Here are a few of my all-time favorites (with my apologies to the authors if I don’t quote them exactly):
Happy families are all alike, unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways.
I know this isn’t exactly how Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina started out, but this is the essence of what he meant. What I took from this line (after reading the novel) is that no family is happy all the time, and the way unhappiness strikes could be different every time. So enjoy the good times while they last.
You can’t please a man who isn’t pleased with himself.
Who would have thought that a 1940s novel I bought at a garage sale when I was a teenager would have such a profound influence on my life? But that’s what Margaret Lee Runbeck’s Hope of Earth did for me. This one line clarified my relationship with my over-critical father, while teaching me the need to have pity and compassion for him. No longer did I wonder why nothing I did was good enough. Nor did I beat myself up for not pleasing him. I just did the best I could, and learned to be content with that.
Nothing you can say can change the truth.
Another gem from Hope of Earth. This one has helped me when people have challenged my faith, demanding proof that is impossible to provide. I’ve also thought of this when people have lied about me or events. I know the truth, and nothing they can say will change it.
Lest you think I am all seriousness, here’s one that forty years after first reading it, still makes me smile:
And what’s wrong with that? If I don’t look out for myself, who will? Batman?
I read the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of Snatch when I was a teenager. What I don’t remember is the author’s name: Rennie Arith or something like that.
Which is a shame, because I’d love to re-read this comic novel of a bungling group of kidnappers in the original. The protagonist gets lured into the caper, all the while narrating with self-deprecating humor.
So those are my favorites. What are yours?