Quotes from Lilith’s Brood

Book: Lilith’s Brood trilogy, by Octavia Butler

This excellent science fiction trilogy (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago) by Octavia Butler is an engrossing, often unsettling exploration of what it means to be human, touching on fear, survival, genetics, race, and gender, among other things.

From Dawn:

“‘Intelligence does enable you to deny facts you dislike. But your denial doesn’t matter. A cancer growing in someone’s body will go on growing in spite of denial.'”

From Adulthood Rites:

“‘Human beings fear difference. […] Humans persecute their different ones, yet they need them to give themselves definition and status.'”

From Imago:

“Humans said one thing with their bodies and another with their mouths and everyone had to spend time and energy figuring out what they really meant. And once we did understand them, the Humans got angry and acted as though we had stolen thoughts from their minds.”

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Quotes from H Is for Hawk

Book: H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

This was an excellent read: half a nature book on raptors and on the history and practices of falconry, half a memoir of the wildness of grief, mourning, and healing. Macdonald’s writing is literary and vividly descriptive.

“We carry the lives we’ve imagined as we carry the lives we have, and sometimes a reckoning comes of all the lives we have lost.”

“I love it because of all the places I know in England, it feels to me the wildest. It’s not an untouched wilderness like a mountaintop, but a ramshackle wildness in which people and the land have conspired to strangeness.”

“I was starting to see how mortality was bound up in things like that cold, arc-lit sky. How the world is full of signs and wonders that come, and go, and if you are lucky you might see them. Once, twice. Perhaps never again. […] A starling with a crooked beak. A day of hoarfrost and smoke. A cherry tree thick with blossom. Thunderclouds, lightning strikes, comets and eclipses: celestial events terrifying in their blind distances but reassuring you, too, that the world is for ever, though you are only a blink in its course.”

“I read that after denial comes grief. Or anger. Or guilt. I remember worrying about which stage I was at. I wanted to taxonomise the process, order it, make it sensible. But there was no sense, and I didn’t recognize any of these emotions at all.”

“When I was small I’d loved falconry’s historical glamour. I treasured it in the same way children treasure the hope that they might be like the children in books: secretly magical, part of some deeper, mysterious world that makes them something out of the ordinary.”

“‘Need to excel in order to be loved,’ [T. H.] White had written in his dream diary. But there is an unspoken coda to that sentence. What happens if you excel at something and discover you are still unloved?”

“Being a novice is safe. When you are learning how to do something, you do not have to worry about whether or not you are good at it. But when you have done something, have learned how to do it, you are not safe any more. Being an expert opens you up to judgement.”

“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.”

“That little space of irresolution is a strange place to be. You feel safe because you are entirely at the world’s mercy. It is a rush. You lose yourself in it. And so you run towards those little shots of fate, where the world turns. That is the lure: that is why we lose ourselves, when powerless from hurt and grief, in drugs or gambling or drink; in addictions that collar the broken soul and shake it like a dog.”

“The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade, turning up things you had forgotten. Surprising things come to light: not simply memories, but states of mind, emotions, older ways of seeing the world.”

“Give me a paper and pencil now and ask me to draw a map of the fields I roamed about when I was small, and I cannot do it. But change the question, and ask me to list what was there and I can fill pages. The wood ants’ nest. The newt pond. The oak covered in marble galls. The birches by the motorway fence with fly agarics at their feet. These things were the waypoints of my world.”

“In the imagination, everything can be restored, everything mended, wounds healed, stories ended.”

Image: Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Quotes from Purple Hibiscus

Book: Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was the first book I had read by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I loved it. She brings you into the mind and the thought patterns and the surroundings of her narrator so vividly. I did not want to put it down, and whenever I wasn’t reading it, my mind kept straying back to the story. It was superb.

(Her TED talk is also great, if you have 18 minutes to spare. Which you ought.)


“She walked fast, like one who knew just where she was going and what she was going to do there. And she spoke the way she walked, as if to get as many words out of her mouth as she could in the shortest time.”

“There are people, she once wrote, who think that we cannot rule ourselves because the few times we tried, we failed, as if all the others who rule themselves today got it right the first time. It is like telling a crawling baby who tries to walk, and then falls back on his buttocks, to stay there. As if the adults walking past him did not all crawl, once.”

“Gold-yellow lights of kerosene lamps flickered from behind windows and on verandahs of homes, like the eyes of hundreds of wild cats.”

“‘Do you try to treat cancer sores or the cancer itself? We cannot afford to give pocket money to our children. We cannot afford to eat meat. We cannot afford bread. So your child steals and you turn to him in surprise? You must try to heal the cancer because the sores will keep coming back.'”

Image: Yercaud-elango [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Quotes from Moominvalley in November

Book: Moominvalley in November, by Tove Jansson

The Moomin books are beautifully, simply written. If ever I want to feel peaceful, nature-enclosed, and Nordic, I turn to them.


“There’s nothing so lovely as being comfortable and nothing is so simple.”

“‘There’s no cat here.’
‘It would be easy to get one,’ said Mymble with a grin. ‘You just imagine it and there you are, you’ve got a cat!'”

“I don’t want friends who are kind without really liking me and I don’t want anybody who is kind just so as not to be unpleasant.”

“They disappeared in the swirling snow, lost in that mixed feeling of melancholy and relief that usually accompanies good-byes.”

“His fire had burnt out long ago but he didn’t feel cold. He had that simple but rare ability to retain his own warmth, he gathered it all round him and lay very still and took care not to dream.”

“During the short and violent thunderstorm Mymble had become completely and utterly electric. Sparks flew from her hair and every little bit of down on her arms and legs stood on end and quivered. Now I’m full of ferocity, she thought. I could do anything, but instead I’ll do nothing. Isn’t it marvelous to do just what one feels like.”

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Book Snippets – Intro

I read things. I read rather a lot of things. For many years, whenever I came across a phrase that amused or intrigued me in the book I was reading, I would cruelly dog-ear the page to save the words.

Then, in 2011, I put an end to this carnage, and started a blog of quotes: Book Snippets.

Since then, I have faithfully transcribed my favorite quotes from each book onto this blog. I haven’t dog-eared a page in over four years.

I love these quotes-collections very much, and it seems a bit silly to have them only on a side-blog—so from here on out, whenever I have a new batch of quotes, I will share them here. I will also begin to share some of my favorite quotes past from Book Snippets’s archives. Why? Because I want to.

May you enjoy.

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