All the Best Excerpts from The 100 Greatest Books of All Time

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The end is nigh, my friends. The 100 Greatest Books Challenge is drawing to a close. But you know I’d never abandon you without saying good-bye—not even if we were out clubbing and Hugh Jackman was like, “Hey, girl…” Not even if I had a plane to catch on my way to my own elopement. Not even if the Apocalypse came, and I had the only fallout shelter.

Because, well, you know. I’m not a monster.

I’ll save my final send-off for another post, if only to keep a loose lid on word count. But in the meantime, here are all the best excerpts from The 100 Greatest Books of All Time. Every one of these quotes has stuck with me for one reason or another, for better or for worse. They are among the finest literary encounters I’ve ever made. And if I could fall in love with a word or a sentence, these would be my soul mates.

Let me introduce you:

Long ago, I learned how to be brave, how to go forward always.

-Homer, The Iliad

“Do you know—I hardly remembered you?”
“Hardly remembered me?”
“I mean: how shall I explain? I—it’s always so. Each time you happen to me all over again.”

-Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

As the years passed, she replied only: “I’m going away from here.” And it hung, this determination, like a heavy jewel between her breasts; it was written in fire on the dark sky of her mind.

-James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

I am writing a curse, yet I adore you! I hear it in my heart. One string is left, and it sings.

-Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I don’t want every one to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did.

-Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

With thee it was not as with many that will and would and wait and never do.

-James Joyce, Ulysses

“I’m afraid.”
“That’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Major Major counseled him kindly. “We’re all afraid.”
“I’m not ashamed,” Yossarian said. “I’m just afraid.”

-Joseph Heller, Catch-22

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

-Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Who then may trust the dice, at Fortune’s throw?

-Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

Her heart of compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without strain, fell apart with the first waves of nostalgia.

-Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

I saw within Its depth how It conceives
all things in a single volume bound by Love
of which the universe is the scattered leaves.

-Dante Alighieri, The Paradiso

And they beat. The women for having known them and no more, no more; the children for having been them but never again. They killed a boss so often and so completely they had to bring him back to life to pulp him one more time. Tasting hot mealcake among pine trees, they beat it away. Singing love songs to Mr. Death, they smashed his head. More than the rest, they killed the flirt whom folks called Life for leading them on.

-Toni Morrison, Beloved

I waited not for light but for that doom which we call female victory which is: endure and then endure, without rhyme or reason or hope of reward—and then endure.

-William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

Let me say before I go that I forgive nobody. I wish them all an atrocious life and then the fires and ice of hell.

-Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time. These memories, which are my life — for we possess nothing certainly except the past — were always with me.

-Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

-Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.

-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Life is strewn with these miracles for which people who love can always hope.

-Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

And, finally,

Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.

-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Happy quoting. And happy reading!

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7 thoughts on “All the Best Excerpts from The 100 Greatest Books of All Time

    • I’m just shy of 100 right now — I still have Faust left to tackle over the next few days. As for the “what next,” I’m trying not to think about it too much! I’m halfway through Americanah (the New York Community Read) and loving it, so we’ll see where that takes me. The one thing I know for sure is that there are no more reading challenges on my horizon. :)

    • Haha! My final farewell is scheduled for the end of next week. I promise you’ll know it when you see it. :)

      Those are great picks. I had a hard time choosing a favorite from Absalom, Absalom, actually, despite my ongoing rivalry with Faulkner. I have to admit the guy could write.

  1. So many great quotes here. I love this one: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” That resonates so truthfully for me. For me it’s about how sometimes we go through painful experiences that don’t make sense, or inside us are machinations that we don’t understand, but we can’t yet because we haven’t had the growth to do so. It’s only later, through other experiences and learning about ourselves, that the clarity reveals itself. Maybe we didn’t even know we were looking for the answer until it shows up. It reminds me of this quote by Rainer Maria Rilke that I adore: “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” That quote is from Letters to a Young Poet, which is a lovely book, I highly recommend it. Reading that quote did a very important thing for me at an important time and it still chokes me up a bit when I read it again.

    • Letters to a Young Poet has been recommended to me so many times, from so many sources I trust, that I’m 100% sure I’ll love it. And that’s a nice feeling, as I leap into the Great Unknown of ALL THE BOOKS EVER. I would definitely recommend Their Eyes Were Watching God, if you haven’t read it — the MC is a delightful tempest of a character.

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