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.


  • “He was as grave as a turnip.”
    I can’t quite remember exactly which book it was, but it’s one of my favourite phrases and comes from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The phrase was to describe a character who had been caught out laughing at another. Absolutely brilliant. How can you be graver than a turnip?

  • “I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering on its slimy bed, worshipping their ancient stone idols and carving their own detestable likenesses on submarine obelisks of water-soaked granite” – from Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft

  • You were wearing black shoes and a black suit, carrying an umbrella, striding into trouble like a businessman into his office. The light of a cafe scribbled the violent word ‘berserk’ on a wall nearby. The gutter was already glittering with wasted glass.

    – Geoff Dyer, “But Beautiful”

  • “I don’t care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching–they are your family.” ― Jim Butcher, Proven Guilty

  • With one last look to be sure the evacuation is complete, the bearded geezer glances at us and raises his hand to sign okay and possibly thank you, and dives into his car, which waits a heartbeat for the juiced-up Saab in front to make some space and then there’s a noise like the old bull shaking his head at the young one (“No, son, we’re not gonna run down and fuck one of those cows, we’re gonna walk and fuck ’em all”) and the Roller disappers from view in a cloud of its own dust.”

    – From “The Gone-Away World” by Nick Harkaway

  • ‘This was the death that stood over you and knocked you again, and again, and as many times as necessary until you would not rise again, or until you were so disfigured that death could no longer bear to look at you, and moved off in disgust to find another soul to knock.’

    Dan Abnett – “Prospero Burns”

  • ‘True, Jedediah Halsey’s Sans Souci hadn’t been so much foolish as “visionary,” which, as everyone knew, was what you called a foolish idea that worked anyway.’

    Richard Russo – “Nobody’s Fool”

  • “Perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols; vagabond-language scrawled on gate-posts and paving-stones along the weary road that others have tramped before us; perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.” Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

  • One by one he launched us solo in December skies he owned, cold wind whipping the ramp when I strapped in and taxied out without his breath in my headset–exciting silence, nothing but these two fists to save me, the runway thudding faster and faster and falling away, the moon floating up from Savannah, the force in my hand massive, banking with blazing power out of traffic, climbing through baffling darkness into the spendor of stars.

    — Walt MacDonald from the poem Swaggering to the Flight Line

  • Two lines from the same book that always manage to make me smile.

    “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

    “What the strag will think is that any man that can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, ruff it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

    These will only amuse or make sense to you if you too are a devoted Douglas Adams acolytes – both are from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

    Bex (Who rarely knows where that blessed towel went to.)

  • I like things to be story-shaped.
    Reality, however, is not story-shaped, and the eruptions of the odd into our lives are not story-shaped either. They do not end in entirely satisfactory ways. Recounting the strange is like telling one’s dreams: one can communicate the events of a dream, but not the emotional content, the way that a dream can colour one’s entire day.

    From on of the short stories in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Fragile Things’. Can’t believe I didn’t make a note of which story it was from exactly.

  • Keep your head down and inch towards daylight. Never surrender

    Matt Stover, Heroes Die

    (I already have my copy of BAIT DOG, but I love that line and have to post it once a day or I explode.)

  • “Alone, with not so much as a sperm left to accompany him, Alobar again directed his steps toward the east.” Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

    “It is bitter for the young to see what awful innocence adults grow into, that terrible vulnerability that must be sheltered from the rodent mire of childhood.” Katherine Dunn, Geek Love

  • “He doesn’t know which of us I am these days, but they know one truth. You must own nothing but yourself. You must make your own life, live your own life, and die your own death … or else you will die another’s.” Alfred Bester “Fondly Farenheit.”

  • “Good,” I said. “But what about our room? And the golf shoes? We’re right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And somebody’s giving booze to these goddamn things! It won’t be long before they tear us to shreds. Jesus, look at the floor! Have you ever seen so much blood? How many have they killed already?” I pointed across the room to a group that seemed to be staring at us. “Holy shit, look at that bunch over there! They’ve spotted us!”

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson

  • I dreamed bee entrails alight with cosmic fire.
    They were smeared across the walls of a cave, hung to decorate the cavity of a horse’s chest.

    From “Affirmation” in Your Own Ox-Head Mask as Proof by George Kalamaras

  • “The sun was low but the air was still balmy, and the sea was the shade of blue that black could have been if it hadn’t stepped over the line.”
    – Tom Robbins in Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates

  • (Bet you saw this one coming.)

