17 quotes for book lovers about the therapy of reading

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Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living: a Reader’s Guide to Life was published earlier this year, five years after the author’s fantastic memoir and celebration of reading, The End of Your Life Book Club.

Since writing my review, I’ve been pondering the book and asking some questions about my own reading habits. First and foremost, why am I not reading as much fiction these days?

Reading fiction is how I wind down, escape from work and worries, and become a better me. The business and self-improvement books I can sometimes gravitate towards don’t cut it.

To help keep this in mind, here are some of the many quotes I highlighted, underlined, and applauded in Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living. I hope that other keen readers will enjoy these too.

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The best quotes for book lovers about the therapy of reading

1. On looking to books for answers

“I believe that everything you need to know you can find in a book.”

2. On being a librarian, bookseller and reader

“At home, I’m a librarian, forever curating my collection. Outside of my apartment, I’m a bookseller – hand-selling my favorite books to everyone I encounter. There’s a name for someone who behaves the way I do: Reader.”

3. Reading makes us feel less alone

“By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. Perhaps that is why reading is one of the few things you can do alone that makes you feel less alone; it’s a solitary activity that connects you to others.”

4. Talking about books is the greatest gift

“I now say that a book is the second greatest gift. I’ve come to believe that the greatest gift you can give people is to take the time to talk with them about a book you’ve shared. A book is a great gift; the gift of your interest and attention is even greater.”

5. Searching for books to help us make sense of the world

“I’m on a search – and have been, I now realize, all my life – to find books to help me make sense of the world, to help me become a better person, to help me get my head around the big questions that I have and answer some of the small ones while I’m at it.”

6. On accidentally discovering books that change your life

“Especially when I’m at my happiest, I’m unlikely to search for a book to make me happier. But it’s often during those periods of nonseeking that I’ve stumbled across a book that has changed my life.”

7. One question we should ask more often

“There’s one question I think we should ask of one another a lot more often, and that’s ‘What are you reading?'”

8. Don’t ignore book recommendations from the universe

“Every now and then the universe tells you what book you need to read; it does this by placing the name of that book and author in front of you in various contexts, until you can’t help but take note. You ignore book recommendations from the universe at your peril.”

9. The best part of interrupting a book with a nap

“The best thing about a nap that interrupts my reading is that it often enriches my experience of a book by allowing my subconscious to place me in it. During these naps I might find myself galloping across the moors with Heathcliff or spending Mondays and Wednesdays with Morrie.”

10. Books improve us without us trying

“But much of fiction’s effect is, I think, subliminal. It changes us even though we don’t know we are being changed… I would like to think that even with inconsistent effort on my part, I’m not less proud and prejudiced than I was when I first met Lizzy Bennet, even though I’m still plenty proud and prone to prejudice. (Must read again.)”

11. Books and people are bound together

“Books and people are bound together. I can’t think about certain books and not about certain people, some living and some dead. The joy I’ve had from these books and from these people, and all I’ve learned from them, merge into one stream in my mind.”

12. Every book changes your life

“I’m not the same reader when I finish a book as I was when I started. Brains are tangles of pathways, and reading creates new ones. Every book changes your life. So I like to ask: “How is this book changing mine?”

13. Reading is an art

“Reading is an art we practice our whole lives. It’s not like tying a shoe – it’s like ink painting or flower arranging.”

14. Books don’t need to be thick enough to stop bullets

“A book doesn’t need to be thick enough to stop bullets. It doesn’t need to lower your cholesterol. It doesn’t even need to be a force for social good, though it’s tremendous when it is. It just needs to be ‘an affirmation of life against the transcience of that life, an essential defiance.’ It just needs to be the book you need when you need it.

15. Reading brings with it responsibility

“Books have played a role in almost every one of the world’s great civil and human rights movements, but only because people who read then decided to act. Reading brings with it responsibility.”

16. On beautiful endings

“It’s a book that ends with four of the sweetest words in the English language: ‘Serve with warm gingerbread.'” (Writing about The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis.)

17. Reading widely is a way to become more fully human – and more humane

“Reading all different kinds of books is not simply reading all different kinds of books; it’s a way of becoming more fully human and more humane.”

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