Pithy Quotes on Reading

“Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe” — Thomas Jefferson (1816)

“Reading is merely a surrogate for thinking for yourself; it means letting someone else direct your thoughts. Many books, moreover, serve merely to show how many ways there are of being wrong, and how far astray you yourself would go if you followed their guidance. You should read only when your own thoughts dry up, which will of course happen frequently enough even to the best heads; but to banish your own thoughts so as to take up a book is a sin against the holy ghost; it is like deserting untrammeled nature to look at a herbarium or engravings of landscapes.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (originally published in Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2 (1851))

Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself…. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms. — Angela Carter (Marxism Today, London: Jan. 1985)

“Reading more than life teaches us to recognize ethos and pathos.” — Mason Cooley (City Aphorisms, Twelfth Selection, New York (1993))

“The reading public is intellectually adolescent at best, and it is obvious that what is called “significant literature” will only be sold to this public by exactly the same methods as are used to sell it toothpaste, cathartics and automobiles.” — Raymond Chandler (Letter, January 29, 1946, to crime novelist Erle Stanley Gardner)

“Reading … is an activity subsequent to writing: more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.” — Jorge Luis Borges (Preface, Universal History of Infamy [Historia universal de la infamia], 1935)

“Much reading has brought upon us a learned barbarism.” — Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (Notebook F, aph. 144, Aphorisms, 1990)

“Writing and reading is to me synonymous with existing.” — Gertrude Stein (An American and France, 1936)

“After all, what is reading but a vice, like drink or venery or any other form of excessive self-indulgence? One reads to tickle and amuse one’s mind; one reads, above all, to prevent oneself thinking.” — Aldous Huxley (Crome Yellow, 1922)


3 responses to “Pithy Quotes on Reading

  1. An idealistic mix of views–both sides equally idealistic. Either the writers like Stein or Borges who see little difference between reading and living (or living well / living intellectually), or most of the rest who seem to view reading as a way of avoiding the really hard work of thinking for oneself. Although Schopenhauer seems to find value in a kind of back and forth movement from one’s own thoughts to those of others. But, do not both of these views on reading reflect exalted ideas of one’s own reading or thinkinking?

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