Top Ten (or so) Quotes About Reading by Brian Wilhorn

Over the course of history people have had plenty to say about reading. Some reading quotes are poignant, others funny, some state the sentiments we hold within ourselves more clearly than we are able to articulate independently, and some can even be troubling.

With so many quotes to choose from, it must be impossible to choose a Top Ten, right? Ah, but what better reason to take on a challenge than being told it can’t be done? G. K. Chesterton said, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

The prospect of this Top Ten not only exists, it can be accomplished! So without further delay, let us slay this impossible Top Ten Reading Quotes dragon.

  1. “Reading is not a duty, and has consequently no business to be made disagreeable.”Augustine Birrell. No twenty-eight page worksheet packets. No this is what the author meant. No forcing readers to stop at the end of the chapter. Let’s encourage reading for the pure pleasure of reading.


  1. “Read like a wolf eats.”Gary Paulsen. In Brian’s Winter Paulsen describes a pack of wolves attacking a moose, how the wolves begin eating the rear of the moose even as the front tries to escape. Read like that. Read with an insatiable appetite. Devour books. Crave more.


  1. “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.”Abraham Lincoln. Arguably our greatest president, Lincoln connects both knowledge and friendship with books. And he uses “ain’t” which scores bonus points.


  1. “Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”Edmund Burke. I love using this one with students, especially, say, fourth grade boys. We discuss how when we eat, the body takes nourishment from food thereby giving the body energy to function. It’s the same with reading. We take in words, sentences, and paragraphs so our brain has nourishment to function. One must think about what is read otherwise books do no good. After all, when we eat a cheeseburger, it doesn’t just stay a cheeseburger, does it? Then a student hollers something about pooping cheeseburgers and hilarity ensues.


On second thought, maybe this class discussion, while memorable, isn’t having the impact I intended. Ah, well. Still a great quote.


  1. “A classic is something everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”Mark Twain. When conversation turns to classics, I rarely add to the conversation. It used to be embarrassing. I wondered if people read classics not out of enjoyment but so they could sound smart. Reading classics makes someone a reader as much as owning a Model T makes someone a driver.


Now whenever that conversation begins, I embrace my inner ten-year-old. “Who here is #teambear and who is #teamrabbit?” “Do you believe Origami Yoda was indeed using the Force?” If the conversation gets too mind-numbing, I can always hold out my arm and cry, “Accio broomstick,” then pray it works so I can exit, stage left.


  1. “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” and “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”Groucho Marx. Even someone who made a living in radio, movies, and television recognized the importance of reading.


  1. Straight from the pages of Sports Illustrated:

Lest we forget that not everyone is a reader. Sometimes we fight an uphill battle against the messages students hear outside the classroom.


  1. “Reading has haunted and hypnotized me, provided escape when reality was uncooperative, and reality when escape was insufficient. . . . It has brought me close and swept me away, tickled my fancy and shattered my heart, tucked me into bed and kept me up all night, and showed me that the world . . . was within reach.”Daniel Handler. Amen.


  1. “Okay.”Any student after receiving a book recommendation from a teacher. Music to any teacher’s ears.


  1. “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. I’d rather discuss one book with a student for twenty minutes than listen to a student rattle off a list of all the books they’ve read.


  1. In On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson, readers learn that the Igiby children study their T.H.A.G.S. In the footnotes T.H.A.G.S. are described as “Three Honored and Great Subjects: Word, Form, and Song. Some silly people believe that there’s a fourth Honored and Great Subject, but those mathematicians are woefully mistaken.”

And isn’t that just the perfect quote to finish a Top Ten list with eleven entries, including two in #6 and one the introduction? That’s, um . . . let’s see here . . . well, that’s more than ten. But who’s counting? And who says it’s against the rules?

We’ll leave that debate to the #NerdyMathClub.

Brian Wilhorn is a reading teacher and lead teacher in central Wisconsin. He is @HelpReaders on Twitter and writes at Help Readers Love Reading.