10 Zadie Smith Quotes On Life, Love, And Everything In Between That Prove She’s One Badass Writer

My first Zadie Smith novel also happened to be Zadie Smith’s first novel — the award-winning title White Teeth, an epically funny story of two unlikely-paired North London friends living outside the bounds of what might be expected of them, who do things like decide their own suicides by the flip of a coin, marry women who seem rather unsuited to them, and raise children whose behaviors surprise them as much as anything else in their lives — and I was instantly obsessed with her voice on the page, as almost all readers of Smith are. Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the oldest and most prestigious literature organization in Britain, in 2002, Smith has written and published three other novels and one essay collection across the course of her already-prolific literary career. And now with her newest novel, Swing Time , coming out in mid-November, it’s the perfect time to revisit all of your favorite Zadie Smith quotes, from the books that landed her at the top of every bibliophile’s must-read list.

With all that said, chances are you don’t need to be reminded that Zadie Smith is a totally badass writer — but just in case, here are 10 of Zadie Smith’s best book quotes.

1. “Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone.”

― from On Beauty

2. “Not everyone wants this conventional little life you’re rowing your boat toward. I like my river of fire. And when it’s time for me to go I fully intend to roll off my one-person dinghy into the flames and be consumed. I'm not afraid.”

― from NW

3. “It's a funny thing about the modern world. You hear girls in the toilets of clubs saying, "Yeah, he fucked off and left me. He didn't love me. He just couldn't deal with love. He was too fucked up to know how to love me." Now, how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? … We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”

― from White Teeth

4. “People don't settle for people. They resolve to be with them. It takes faith. You draw a circle in the sand and agree to stand in it and believe in it.”

― from The Autograph Man

5. “Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own.”

― from Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

6. “The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful ... and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely, and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”

― from On Beauty

7. “You must live life with the full knowledge that your actions will remain. We are creatures of consequence.”

― from White Teeth

8. “I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me.”

― from NW

9. “One of the many things TV does not show you is the potential range and horror of the human form.”

― from The Autograph Man

10. “Full stories are as rare as honesty.”

― from White Teeth

Images: Aki Tolentino, Glenn Carstens-Peters, Tonglé Dakum, Atikh Bana, Tachina Lee/Unsplash