Books and Reading Quotations


Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.


I should like to keep some book of natural history always by me as a sort of elixir, the reading of which would restore the tone of my system and secure me true and cheerful views of life.

Journal, 31 December 1841

A truly good book is something as wildly natural and primitive, mysterious and marvelous, ambrosial and fertile, as a fungus or a lichen.

Journal, 16 November 1850

A book should contain pure discoveries, glimpses of terra firma, though by shipwrecked mariners, and not the art of navigation by those who have never been out of sight of land.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

After all, I believe it is the style of thought entirely, and the style of expression, which makes the difference in books.

Journal, 23 March 1842

Books can only reveal us to ourselves, and as often as they do us this service we lay them aside.

Thoreau to Benjamin B. Wiley, 26 April 1857

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.


It is remarkable, but on the whole, perhaps, not to be lamented, that the world is so unkind to a new book. Any distinguished traveler who comes to our shores is likely to get more dinners and speeches of welcome than he can well dispose of, but the best books, if noticed at all, meet with coldness and suspicion, or, what is worse, gratuitous, off-hand criticism.

“Thomas Carlyle and His Works”

He who cannot read is worse than deaf and blind, is yet but half alive, is still-born.

Journal, 10 March 1856

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