Most of what makes a book 'good' is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.
The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be.
One rarely falls in love without being as much attracted to what is interestingly wrong with someone as what is objectively healthy.
Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone - and finding that that's ok with them.
One of the best protections against disappointment is to have a lot going on.
We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.
To one's enemies: "I hate myself more than you ever could.
It is in books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.
Not being understood may be taken as a sign that there is much in one to understand.
There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.
What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.
It was no longer her absence that wounded me, but my growing indifference to it. Forgetting, however calming, was also a reminder of infidelity to what I had at one time held so dear.
People only get really interesting when they start to rattle the bars of their cages.
A good half of the art of living is resilience.
Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books written because authors couldn't find anyone to talk to.
You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.
Never too late to learn some embarrassingly basic, stupidly obvious things about oneself.
The largest part of what we call 'personality' is determined by how we've opted to defend ourselves against anxiety and sadness".
The difference between hope and despair is a different way of telling stories from the same facts.
Anyone who isn't embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn't learning enough.
Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you? Everyone loves strength, but do you love me for my weakness? That is the real test.
The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.
Everyone returns us to a different sense of ourselves, for we become a little of who they think we are.
Must being in love always mean being in pain?
The only people we can think of as normal are those we don't yet know very well.
Feeling lost, crazy and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty and reason.
We don't really learn anything properly until there is a problem, until we are in pain, until something fails to go as we had hoped ... We suffer, therefore we think.
Bitterness: anger that forgot where it came from.
There's a whole category of people who miss out by not allowing themselves to be weird enough.
It is perhaps when our lives are at their most problematic that we are likely to be most receptive to beautiful things.
Don't despair: despair suggests you are in total control and know what is coming. You don't - surrender to events with hope.
You have to be quite heavily invested in someone to do them the honour of telling them you're annoyed with them.
One kind of good book should leave you asking: how did the author know that about me?
Cynics are - beneath it all - only idealists with awkwardly high standards.
Forgiveness requires a sense that bad behaviour is a sign of suffering rather than malice.
A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one’s life. There is an urge to say, ‘I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.
The finest proof of our loyalty toward one another was our monstrous disloyalties towards everyone else.
Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition.
What is a snob? A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are. That is snobbery.
One's doing well if age improves even slightly one's capacity to hold on to that vital truism: "This too shall pass.
It is perhaps sad books that best console us when we are sad, and to lonely service stations that we should drive when there is no one for us to hold or love.
There is a longing for a return to a time without the need for choices, free of the regret at the inevitable loss that all choice (however wonderful) has entailed.
There may be significant things to learn about people by looking at what annoys them most.
Travel agents would be wiser to ask us what we hope to change about our lives rather than simply where we wish to go.
Being content is perhaps no less easy than playing the violin well: and requires no less practice.
The telephone becomes an instrument of torture in the demonic hands of a beloved who doesn't call.
The best cure for one's bad tendencies is to see them in action in another person.
The longing for destiny is nowhere stronger than in our romantic life.
What kills us isn't one big thing, but thousands of tiny obligations we can't turn down for fear of disappointing others.
Good sex isn’t just fun, it keeps us sane and happy. Having sex with someone makes us feel wanted, alive and potent
Writing a book has about it some of the anxiety of telling a joke and having to wait several years to know whether or not it was funny.
It's hard loving those who don't much like themselves: "If you're so great, why would you think I'm so great.
Intuition is unconscious accumulated experience informing judgement in real time.
We wanted to test each other's capacity for survival: only if we had tried in vain to destroy one another would we know we were safe.
We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.
A 'good job' can be both practically attractive while still not good enough to devote your entire life to.
As adults, we try to develop the character traits that would have rescued our parents.
The mind does most of its best thinking when we aren't there. The answers are there in the morning.
Instead of bringing back 1600 plants, we might return from our journeys with a collection of small unfêted but life-enhancing thoughts.
Dreams reveal we never quite get 'over' anything: it's all still in there somewhere.
If one felt successful, there'd be so little incentive to be successful.
Love is an incurable disease. In love, there is permanent suffering. Those who love and those who are happy are not the same.
Maturity: knowing where you're crazy, trying to warn others of the fact and striving to keep yourself under control.
The desire for high status is never stronger than in situations where "ordinary" life fails to answer a median need for dignity and comfort.
Those who divorce aren't necessarily the most unhappy, just those neatly able to believe their misery is caused by one other person.
We used to build temples, and museums are about as close as secular society dares to go in facing up to the idea that a good building can change your life (and a bad one ruin it).
The lesson? To respond to the unexpected and hurtful behavior of others with something more than a wipe of the glasses, to see it as a chance to expand our understanding.
Only as we mature does affection begin to depend on achievement.
Distress at losing an object can be as much a frustration at the intellectual mystery of the disappearance as about the loss itself.
We read the weird tales in newspapers to crowd out the even weirder stuff inside us.
To look at the paper is to raise a seashell to one's ear and to be overwhelmed by the roar of humanity.
A notorious inability to express emotions makes human beings the only animals capable of suicide.
The price we have paid for expecting to be so much more than our ancestors is a perpetual anxiety that we are far from being all we might be.
The sole cause of a man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.
It seems that most of us could benefit from a brush with a near-fatal disaster to help us recognise the important things that we are too defeated or embittered to recognise from day to day.
Getting to the top has an unfortunate tendency to persuade people that the system is OK after all.
Despite the best efforts of critics and the hopes of authors, our tastes in books are probably as inherent & unbudgeable as those in food.
Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains.
The materialistic view of happiness of our age starkly revealed in our understanding of the word "luxury.
Not everything which happens to us occurs with reference to something about us.
Paying tax should be framed as a glorious civic duty worthy of gratitude - not a punishment for making money.
When two people part, it is the one who is not in love who makes the tender speeches.
Most victories are, in the best way, acts of revenge.
At the heart of every frustration lies a basic structure: the collision of a wish with an unyielding reality.
In a secularising world, art has replaced religion as a touchstone of our reverence and devotion.
It is surely significant that the adults who feature in children's books are rarely, if ever, Regional Sales Managers or Building Services Engineers.
Politics is so difficult, it's generally only people who aren't quite up to the task who feel convinced they are.
It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value.
Though it may feel otherwise, enjoying life is no more dangerous than apprehending it with continuous anxiety and gloom.
A world where a majority had imbibed the lessons implicit within tragic art would be one in which the consequences of our failures would necessarily cease to weigh upon us so heavily.
Beauty is a promise of happiness.
And I wondered, with mounting anxiety, What am I supposed to do here? What am I supposed to think?
There is a devilishly direct relationship between the significance of an idea and how nervous we become at the prospect of having to think about it.
…it seems we may best be able to inhabit a place where we are not faced with the additional challenge of having to be there.” (p.23)
To appreciate life's small moments, it helps to have a sense the whole can never be made perfect.
Most of our childhood is stored not in photos, but in certain biscuits, lights of day, smells, textures of carpet.
An urgent wish is no guarantor of a sound solution.
It is according to how we are able to answer the question of what we do (normally the first enquiry we will have to field in any new acquaintance) that the quality of our reception is likely to be decided.
The feeling one has no time to get anything done provides the pressure that guarantees one does get some things done.
When Proust urges us to evaluate the world properly, he repeatedly reminds us of the value of modest scenes.