relationship to it. Whitman was known for his unfettered experience of nature: he was an unabashed nudist and greatly enjoyed sunbathing in the nude.

Books are Magic Doors

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsBooks are, indeed, “Magic Doors” through which one can walk into innumerable wonderful worlds. The desirable thing — if chance has not solved the matter for us — is to enter first through the door which attracts us personally. The book to start with is the book which will cause the most intense mental excitement and leave an indelible impression that books can be alive. The individual should begin with those books which deal with subjects or people or places which exercise some strong attraction on his curiosity.

American journalist Jesse Lee Bennett (1885-1931) from What Books Can Do For You: A Sketch Map of the Frontiers of Knowledge (1923)

For further reading: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b658756;view=1up;seq=34

Books: The Best Companions

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsWhile you converse with lords and dukes,
I have their betters here, my books:
Fix’d in an elbow-chair at ease,
I choose companions as I please.
I’d rather have one single shelf
Than all my friends, except yourself;
For, after all that can be said,
Our best acquaintance are the dead.

Excerpt from a letter written in 1726 by Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738), an Anglican cleric, essayist, poet, and schoolmaster, to his close friend, Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) who was at that time the Dean (senior cleric) of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. The letter appears in The Poems of Thomas Sheridan edited by Robert Hogan. 

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Judging Books

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsNever judge a book by its movie.


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I Am What Libraries Have Made Me

atkins-bookshelf-booksThe wise philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus was extremely curious and according to biographer Diogenes Laetius (Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, circa 250 AD), taught himself by asking himself questions. In this regard, Heraclitus (for the prurient-minded, the correct pronunciation is: “HARE-ah-clie-tuss”) had a very unconventional — not to mention low-cost — education; he was a walking classroom, absorbing everything around him: “the things that can be seen, heard, and learned are what I prize the most.” But the greatest teacher for Heraclitus were the books he discovered in the libraries of Greece; his famous statement, which has resounded throughout the centuries, is the ultimate testament to libraries: “I am what libraries and librarians have made me, with little assistance from a professor of Greek and poets.” Astute readers will note Heraclitus’s subtle dig at the academe — which explains why you will never see this quote on a college recruitment brochure or website.

Heraclitus, and any bibliophile, would welcome the stunningly beautiful coffee table book that honors the glorious library, the temple of books: The Library: A World History by James Campbell. In the introduction, Campbell, who is fellow and director of studies in architecture and history of art at Queens’ College, Cambridge, notes the critical role of libraries in culture: “Libraries can be much more than simply places to store books. Throughout the ages, the designs of the greatest library buildings have celebrated the act of reading and the importance of learning. They have become emblems of culture, whether it be for an individual, an institution, or even a whole nation.” Campbell’s oversized book is full of engravings and lush photos (by London photographer Will Pryce) of some of the world’s greatest libraries from the Middle Ages to the modern age. The author introduces the reader to the very first libraries of the ancient world, established between 5400 BC to 600 AD, that were lost to the sands of time: the library at Ebla, the library of Ashurbanipal, the Temple of Horus, the Attalid library, the library of Pergamum, the library of Celsus, and the legendary library of Alexandria that  housed up to 700,00o works. The book concludes by showcasing the libraries of the modern, digital world: the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum (Japan); the Information, Communications and Media Center, BTU Cottbus (Germany), the Ultrecht University Library (Netherlands); the National Library of China (China); the Bodleian Library (England); the Grimm Center (Germany), and the very humble, by comparison to the others, Liyuan Library (China). After reading this book, you cannot help but develop a profound appreciation for Heraclitus’s remark about libraries. This book, awash in a sea of  thousands of ebooks, is truly remarkable and belongs on the bookshelf of every bibliophile.

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For further reading: The Library: A World History by James Campbell, University of Chicago Press (2013)

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