50 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature

1. “At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great”
—Willa Cather, My Antonia

2. “In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.”
—Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

3. “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” —J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”

4. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart; I am, I am, I am.”
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

6. “Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.”
—Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

7. “Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

8. “What are men to rocks and mountains?”
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

10. “‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’”
—Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

11. “The curves of your lips rewrite history.”
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

12. “A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

14. “As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the Two Thoughts he thought were these: a) Anything can happen to anyone. and b) It is best to be prepared.”
—Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

15. “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” —W. H. Auden, “The More Loving One”

16. “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

18. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet

19. “America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” —Allen Ginsburg, “America”

20. “It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.”
—W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

22. “At the still point, there the dance is.” —T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

23. “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”
—Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

24. “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”
—Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

26. “The pieces I am, she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.”
—Toni Morrison, Beloved

27. “How wild it was, to let it be.”
—Cheryl Strayed, Wild

28. “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” —T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

30. “She was lost in her longing to understand.”
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

31. “She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.” —Kate Chopin, “The Awakening”

32. “We cross our bridges as we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and the presumption that once our eyes watered.”
—Tom Stoppard, Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead

34. “The half life of love is forever.”
—Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her

35. “I sing myself and celebrate myself.”
—Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

36. “There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”
—Bram Stroker, Dracula

37. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”
—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

38. “I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.” —Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”

39. “I would always rather be happy than dignified.”
—Charlotte Brontë , Jane Eyre

41. “I have spread my dreams under your feet; / Tread softly because you tread on my dreams” —W. B. Yeats, “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”

42. “It frightened him to think what must have gone to the making of her eyes.”
—Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

43. “For poems are like rainbows; they escape you quickly.”
—Langston Hughes, The Big Sea

45. “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
—Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

46. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

47. “Journeys end in lovers meeting.”
—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

49. “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

50. “One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

List courtesy theunboundedspirit.com

Speak of me

Ah yes, all lies, God and man, nature and the light of day, the heart’s outpourings and the means of understanding, all invented, basely, by me alone, with the help of no one, since there is no one, to put off the hour when I must speak of me.

— Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

My lesson

Under the skies, on the roads, in the towns, in the woods, in the hills, in the plains, by the shores, on the seas, behind my mannikins, I was not always sad, I wasted time, abjured my rights, suffered for nothing, forgot my lesson. Then a little hell after my own heart, not too cruel, with a few nice damned to foist my groans on, something sighing off and on and the distant gleams of pity’s fires biding their hour to promote us to ashes.

— Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable


Imagine you’ve gone to a party where you know very few people there, and then on your way home afterwards you suddenly realize that you just spent the whole party so concerned about whether the people there seemed to like you or not that you now have absolutely no idea whether you liked any of them or not. Anybody who’s had that sort of experience knows what a totally lethal kind of attitude this is to bring to a party. (Plus of course it almost always turns out that the people at the party actually didn’t like you, for the simple reason that you seemed so inbent and self-conscious the whole time that they got the creepy subliminal feeling that you were using the party merely as some sort of stage to perform on and that you barely even noticed them and that you’d probably left without any idea whether you even liked them or not, which hurts their feelings and causes them to dislike you (they are, after all, only human, and they have the same insecurities about being liked as you do).)

— David Foster Wallace, “Octet”

Enter Death

We know nothing of this going.
It excludes us. Faced with death,
what cause have we to respond
with the fear and grief or even hatred

that twist the features to a mask of tragedy?
On this side of death we play roles.
So long as we seek to please the audience,
death, who needs no approval, plays us.

When you died, there broke across the stage,
through the gash your leaving made,
a shaft of reality: green of real green,
real sunlight, real trees.

Still we keep acting: fearful and solemn,
reciting our script, taking on gestures.
But you, who have been withdrawn from us,
subtracted from our very being,

now and again you overcome us,
showing us the reality we glimpsed,
so that for a while, jolted back, we are life
with no thought of applause.

— Rilke, New Poems