Literature Quotes and Sayings

Find inspiration in these words of famous writers

Portrait of the author Henry Miller (1891 - 1980), wearing a white shirt, California, mid twentieth century.
Anthony Barboza / Contributor/ Archive Photos/ Getty Images

We see, enjoy and criticize the end result of writers' work, but there's so much more to these pieces than what the public consumes. After all, millions of books get published every year, joining the vast libraries that have been built up over time, but we regard few as classics, greats or masterpieces. So what makes the difference between just another piece of writing and a literary success? Often, it's the writer.

Here's a collection of thoughts from world-famous writers on what literature means to them and why they pursued the written word as a means to express themselves.

  • "Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music-the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself." —Henry Miller
  • "Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree." —Ezra Pound
  • "He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it." —Joseph Heller
  • "I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature." —John Steinbeck
  • "It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression." —Alfred North Whitehead
  • "It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature." —Henry James
  • "Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become." —C.S. Lewis
  • "Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it, but moulds it to its purpose. The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac." —Oscar Wilde
  • "Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity." —G. K. Chesterton
  • "Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others." —Virginia Woolf
  • "Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart." —Salman Rushdie
  • "The crown of literature is poetry." —William Somerset Maugham
  • "The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation." —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • "The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean." —Robert Louis Stevenson
  • "The duty of literature is to note what counts, and to light up what is suited to the light. If it ceases to choose and to love, it becomes like a woman who gives herself without preference." —Anatole France
  • "What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote." —E.M. Forster
  • "When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen. But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any way you can." —Samuel Lover
  • "While thought exists, words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living." —Cyril Connolly