The Best Classic Book Quotes

old classic books

Yes, this list of the best classic book quotes is a Top Ten Tuesday post even though there is no “ten” in my title.  Why?  Well, because quotes are some of my favourite things and I was pretty certain I couldn’t stop at ten.  Let’s see how it goes ….



Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Ovid:  Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim (Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.)

C.S. Lewis: “Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.  It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.  The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

Ralph Waldo Emerson:  “The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:  “We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

Thomas Merton: “The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men!  A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!”

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri

Dante Aligheri: “Oh human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?”

Dorothy L. Sayers:  “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair …. It is the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

Søren Kierkegaard:  “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Cicero: “Times are bad.  Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”

Albert Einstein: “There are two things that are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

Aristotle: “It is absurd to hold that a man should be ashamed of an inability to defend himself with his limbs, but not ashamed of an inability to defend himself with speech and reason; for the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs.”

Cicero:  “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

Victor Hugo:  “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have labouriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.  God is awake.”


What a fun Top Ten Tuesday topic!  It would be great if you could let me know in the comments what your favourite classic book quotes are or just your favourite quotes in general.

And if you like quotes as much as I do, you can follow my board on Pinterest where I’m collecting even more of them!

Other Top Ten Tuesday posts:

My Top Ten Favourite reviews

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward To Reading This Year

Top Ten Spring Books


Top Ten Tuesday Ten Books I Didn't Get To in 2018


Top photo courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood


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29 thoughts on “The Best Classic Book Quotes

  1. I love this! And surprise, surprise, so many of them feature on my most often “quoted” quotes, including Einstein, Cicero and Kierkegaard. i loved the CS Lewis piece. Which essay/book is this?

    • Well, it doesn’t surprise me at all that we have quotes in common, sister! 🙂 I believe C.S. Lewis’ quote is from his God in the Dock essay book. I really must dig that out soon. I’ve read some of the essays but not all. I’m especially interested in Why I Am Not A Pacifist and Priestesses in the Church? Sigh! Can you lend me some time to read? 😉

        • I know what you mean. Life is too busy. I’m only about 20% into Johnson’s memoir so you have time to catch up!

  2. Love this! I wouldn’t know where to begin (or end!)…One I like:

    ‘The house of my soul is narrow for Your entry.
    Let it be enlarged by You.
    It is in ruins. Rebuild it. (Augustine)

  3. These are great! I especially like Cicero’s, “Times are bad…” and Einstein’s “stupidity” quotes. I had a good laugh! Love Emerson’s, too. I cannot wait to read him again.

    • Yes, I thought I should add a laugh or two as some of them were rather serious. I should have added Wilde too, and perhaps Jerome K. Jerome, but there is only so much time. Next time.

  4. Love all of these. So clever!

    Here are a few of my favorite classic quotes:

    “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”

    ― Henry David Thoreau

    “…I became aware of the world’s tenderness, the profound beneficence of all that surrounded me, the blissful bond between me and all of creation, and I realized that the joy I sought in you was not only secreted within you, but breathed around me everywhere, in the speeding street sounds, in the hem of a comically lifted skirt, in the metallic yet tender drone of the wind, in the autumn clouds bloated with rain. I realized that the world does not represent a struggle at all, or a predaceous sequence of chance events, but the shimmering bliss, beneficent trepidation, a gift bestowed upon us and unappreciated.”

    ― Vladimir Nabokov

    “Quand tu veux construire un bateau, ne commence pas par rassembler du bois, couper des planches et distribuer du travail, mais reveille au sein des hommes le desir de la mer grande et large.

    If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

    ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    • Wonderful quotes, Deb. Thanks so much for sharing them. Is the last one from The Little Prince? I absolutely must read that book. I’ve left it unread for too long. Thoreau always has meaningful things to say and Nabokov I have yet to read. I’m going to save these.

    • Glad I made you cheer! 😉 I think you and Cicero would both like and respect each other. Please let me know when you meet! 😉

    • Welcome, Brooke! Lewis is a great connoisseur of human nature. He has some great quotes. And Aristotle is the same. I could have chosen so many by him.

  5. These are great! Some of them made me chuckle, too (actually, Cicero made me LOL). 🙂

    I didn’t know you are on Pinterest! I’m not on there often but I just followed you (username “magellania”).

    Some random classic book quotes I really like (some of the books I haven’t read though):

    “I used to watch the line where earth and sky met, and long to go and seek there for some great city where life should be grander and newer than our own—and then it struck me that life may be grand enough even in a prison.” – The Idiot, Dostoyevsky

    “Maybe working on the little things as dutifully and honestly as we can is how we stay sane when the world is falling apart.” – Samsa in Love, Haruki Murakami

    “That’s the trouble, isn’t it – we study ourselves intently, and then imagine we know other people.” – A Month in the Country, Ivan Turgenev

    “I don’t like work – no man does – but I like what is in the work – the chance to find yourself.” – Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

    “You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.” – An Enemy of the People, Henrik Ibsen

    • Awesome, Marian! Thanks so much for these quotes. I especially like Turgenev and Dostoyevsky’s. Turgenev’s quote reminds me a little of Thomas Merton’s quote. I’ve followed you on Pintrest as well. I’m on more than I should be. 😉

    • Lol! No, I’m not surprised. Whenever I hear Turgenev’s name now, I think of you. Have you finished all his works yet?

      • Haha, no not yet. He has a surprising amount of stories and plays. And thats not counting his literary criticism and letters….. you wouldnt know it but he was just as prolific as Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekov!

  6. Some great quotes! I especially liked the first Cicero – “…and everyone’s writing a book” – ha! I don’t do well at remembering quotes I like, but it’s always fun to read through a sample of good ones.

    • Cicero is funny in his own way. And Einstein’s hilarious! Just reading his quotes made me want to know more about him.

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