Top Ten Tuesday: Great Quotes from Books I Read this Year

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic was to pick some of our favorite quotes from books we’ve read this year. So I went back through some of the books I read this year, and here’s what I came up with. Some books were hard to find quotes for, and others jumped out. It only made sense that all the quotes turned out to be about books/words/writing/stories. The first was an accident, the second was inevitable, and the third quote sealed the deal.

  • From George Eliot’s The Lifted Veil “We learn words by rote, but not their meaning; that must be paid for with our life-blood, and printed in the subtle fibres of our nerves.” 
  • From Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry “You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the questionWhat is your favorite book?” 
  • From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah “Why did people ask “What is it about?” as if a novel had to be about only one thing.”
  • From Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society “Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”
  • From Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea “Of course reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too.”
  • From Donna Tartt’s  The Secret History “I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”
  • From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”
  • From Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn “After all, every story has a story.”
  • From Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens “No one can tell a story without transforming it in some way; it is part of the magic of storytelling. Like the troubadors of the past, who hid their messages in poems, songs and fairy tales, I too would hide my true purpose [ … ]
    It was by telling stories that I would save myself.”
  • From Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.” 

 

I haven’t written up reviews on a couple of these, but those will be forthcoming, I promise.

Do you have a favorite quote about the power of words? Put that quote in the comments.

Women Writers Reading Challenge #34: The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

(Sorry I don’t have a picture of the book–it was just one of the things I forgot to do before leaving on vacation. Picture ocean waves and the title on the cover, and you’ll get the idea.)

Generally (and I mean very generally, I can think of loads of exceptions), books about middle-aged white male protagonists don’t hold my attention for very long. As interesting as the characters may be and as well written as the books may be, I’ve tried and failed to get into such touted books as Catch 22 and Catcher in the Rye. The problem usually is that I don’t identify with or feel much sympathy for the main character who is usually, despite his situation, still among the most privileged members of his generation. And the self-pity, woe is me attitude is just kind of grating. Everything about Iris Murdoch’s book therefore was sure to lose me at page one, but the charmingly decayed house Shruff End on the little island in the English Channel and the enormous presence of the sea kept me hooked.

Charles Arrowby is a contradicting character. Sometimes he was infuriating at other times, endearing. He would say and think things that made me want to wring his neck, but then he was so vulnerable, so obviously lost in his own delusions, that it would bring me back.

The book is quite long, and moves slowly through Charles’ mind. It’s presented as an autobiography or memoir or almost journal, but for the most part proceeds like any novel, though a highly self-conscious one. It’s sort of hard to describe because of its contradictions, but taken as a whole it is a tightly woven character study of one man in the twilight years of his life. It is reflective, hopeful, and tragic. There’s a kind of wonderful magical quality to it as well as catalogues of the hopelessly mundane.

I’ve never read Murdoch before, but this is her 19th novel, the fourth to be nominated for the Booker prize, and the first to win it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone in the mood for contemplation and entering another person’s world. I caution you that it doesn’t move quickly, and that you should be prepared to take your time.