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What is a book?

In recent weeks, a trade dispute between Amazon and Hachette has been making headlines across the world. But discussion at our book-laden coffee tables and computer screens has not been limited to contract terms and inventory, but what books mean to us as publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers. So we thought this would be an excellent time to share some ideas on books from some of the greatest minds in our culture. Please share your personal thoughts in the comments below.

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”
Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, Czech novelist

“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit.”
John Milton, 1608-74, English poet

“Books can not be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory … In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1882-1945, American Democratic statesman, 32nd President of the US 1933-45, and husband of Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘Message to the Booksellers of America 6 May 1942, in Publishers Weekly 9 May 1942

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
Joan Didion, 1934-, American writer, The White Album (1979)

“Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.”
W.H. Auden, 1907-73, English poet

books forgotten remembered

“Choose an author as you choose a friend.”
Wentworth Dillon, Lord Roscommon, c. 1633-85, Irish poet and critic, Essay on Translated Verse (1684) l. 96

“No furniture is so charming as books.”
Sydney Smith, 1771-1845, English essayist

“All books are either dreams or swords,
You can cut, or you can drug, with words.”
Amy Lowell, 1874-1925, American poet, ‘Sword Blades and Poppy Seed’ (1914)

“Only connect! … Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.”
E.M. Forster, 1879-1970, English novelist, Howard’s End (1910), ch. 22

“A good book is the best of friends, the same to-day and for ever.”
Martin Tupper, 1810-89, English writer

martin tupper good book friend

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, English courtier

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island.”
Walt Disney, 1901-66, American film producer

“There is no book so bad that some good cannot be got out of it.”
Pliny the Elder, AD 23-79, Roman senator

“I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-78, French philosopher

“All books are divisible into two classes, the books of the hour, and the books of all time.”
John Ruskin, 1819-1900, English critic

Ever since the first edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations published over 70 years ago, this bestselling book has remained unrivalled in its coverage of quotations both past and present. Drawing on Oxford’s dictionary research program and unique language monitoring, over 700 new quotations have been added to this eighth edition from authors ranging from St Joan of Arc and Coco Chanel to Albrecht Durer and Thomas Jefferson.

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Recent Comments

  1. [...] continuing our discussion of what is a book today with some historical perspective. The excerpt below by Andrew Robinson from The Book: A [...]

  2. [...] buy now read more Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2014 at 8:30 am [...]

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