Top Ten Tuesday: Words to Savor

This week, the folks at the Broke and the Bookish want to know your Top Ten Favorite Quotes from books.  I am in luck, because I actually have a notebook where I write those things down!

More accurately, it’s a notebook where I wrote those things down.  The last entry is at least five years old.  The first is from 1999, when my best friend Sarah gave the book to me.  Amazingly, I still have it, and more amazingly, I was able to lay my hands on it in under two minutes.  (Good present, Sarah.)

So, here are eight great quotes from my Nothing Book.  (I decided that since a few of them are rather long, eight was probably enough.)  Read my list, click on over to see a bunch of other Broke and Bookish lists, and then tell us your favorite book quote in the comments.


“The girl, Maggie, blossomed in a mud-puddle.”

–Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.

I mean, obviously.


She took walks, and was sensible about shoes and diet.  And never did she feel that she was living.

–Sinclair Lewis, Main Street.

I have twice started this book and failed to finish it, but this quote makes me want to try again.


“Are you the ones who broke my toys?” Walter asked.

“Accidents,” said the lion.  “All accidents.”

–David McPhail, Those Terrible Toybreakers.

A favorite book from my childhood.  My father and I will still say these lines to each other.  (And now I get to read them with Zoe, whose favorite line from this book concerns a warm mug of cocoa.)


I don’t remember feeling such relief at the start of an affair: I’m not afraid.  It’s like the joy of meeting someone who knows your favorite cousin–everything proceeds from this momentous, bridging fact.  Like two Maine license plates honking and waving on a California freeway: the warmth of shared exile; two ugly stel-siblings meeting at a ball, smiling and waltzing and, having no fairy godmother, not having to rush off in a tizzy like Cinderella, who was all jitters and economics, foot small as her bank account.  We don’t have to rush home, we can dance all night, curfewless and happy, our feet warty and huge as skateboards.”

–Lorrie Moore, “The Nun of That”, Anagrams.

A happy quote from a sad book.  I think it’s lovely.  And can’t you just picture those huge warty feet?


In this moment she felt that she had been robbed of an enormous number of valuable things, whether material or intangible: things lost or broken by her own fault, things she had forgotten and left in houses when she moved: books borrowed from her and not returned, journeys she had planned and had not made, words she had waited to hear spoken to her and had not heard, and the words she had meant to answer with; bitter alternatives and intolerable substitutes worse than nothing, and yet inescapable: the long patient suffering of dying friendships and the dark inexplicable death of love–all that she had had, and all that she had missed, were lost together, and were twice lost in this landslide of remembered losses.

–Katherine Anne Porter, “Theft”, The Flowering Judas Tree and Other Stories

Preach it, sister.  Preach.  I like this one so much I have even written about it before.


“It wasn’t easy, Dad,” Ethan said.  “Finding you.  I don’t want you to ever go away again.”

“I won’t,” his father said.

It was the kind of promise a father makes easily and sincerely, knowing at the same time that it will be impossible to keep.  The truth of some promises is not as important as whether or not you can believe in them, with all your heart.  A game of baseball can’t really make a summer day last forever.  A home run can’t really heal all the broken places in our world, or in a single human heart.  And there was no way that Mr. Feld could keep his promise never to leave Ethan again.  All parents leave their children one day.  Ethan knew that better now than he had ever known it before.  But he was glad to have the promise nevertheless.

They stopped talking for a long time, and just lay there, shoulder to shoulder, in the sunshine on the grass.

–Michael Chabon, Summerland

Such a lovely and wise comment on parenting, promises, and baseball, from Michael Chabon’s wonderful novel for young people.


She’s alone, they kept telling themselves, and surely she danced in no one’s arms, yet somehow that seemed to matter less and less.  As the night went on, and clarinet and coyote call mingled beyond the lantern light, the magic of their own powder-blue jackets and orchids seemed to fade, and it came to them in small sensations that they were more alone than she was.

–Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl

Stargirl is a little bit of a manic pixie dream girl, but there is something beautiful and true that Spinelli captures, particularly in this passage.


“And when will we be safe?” the queen asked.

“Only when he stops bleeding or is left behind.”

“We don’t leave our wounded behind,” the queen said, “even if they are heroes who beg for it.”

“Even if it may lead to the death of your child?”

The queen lifted her head almost like an animal catching a scent, and she said, “Yes, even if it may lead to that.”

“It means that we must ride slowly,” the captain told her, eyes cast down, “while our pursuers ride fast.”

These were hardly easy times for the queen, but she only grew in her graces.  “You have observed deer, Captain, have you not?  You have even hunted them?”

“Yes, Majesty.”

“So have I observed them.  They are born to be hunted and pursued, and they are born defenseless.  I watched in the forest when I was a girl, and then, later, after I had become queen, and my nobles hunted them.  All they can do is run, and they do, but many of them are taken.  How is it, do you suppose, that they can live, knowing this, knowing that at any time their children can be cut down, or they themselves, leaving children alone in the world?  How is it, Captain, that, knowing this, they can live?

“I don’t know, Majesty.  I only hunted them.  I did not put myself in their place.”

“Now you are in their place.”


“And now you must do as they do.”

“Be nervous, Majesty?”

She laughed.  “No, not nervous, but alert.  And grateful.  Let all sensation thunder in, stay with those you love, and trust in the time you have left.”

And then, knowing that our time was marked, we mounted and rode on, lifted by love and defiance, listening to all sound, galloping toward mountains and light.

–Mark Helprin, The Veil of Snows

If you have not read this trilogy (The Veil of Snows is the third book), you simply must.  Did I mention the Chris Van Allsburg illustrations?

Your turn!  What are the quotes from books that make you break out the highlighter, or a notebook of your own?



Filed under Book Report

13 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Words to Savor

  1. i really like your tuesday lists. they are cute! have a look at my blog when you get a chance. i feel you might like it….


  2. I’ve read both #1 and #5, though it has been YEARS. The quotes are terrific, and remind me how much I enjoyed those books.


  3. Desiree Helstrom

    “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” -Aibileen in “The Help”


  4. Sarah Fox Sparber

    so glad your “nothing book” is still around and serving a purpose! I wonder if I have one somewhere…love these quotes!


  5. Jenny Olsztynski

    Wonderful quotes for some books I have not read but will add to my list. Thanks for all the work you put into this!


    • Oh, yay! This was actually one of the easier Top Ten Tuesdays for me, since I limited myself to quotes I already had written down. I did do a fair amount of typing, though!


  6. You have some really beautiful quotes there 🙂 Nice top10 🙂

    My Top10


  7. Maggie, try “Babbitt” instead of “Main Street.” I think it’s by far the best Sinclaire Lewis book, better than “Elmer Gantry,” too.


  8. Pingback: Top Ten Top Tens! | Never Done It That Way Before

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