    “I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by the silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present, and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand.”
    –Robert R. McCammon, Boy’s Life

  • My grandfather used to spout bits of poetry when I was a kid, Irish guys, mostly. Didn’t see him that often, maybe once every month, six weeks. He unsettled me a little – the hint of brogue still, his quiet, the way he would look at me longer than most people. He was visiting the house one day and I was working on a model airplain – a WWI Spad. He recited this (An Irish Airman Foresees His Death by Yeats – know that now, didn’t then):

    I KNOW that I shall meet my fate
    Somewhere among the clouds above;
    Those that I fight I do not hate
    Those that I guard I do not love;
    My country is Kiltartan Cross,
    My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
    No likely end could bring them loss
    Or leave them happier than before.
    Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
    Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
    A lonely impulse of delight
    Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
    I balanced all, brought all to mind,
    The years to come seemed waste of breath,
    A waste of breath the years behind
    In balance with this life, this death.

    Not a sentence, I know. Not from a book, I know. But it is the moment when words became magic for me.

  • I always find myself turning to Zelazny for memorable quotes:

    “His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.” ― Roger Zelazny, “Lord of Light”

    “To paraphrase Oedipus, Hamlet, Lear, and all those guys, “I wish I had known this some time ago.”” ― Roger Zelazny, “Sign of the Unicorn”

  • I have loads of lines scrawled in the margins of my pocket notebook, but the first one that popped into my head fully and correctly remembered….

    “Sleep is good but books are better.” -Tyrion Lannister, A Clash Of Kings

  • “I want a new past, new memories, a new first handshake with love. I want to start over in every possible way.”
    – Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies

  • Peter Lake had no illusions about mortality. He knew that it made everyone perfectly equal, and that the treasures of the earth were movement, courage, laughter, and love.

    — Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale

  • “No,” said a voice from the dark doorway. A weary voice, a voice for speaking long after midnight, a voice to be used when all paths are blocked, when castles have fallen to ruin, when morning will not come again.

    ~ Poppy Z. Brite, Lost Souls

  • “I had learned enough from the books to realize that I had touched only the hem of knowledge’s garment.”

    –Jack London, in “John Barleycorn”

  • “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

    -Robert A. Heinlein, “Time Enough For Love”

  • “Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.” Dune, Frank Herbert.

    I know the whole of the fear litany from Dune off by heart but this is my favourite bit of it: so true and has made me face my fears more than once in my life.

  • “You have built for yourselves psychic suits of armor, and clad in them, your vision is restricted, your movements are clumsy and painful, your skin is bruised, and your spirit is broiled in the sun.”

    -Principia Discordia

  • “They brought the big man in on a winter night when the moon looked as hazy as the heart of an ice cube.”

    This is the first line of Victor LaVelle’s new novel The Devil in Silver, which I just finished and found to be positively badass.

  • “In Arabic there is a word for the sound a stone makes when it’s thrown at a boy. Who’s doing the throwing, I’ve always wanted to know, and what’s the word for them?”

    – Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, “The Man Who Danced With Dolls”

  • My dad and I talk about this a lot. One of my favorite opening lines has to be from Stephen King, “The Gunslinger.”
    “The man in black fled into the desert, and the gunslinger followed him.”

    Two I have dried to keep in front of me as guides, both from Robert Frost:
    “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
    “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

  • “What was that?” Belgarath asked, coming back around the corner.
    “Brill,” Silk replied blandly, pulling his Murgo robe back on.
    “Again?” Belgarath demanded with exasperation. “What was he doing this time?”
    “Trying to fly, last time I saw him.” Silk smirked.
    The old man looked puzzled.
    “He wasn’t doing it very well,” Silk added.
    Belgarath shrugged. “Maybe it’ll come to him in time.”
    “He doesn’t really have all that much time.” Silk glanced out over the edge.
    “From far below – terribly far below – there came a faint, muffled crash; then, after several seconds, another. “Does bouncing count?” Silk asked.
    Belgarath made a wry face. “Not really.”
    “Then I’d say he didn’t learn in time.” Silk said blithely.”

    David Eddings, Magicians Gambit

  • “I stand in the mist and cry, thinking of myself standing in the mist and crying, and wondering if I will ever be able to use this experience in a book.”
    ― Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

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