Sublime Lines From Awesome Books

So, Joe Hill, at his blog — — did a thing where he asked people to identify some of their favorite and most impactful sentences from books they’ve read, and I thought that was pretty rad. (Also rad, which is when Mister Joe said: “For me to really enjoy a book, I need to hear some music in the writer’s sentences. I know it shouldn’t matter. Story is more important than style… yet if I don’t like an author’s voice, if they don’t grab me with the sound and rhythms of their sentences, I can’t fall under the spell of the narrative.” Uh, hell yeah.)


I’m posing the same question to you.

Because I wanna know your answers.

So. Pick a sentence you love from a book — something you read years ago, something you read just the other day, whatever — and post it below in the comments.

I’ll pick a random commenter by the end of the day to get a free e-copy of BAIT DOG.

Dig it? Dug it? Do it.


  • My absolute favorite lines have to be from Hogfather about the lies we need to believe in, but since it’s one sentence, I’ve always liked this one:

    “If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”
    ― Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

  • “She had not found her voice by the time the handsome train came in, spitting fire from its engine, and Mamma and I got into one of its golden compartments. But it did not matter that my conversation with Rosamund was not finished, for I would see her again and again, we would go through life together, she would never go over to the side of the enemy.”

    – Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows

  • I think someone else mentioned it, but I find myself reciting this whenever I’m afraid. It’s from Dune:

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”

  • Too many from Douglas Adams & Terry Pratchett came to mind to pick just one. Instead I’ll go with with one that resonated with me years ago and still surfaces regularly in my life:

    “The necklace is mine only because I strung the beads together.” – Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

  • “Didn’t Woody Allen say that all literature was a footnote to Faust? Perhaps all adolescence is a dialogue between Faust and Christ. We tremble on the brink of selling that part of ourselves that is real, unique, angry, defiant and whole for the rewards of attainment, achievement, success and the golden prizes of integration and acceptance; but we also in our great creating imagination, rehearse the sacrifice we will make: the pain and terror we will take from others’ shoulders; our penetration into the lives and souls of our fellows; our submission to willingness to be rejected and despised for the sake of truth and love and, in the wilderness, our angry rebuttals of the hypocrisy, deception and compromise of a world which we see to be so false. There is nothing so self-righteous nor so right as an adolescent imagination.”

    – Moab is my Washpot by Stephen Fry

    Bonus (same book): “Sex without smiling is as sickly and as base as vodka and tonic without ice.”

  • “Then, throwing a last glance on the handsome young man, who was scarcely twenty-five years old, and whom he left there lying senseless, and perhaps dead, he breathed a sigh at the strange destiny which leads men to destroy each other for the interests of those they scarcely know, and who often are not even aware of their existence.”

    -‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas

  • “And Lo, for the Earth was empty of Form, and void. And Darkness was all over the Face of the Deep. And We said: ‘Look at that fucker Dance.’”

    -from Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

  • “And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck.” — East of Eden by John Steinbeck

    There’s a whole other story in that quote somewhere. Once my other project is finished I may finally take a crack at it.

  • Don’t enter me for BAIT DOG, just wanted to share a snippet from my current reading material:

    “After having a two-hundred-pound babysitter fart on your face and yell Pow!, The Village Voice holds few terrors.” –Stephen King, ON WRITING


    Aside from the stranger/funnier aspects (witness Exhibit A above), there’s some great advice in it, and some really fascinating info about how he got where he is today.


  • This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn’t pretend to answer all or any of these questions.
    It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might.

    From one of Terry Pratchett’s more forgettable books, Equal Rites. The rest of the book is okay, but the opening line is still my favorite.

  • Best. Curse. Ever.

    “Fuck you,” said Czernobog. “Fuck you and fuck your mother and fuck the fucking horse you fucking rode in on. You will not even die in battle. No warrior will taste your blood. No one alive will take your life. You will die a soft, poor death. You will die with a kiss on your lips and a lie in your heart.”

