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Diversifying The Canon Of Inspirational Book Quotes

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Ann Foster

Staff Writer

Ann can often be found walking very slowly through the aisles of bookstores, making sure that nothing new has come out she doesn’t know about yet, and then eagerly telling people about them. She writes about women from history at, and about books, film, TV, and feminism at various other sites. She prefers her books to include at least three excellent plot twists, which is why she usually reads the end first. Twitter: @annfosterwriter

Inspirational book quotes are great for so many things: cute mugs, framed poster prints, wedding vows, bullet journals, and more. When we started noticing that the go-to quotes tend to be from the same group of primarily white male authors, we looked around for some more diverse options. These quotes aren’t meant to replace the standard Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll standards, but rather we feel they deserve to be added to the canon of inspirational book quotes. These are the words of authors of various genders, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, disabilities, and other intersections of identity.

Here are our suggestions; let us know your favorite inspirational book quotes in the comments!

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.”

—Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

taherah mafi quote poster

poster from brightdesignscle (link)

“I just knew there were stories I wanted to tell.”
—Octavia E. Butler

“A story matrix connects all of us.

There are rules, processes, and circles of responsibility in this world. And the story begins exactly where it is supposed to begin. We cannot skip any part.”
—Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave

“Books leave gestures in the body; a certain way of moving, of turning, a certain closing of the eyes, a way of leaving, hesitations. Books leave certain sounds, a certain pacing; mostly they leave the elusive, which is all the story. They leave much more than the words.”
—Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.”

—Lorraine Hansberry

never be afraid lorraine hansberry print image

poster from JessePrints (link)

“The point of books is to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment, but then sometimes to find you’d longed to fall asleep reading The Aspern Papers, and there it is.”
—Louise Erdrich, Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country

“The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”
—Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

“You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.”
—Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

“Sometimes, I think, you can look at a person and know they are full of words. Maybe the words are withheld due to pain or privacy, or maybe subterfuge. Maybe there are knife-edged words waiting to draw blood.”
—Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
—Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala

malala quote poster

poster from FieldingArtworks (link)

“My heart fills with happiness when…I listen to stories.”
—Monique Gray Smith, My Heart Fills With Happiness

“What I love most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.”
—Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure

“Even the silence
has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.”
—Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

“I love books. I adore everything about them. I love the feel of the pages on my fingertips. They are light enough to carry, yet so heavy with worlds and ideas.”
—Nnedi Okorafor, The Book of Phoenix

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
—Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

haruki murakami quote poster

poster from BookQuoteDecor (link)

“What kind of life can you have in a house without books?”
—Sherman Alexie, Flight

“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.”
—Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

“When I was a child I read books for entertainment and information; I now think of books as lifeboats.”
—Alice Walker, The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way

“Reading and writing have always pulled me out of the darkest experiences in my life. Stories have given me a place in which to lose myself. They have allowed me to remember. They have allowed me to forget. They have allowed me to imagine different endings and better possible worlds.”
—Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
—Frederick Douglass

ferderick douglass poster print

from theartofobservation (link)

“Strong words outlast the paper they are written upon. ”
—Joseph Bruchac, Code Talker

“My point is, it takes a special person to cry over a book. It shows compassion as well as imagination…Don’t ever lose that.”
—Alex Gino, George

“I mean to read one book every day. Every single day, forever.”
—Uma Krishnaswami, Book Uncle And Me

“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.”
—Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall

“‘When you read,’ she said, ‘you know—and you can help yourself and others.'”
—Carole Boston Weatherford, Voice of Freedom

“Like, what’s more romantic than a quiet place full of books?”
—Kody Keplinger, Shut Out


Can’t get enough inspirational book quotes? Check out our list of 45 Of The Best Aww-Inspiring Quotes About Books, 10 Quotes We Love From Books About Books, 50 Literary Quotes For Fighting The Good Fight, and the Best Children’s Book Quotes.