Top Ten Tuesday: Wise, Witty, Wonderful Words

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl asks us to list our ten favourite quotations from books, but I have taken a slightly different approach to the topic. There are so many passages I love from so many books that I would never be able to narrow them down to ten favourites – or even remember them all (which is why, for the last few years, I have been putting together my monthly Commonplace Book posts so that I will have some sort of record to look back on in the future).

Back to today’s post, though, and I have turned to Goodreads for help. Those of you who use Goodreads may know that there is a ‘Quotes’ function where you can find, ‘like’ and save notable quotations – and I have quite a few stored there, from which I have picked out ten that I found beautiful, funny, interesting or memorable in some way. Not necessarily all-time favourites, then, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading them anyway.


1. One that all book lovers will understand:

“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.”

Alan Bennett – The Uncommon Reader


2. One from a favourite children’s book:

“Animals don’t behave like men,’ he said. ‘If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.”

Richard Adams – Watership Down


3. One I find beautiful and inspiring:

“A hard truth: that courage can be without meaning or impact, need not be rewarded, or even known. The world has not been made in that way. Perhaps, however, within the self there might come a resonance, the awareness of having done something difficult, of having done…something.”

Guy Gavriel Kay – The Last Light of the Sun


4. One of my favourite opening lines:

“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

Rafael Sabatini – Scaramouche


5. One that I can identify with at the moment:

“Are there any leading men in your life?”

“Several, but they’re all fictional.”

Catherine Lowell – The Madwoman Upstairs


6. One with which anyone who has read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles will sympathise:

“I wish to God,” said Gideon with mild exasperation, “that you’d talk – just once – in prose like other people.”

Dorothy Dunnett – The Game of Kings


7. One from a favourite classic:

“Some of us rush through life and some of us saunter through life. Mrs. Vesey sat through life.”

Wilkie Collins – The Woman in White


8. One of Dickens’ best:

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”

Charles Dickens – Great Expectations


9. One which gives us some good advice:

“The past can teach us, nurture us, but it cannot sustain us. The essence of life is change, and we must move ever forward or the soul will wither and die.”

Susanna Kearsley – Mariana


10. One I find comforting when I’m having a bad day:

“Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day.”

William Shakespeare – Macbeth


Do you have any favourite quotations? How do you remember them? Do you keep a notebook or do you record them online somewhere?

32 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Wise, Witty, Wonderful Words

  1. Karen K. says:

    So many great quotes! I do have a saved list on Goodreads, and I also have a list in my notes app on my phone. I should really find a way to save them all together.

    I especially love the quote about Mrs. Vesey sitting through life — I often wonder if I’m reading my way through life — which may or may not be a bad thing.

    And the quote about the literary leading men is really funny. Had not heard of that author, will have to look for her.

    • Helen says:

      I do have quite a few saved on Goodreads and, more recently, included in my monthly summary posts, but I know there must be a lot more that I loved and have no record of at all. I need to be more organised!

      I love the literary leading men quote…I have plenty of those. 🙂

  2. Carmen says:

    I used to have a quotation notebook in my teens. Not anymore. I usually highlight passages or sentences in books but then I finish it and they are gone, unless they are powerful enough to make me want to include them in my reviews, which doesn’t happen that often I suppose.

    I have memorized notable passages from certain books I have read, such as the first paragraph of William Tell, the initial paragraph and the last sentence of A Hundred Years of Solitude, and a passage near the end of The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier. I also know entire poems from memory, and sometimes I repeat them like mantra, finding new reasons to like them.

    • Helen says:

      I do try to make a note of favourite passages as I read but usually forget to include any of them in my reviews, which is why I started putting my Commonplace Book posts together instead. There must be many more that I loved at the time and then forgot about, though.

      Well done for memorising those passages and poems! I remember my school English teacher telling us that everyone should know at least one poem from memory.

  3. Ocean Bream says:

    I love this. I loved the quote from The Madwoman Upstairs. My favourite has to be the eloquent piece from Watership Down. It’s poignant, and precise, and exposes humanity in such a raw way, using such little words. Our conscious, world-aware brains are dangerous things.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve always loved that quote from Watership Down – so insightful and relevant. It’s so much more than just a children’s book about rabbits!

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    I am supremely lazy about noting down quotes I like. I rely on my blogger friends to remind me of them! So thanks.
    I have been watching The Crown and thinking about how much I loved The Uncommon Reader as I watch Elizabeth having to learn all those life lessons about being a Queen. If only she had read novels!

    • Helen says:

      I’m getting better at noting down quotes, but still forget too many of them. I loved The Uncommon Reader too. And yes, you can learn so many life lessons from novels!

  5. Lark says:

    Great quotes! I especially love the Wilkie Collins and the Catherine Lowell. Though that Macbeth quote is pretty awesome, too. I posted 10 of my favorite quotes, too. 😀

  6. cirtnecce says:

    Such a lovely collection Helen! I cannot decide which one I love the best! Though I must confess a tinsy winsy more partiality towards Watership Down and Madwoman Upstairs!

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