"The best of a book is not the thought which it contains,
but the thought which it suggests;
just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones
but in the echoes of our hearts."
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
"The profit of books
is according to the sensibility of the reader;
the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine,
until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Youth is a time when we find
the books we give up but do not get over."
"The multitude of books is making us ignorant."
"There is more treasure in books
than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island,
and best of all, you can enjoy these riches
every day of your life."
"When you re-read a classic,
you do not see more in the book than you did before,
you see more in you than there was before."
"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience:
this is the ideal life."
"The love of learning,
the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books."
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"It will be the best-written books
which are passed on to posterity. . . .
Writing well also means thinking well,
feeling well, and behaving well."
—Comte George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon
"If you can get the right book at the right time
you taste joys—not only bodily, physical,
but spiritual also, which pass one
out above and beyond one's miserable self,
as it were through a huge air,
following the light of another man's thought.
And you can never be quite the old self again."
—T. E. Lawrence
"Books are the flowers or fruit stuck here or there on a tree
which has its roots deep down in the earth of our earliest life,
of our first experiences. But . . . to tell the reader anything
that his own imagination and insight have not already discovered
would need not a page or two of preface but a volume or two of autobiography."
"The world is a book, and those who do not travel,
read only a page."
"Buying books would be a good thing
if one could also buy the time to read them in:
but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken
for the appropriation of their contents."
"In books lies the soul of the whole Past Time,
the articulate audible voice of the Past,
when the body and the material substance of it
has altogether vanished like a dream."
"As good almost kill a man as kill a good book:
who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image;
but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself."
"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it.
I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. . . .
What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."
—Henry David Thoreau
"Each friendship and love is the ultimate journey
where the soul is born and grows. The journey
is the drama of the heart's voyage into the tide
of possibilities which open before it. Indeed,
a book is a path of words which takes the heart
in new directions."
"Where My Books Go"
All the words that I gather,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm darkened or starry bright.
—W. B. Yeats
"Books are the carriers of civilization.
Without books, history is silent,
literature dumb, science crippled,
thought and speculation at a standstill."
"Books—the best antidote against the marsh-gas of boredom and vacuity."
"For books are more than books, they are the life,
the very heart and core of ages past.
The reason why men lived, and worked, and died,
the essence and quintessence of their lives."
"How deluded we sometimes are by the clear
notions we get out of books. They make us think
that we really understand things of which we
have no practical knowledge at all."
"In the best books, great men talk to us,
give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.
God be thanked for books.
They are the voices of the distant and the dead,
and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages.
Books are true levelers. They give to all, who will faithfully use them,
the society, the spiritual presence of the best and greatest."
—William Ellery Channing
"We need the books that effect us like a disaster,
that grieve us deeply,
like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves,
like being banished into forests far from everyone. . . .
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us."
"Life being very short, and the quiet hours few,
we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books."
"There is more ado to interpret interpretations than to interpret the things,
and more books upon books than upon all other subjects;
we do nothing but comment upon one another."
"We all know that books burn—yet we have
the greater knowledge that books cannot 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."
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"In the case of good books,
the point is not to see how many of them you can get through,
but rather how many can get through to you."
—Mortimer J. Adler
"And there are also many other things which Jesus did,
the which, if they should be written every one,
I suppose that even the world itself
could not contain the books that should be written."
—St. John the Apostle
"A book, too, can be a star,
a living fire to lighten the darkness,
leading out into the expanding universe."
"In that abyss, I beheld how love held bound
Into one volume all the leaves whose flight
Is scattered through the universe around . . .
For everything the will has ever sought
Is gathered there, and there is every quest
Made perfect, which apart from it falls short."
"The failure to read good books both enfeebles
the vision and stengthens our most fatal tendency—
the belief that the here and now is all there is."
"There is something about the book
which fits the eye, the hand, and the mind:
it has achieved a perfect form,
which cannot be transcended."
"Every creature is full of God,
and is a book about God."
"A truly great book should be read in youth,
again in maturity and once more in old age,
as a fine binding should be seen by morning light,
at noon and by moonlight."
"No man can be called friendless
who has God and the companionship of good books."
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"A book reads the better which is our own,
and has been so long known to us,
that we know the topography of its blots,
and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it
to having read it at tea with buttered muffins."
"You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks
like ladders to sniff books like perfumes
and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.
May you be in love every day for the next . . .
20,000 days. And out of that love,
remake a world."
"All good books have one thing in common—
they are truer than if they had really happened."
"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;
they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors,
and the most patient of teachers."
—Charles W. Eliot
Acclaim for Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind
“At once charming, informative, thought-provoking, and even rather edifying, Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind will provide enjoyable and stimulating reading for curious readers and will be enduringly useful for scholars."—James Sloan Allen, author of Worldly Wisdom: Great Books and the Meanings of Life
"Murray plumbs unpublished material, such as letters and diary entries, as well as extensive access to Barzun himself, in crafting this life story. But that story is, as Barzun would wish, firmly rooted in the work."—American Spectator
""Murray's emphasis is primarily on Barzun's thought, the development of which is presented in a panoramic fashion that summarizes key questions, debates, and arguments. . . . The result is an insightful look at an important intellectual figure, and a valuable resource for students of his work."—Booklist
See also Rebecca Bynum, "Jacques Barzun, Wisdom and Grace," in New English Review.
"A solid intellectual biography. . . . Against the loss of standards and our age's myriad confusions, [Barzun] has long stood for an engaged critical intelligence, built on serious reading, skill in writing clear and direct English, and 'a long tradition of thought.' To Barzun it remains, as Murray's book stirringly reminds us, 'a matter of honor to keep up the fight for the cultured, civilized life.' That's one of the few fights that's always worth fighting."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
“I have known Jacques Barzun for over twenty years and was the editor for From Dawn to Decadence. Yet I learned innumerable details about his life from this invaluable biography. I found Murray’s summaries of Barzun’s thought and the details of his long career as a teacher and administrator to be most sensitive and intuitive. . . . This is a splendid intellectual biography.”—Hugh Van Dusen, Vice President and Executive Editor of HarperCollins
"The book is a glory, capturing the extraordinary man Murray adores and yet treating him and his work objectively and with notable elegance."—Henry F. Graff, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University
“Jacques Barzun once defined a real book as a book one wants to reread. Michael Murray’s Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind is such a book and I greatly relished reading it. Murray has been conversing with Barzun since 1979 and the book contains many quotations from these conversations, and also from Barzun’s books and letters. I am an avid reader of Jacques Barzun, but I learned many things about his life and mind. For instance, Murray recounts one conversation in which Barzun noted that there is a potential harm in knowing too much: ‘It excludes possibilities that might work.’ Unfashionable, yes, but true. Indeed, in a letter to Donald J. Lloyd, a linguist, Barzun wrote that even salvation we owe to the amateurs: ‘Every subject-matter surely belongs to everyone who exhibits an interest in it. Each is greater than any one gang of professionals, and history shows that salvation has repeatedly come from the dauntless amateur who kept his eyes open while the initiates were sleepily chanting their old formulas.’ Murray’s biography, in sum, offers a wonderful view of Barzun’s mind—and in pleasurable prose.”—Isaac Waisberg, Stanford University
"Michael Murray’s comprehensive biography of Jacques Barzun will—depending on one’s previous acquaintance with the critic-historian—unveil many or a great many facets of Barzun’s life and character. . . . The liberal quotations from Barzun’s writings and talk show the truth of Murray’s own independent drawing of his subject. Whoever wants to know the mind and heart of Barzun had better read Murray. It will be a delightful experience.”—Leo Wong, publisher of Barzun Centennial website