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Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels you need to read

Like a literary Magic 8 ball

Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels you need to read
Marc Chacksfield
11 August 2023

Life is hard. Whatever challenges you're currently facing, there's no getting around the fact we all need some help sometimes. Many of us are lucky enough to turn to loved ones, partners, friends, family and colleagues. But there's a great deal of wisdom to be found in literature.

So to help you through the perilous vortex of everyday life, with its confusing decisions, moral dilemmas and social quandaries, we've created this list of the most amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels.

We've included gems of insight, words of advice and powerful meditations that we think could put a smile on your face, make you feel profoundly moved or at least give you a little glimmer of hope.

While we've already explored the fountain of wisdom which exists in the world of film, it's time to scour the library for some inspirational advice from some of the greatest literary minds who have ever lived.

  • Once you're done with these 50 free slices of wisdom, check out the best free books you can snag for your e-reader

The Fall

"You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question."

Albert Camus


"Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all."

Toni Morrison

Little Women

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."

Louisa May Alcott

The Alchemist

"It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."

Paulo Coelho

The Hate U Give

"What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?"

Angie Thomas

The Round House

"Now that I knew fear, I also knew it was not permanent. As powerful as it was, its grip on me would loosen. It would pass."

Louise Erdrich

Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels you need to read

Murder At The Vicarage

"The young people think the old people are fools -- but the old people know the young people are fools."

Agatha Christie

Atlas Shrugged

"Never think of pain or danger or enemies a moment longer than is necessary to fight them."

Ayn Rand

The Rules Of Attraction

"No one will ever know anyone. We just have to deal with each other."

Bret Easton Ellis

Great Expectations

"We need never be ashamed of our tears."

Charles Dickens

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

"You should never, never doubt something that no one is sure of."

Roald Dahl

Things Fall Apart

"A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride."

Chinua Achebe

The Bell Jar

"If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed."

Sylvia Plath

The Road

"You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget."

Cormac McCarthy

Fear Nothing

"Never leave a friend behind. Friends are all we have to get us through this life--and they are the only things from this world that we could hope to see in the next."

Dean Koontz

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket & Related Tales

"Sensations are the great things, after all. Should you ever be drowned or hung, be sure and make a note of your sensations; they will be worth to you ten guineas a sheet."

Edgar Allan Poe

Fear Of Flying

"Show me a woman who doesn't feel guilty and I'll show you a man."

Erica Jong

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

Haruki Murakami

Enduring Love

"When its gone, you'll know what a gift love was. You'll suffer like this. So go back and fight to keep it."

Ian McEwan

Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels


"By definition, you have to live until you die. Better to make that life as complete and enjoyable an experience as possible, in case death is shite, which I suspect it will be."

Irvine Welsh

The Fellowship of the Ring

"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens."

J.R.R Tolkien


"The essential matrimonial facts: that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back to where you begin."

Jeffrey Eugenides

The Redeemer

"Doubt is faith's shadow."

Jo Nesbo

Nothing To Lose

"A person less fortunate than yourself deserves the best you can give. Because of duty, and honor, and service."

Lee Child

War and Peace

"We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom."

Leo Tolstoy

House of Meetings

"Closure is a greasy little word which, moreover, describes a nonexistent condition. The truth, Venus, is that nobody gets over anything."

Martin Amis

Brave New World

"Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth."

Aldous Huxley

The Lost World

"All your life people will tell you things. And most of the time, probably ninety-five percent of the time, what they'll tell you will be wrong."

Michael Crichton

Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels

High Fidelity

"It's no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn't even speak to each other if they met at a party."

Nick Hornby

Revolutionary Road

"No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying."

Richard Yates

The Catcher In The Rye

"All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they'll do practically anything you want them to."

J.D. Salinger

Long Goodbye

"There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself."

Raymond Chandler

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

"Love was that moment when your heart was about to burst."

Stieg Larsson

Clear and Present Danger

"Words are important. Your word is the most important of all. Your word is who you are."

Tom Clancy

Breakfast at Tiffany's

"Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself."

Truman Capote

Invisible Monsters

"The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open."

Chuck Palahniuk


"The more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes."

Vladimir Nabokov

To Kill A Mockingbird

"People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for."

Harper Lee

The Moon and the Sixpence

"As lovers, the difference between men and women is that women can love all day long, but men only at times."

W. Somerset Maugham

The Sound and the Fury

"It's not when you realise that nothing can help you - religion, pride, anything - it's when you realise that you don't need any aid."

William Faulkner

Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels

On The Road

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone's distorted point of view”

Jack Kerouac

The Killer Inside Me

"There are things that have to be forgotten if you want to go on living."

Jim Thompson

The Secret History

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”

Donna Tartt

The Rum Diary

"A man can live on his wits and his balls for only so long."

Hunter S Thompson

Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels


“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

George Orwell

The White Lioness

"‎Not having time for a person, not being able to sit in silence together with somebody, that's the same as rejecting them, as being scornful about them."

Henning Mankell

The Human Stain

"Because that is when you love somebody - when you see them being game in the face of the worst. Not courageous. Not heroic. Just game."

Philip Roth

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

"It was a sign of growing up, when the dark made no more difference to you than the day."

Roddy Doyle

Casino Royale

"Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles."

Ian Fleming

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

“Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.”

Paulo Coelho

Mother Night

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

Kurt Vonnegut

The Old Man And The Sea

"Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready."

Ernest Hemingway

Amazing pieces of wisdom from famous novels

Naked Lunch

"You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative."

William Burroughs


"You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to."

Jonathan Franzen

The Blind Assassin

"The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn't one."

Margaret Atwood