    Neil Gaiman, American Gods

  • Best thing I’ve seen in print about what it feels like to have children, from Michael Connolly’s “A Darkness More Than Night”:

    “So once it like, Terry? Being a father?”
    “It’s like having a gun to your head all the time.”
    Winston looked confused and maybe a little bit concerned.
    “How so?”
    “Because I know if anything ever happens to her, anything, then my life is over.”
    She nodded.
    “I think I can understand that.”

  • “What word can be uttered about those fields? She stood in the middle of them as on a high mountain, with her red hair pulled out sideways by the wind, around her the green and grey plains pressed down flat, and all the grasses of Iowa whistling one note.”

    Denis Johnson, from Jesus’ Son

  • “The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
    – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, Ch. 1

  • T.R. Pearson, Cry Me a River –

    I never knew anyone to tire of hearing the thing. There was evermore somebody clamoring about with a cousin come for a visit or a buddy passing through town who’d seen already the furniture mill and had eaten at the fish house and tolerated the panoramas up along the ridge, had become in fact fairly saturated with the local enticement but for our tale of woe that I would get invited, that I would get enlisted usually to narrate entirely or confirm at least the particulars of since I was the one who knew best of it, had endured the whole business to unravel before me. So they’d come to wonder of me might I speak of it please, might I share with their relations and with their buddies news of our own tragic episode which had gotten to be an object of civic pride suggesting like it did that we were after all, under the surface of things, a community of passionate people who sometimes slaughtered each other for love.

  • “I have no particular predilection for tortoises,” said the prince. “It is only this particular one that I wish to marry.” –Arabian Nights

  • “Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.”

    — opening line from The Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett.

  • I know you’ve already picked one, but here’s mine anyway.
    All from the same book: ‘Flying Dutch’ by Tom Holt.

    1. “It’s always a little disconcerting to here your name in a public place, and Vanderdecker froze. The beer in his glass didn’t, and the froth splashed on his nose.”

    2. “…like jumping from a speeding train into a wall of half-set Jello.”

    3. (This, I am sure, is slightly paraphrased.) “Put the Ruler of Hell in a three-piece-suit and convert the fires of Hell into a microwave oven. You could possibly get a government grant for that.”

    Any errors are mine; I don’t have a copy, so the lines are from memory.

  • I know I missed the competition, but had to share anyway:

    “To love someone was not what she expected. It was like falling from somewhere high up and breaking in half, and only one person having the secret to the puzzle of putting her back together.
    She began to plan how she would give him up.”

    — Tiger Lily, Jodi Lynn Anderson

  • “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

    The first line of the first book of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King is the exact same as the last line of the last book. Perhaps it’s not as poetic as other lines, perhaps it doesn’t make a huge and lasting impact. But after seven books, full of epic adventures and heart-stopping twists and turns, the whole thing came to a beautiful conclusion. Around book five I found myself absolutely dying to find out how the series ended. I devoured the last books in pursuit of the nagging need to know. And then, this. The whole experience left me breathless. I’ll forever remember that line as the best I’ve ever read.

  • “And the Lord spake unto the Angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying Where is the flaming sword which was given unto thee?
    And the Angel said, I had it here only a moment ago, I must have put it down some where, forget my own head next.
    And the Lord did not ask him again.”
    – Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

  • A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained weddingveil and some in headgear of cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.

    – Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West, Cormac McCarthy

  • “If Sarah hadn’t put the monkey in the bathtub, we might never have had to help the monsters get big. But she did, so we did, which, given the way things worked out, was probably just as well for everyone on the planet — especially the dead people.”

    — The Monsters of Morley Manor, Bruce Coville

  • Fantastic, I actually don’t have it yet! Can’t wait to read it, and I’ll be picking up Mockingbird ASAP. Thanks, Chuck! I hope WorldCon is a lot of fun and lucrative for you.

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