25 Inspirational Literary Quotes For the New Year

by Erin Enders

Every new year I make a promise to cut back on my sugar intake, or cultivate patience, or stop hurling obscenities in traffic. But no matter how many times I set said resolution as my intention in yoga class, about a month in I'm anxiously sitting in my car eating an enormous chocolate bar while swearing at a red light. So this year, for the sake of all the chronic resolution-breakers, I've compiled a list of inspirational literary quotes to help everyone make life-changing resolutions we can actually keep.

I've come to believe that the tricky part is in the wording. I can tell myself 50 times a day that I need to slow my roll and appreciate the moment, but if George Eliot is suggesting that I stop and smell the roses, I'm going listen. I heed the wisdom of my favorite authors as closely as I follow the fashion advice of French ladies, so I firmly believe that with their help, this year can go down in history as The Year the Resolution Was Kept.

Everyone gets caught up in the daily grind and occasionally loses sight of the big picture, which is why resolutions are so hard to keep. The following quotes by literary heroes contain the kind of insight and wisdom you need to craft the right resolution and the inspiration to actually see it through.

1. “We can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.”

—George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

2. “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — 'God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”

—Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

3. “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

—Frank Herbert, Dune

4. “We must have ideals and try to live up to them, even if we never quite succeed. Life would be a sorry business without them. With them it's grand and great.”

—Lucy Maude Montgomery, Ann of Avonlea

5. "...[I]f you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be."

—Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald

6. "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."

—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

7. “Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance."

—David Nicholls, One Day

8. “Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes."

—Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby

9. “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate."

—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

10. "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

—William Ernest Henley, Invictus

11. "Beware; for I am fearless. And therefore powerful."

—Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

12. “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too."

—Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

13. “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserve and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real... it is possible... it's yours."

—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

14. “Stop worrying about growing old. And think about growing up."

—Philip Roth, The Dying Animal

15. “If you don't try at anything you can't fail... it takes back bone to lead the life you want."

—Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

16. “Peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star."

—Charlotte Brontë, Villette

17. “I don't like work— no man does— but I like what is in the work— the chance to find yourself. Your own reality— for yourself not for others— what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means."

—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

18. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

—Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

19. "Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life."

—Henry James, The Ambassadors

20. "There’s only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that the second-best is anything but the second-best."

—Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

21. "Don't try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition."

—Madeleine L'Engel, A Wrinkle in Time

22. “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.”

—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

23. “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

—Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

24. “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”

—Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora

25. “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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