I have read a fair share of novels in my lifetime. As an English major in college and an introvert in life, pretty much the only thing I do with any regularity is read and skip out on parties. I swear, the people I have related to most in my life are fictional characters who live in fantastical worlds that authors spend hours of their lives crafting. The trouble is, this can be a bit isolating, so when I feel like shit (which is a feeling that is no stranger to me), it isn’t uncommon for me to search for book quotes online that I felt are relatable for hermits, creators, introverts and thoughtful human beings. After hours of searching through words from amazing writers, I inevitably would come across that one quote that made me sigh in relief, feeling a bit better about myself as part of the fraternity of people who find solace in the written word.
“It is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day and whose very existence appeared a part of our own can have departed forever—that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed, never more to be heard.” –Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Death is a difficult thing to talk about, and the feelings that come with death are almost impossible to put into words. Shelley’s elegant and painful description of loss is as powerful as it is true.
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.” –The Awakening by Kate Chopin
It’s kind of a shitty truth that people spend so much time trying to impress everyone else, that sometimes we forget to examine what (or who) it is we want out of life. Chopin talks about that second self we show to the world and compares it to a garment, which gives the reader a pretty solid visual of the vanity and impermanence of that constructed self that, once we take off at night, leaves us looking at the person beneath the pomp and circumstance.
“Incessantly she puzzled him: one hour so intimate and charming, striving desperately toward an unguessed, transcendent union; the next, silent and cold, apparently unmoved by any consideration of their love or anything he could say.” The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
If this quote doesn’t capture how confusing relationships can be, then I don’t know what quote possibly could. In Fitzgerald’s writing, he encapsulates the mercurial ups-and-downs of a relationship in a single sentence. The motivations and desires of our loved ones can sometimes feel so opaque and unpredictable, it’s easy to see see why he included “damned” in his title.
“Crying all the time had made her more beautiful. Grief will do that sometimes. Not for me. Loretta had left months ago and I still looked like hell.” Drown by Junot Diaz
The impact one person can have on your life is almost impossible to understand. Months can pass, and you’re still thinking about that one person and wondering what they are doing; if they are living their life just fine without you; if they are even thinking about you. In other words, life’s a real bitch.
“Love is like the sea. It’s a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
It seems like a lot of authors talk about how people change, but Hurston in particular talks of how we change for each person that we love. Love is not always the same with everyone we share that word with—it’s a living, dynamic concept that is impossible to wrangle or tame. Damn, that’s a good quote.
“Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: ‘I’ll go take a hot bath.” –The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Okay, seriously though, there is nothing better than a long, hot bath after a long day. It’s one of those small and easy things you can do to make yourself feel a little better. When you’re in the tub, the only thing you are thinking about is your own body. It’s like being in a warm and safe cocoon, but that cocoon is made of scented bubbles and water.
“It was a joy! Words weren’t dull, words were things that could make your mind hum. If you read them and let yourself feel the magic, you could live without pain, with hope, no matter what happened to you.” Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
Bukowski is one of those authors who will slap you hard in the face with truth, and he didn’t give a single damn what other people thought of his writing. This quote embodies how much words can make a difference. When reading, you can forget your own pain and feel the pain of someone else, and in the end you know that you’re still capable of empathy for people you don’t even know.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Paradise Lost by John Milton
The mind is the most powerful tool you have in reach, and this quote is a reminder that life is all about perception; life is what you make of it… literally. Milton’s classic novel is full of inspiration like this, so if you’re needing a little pick-me-up, you should pick-yourself-up a copy of this book.