Readers,

We have finally waved goodbye to 2021. After filling in 365 pages, a fresh set of 365 days has been provided to us. With the conclusion of a year is the commencement of a new one. 2021 was filled with uncertainties as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc across all parts of the world. The vaccination drive kicked off as well but the threat of the Omicron variant is about to reverse all the gains made. Nevertheless, hope still springs eternal despite the uncertainties that shroud the future.

Staying true to what has become my annual tradition, I am kicking off the new year by looking back to the previous year, its hits, and of course, its mishits. It is also an opportunity to take a glimpse of how the coming year is going to shape up. This book wrap-up is a part of a mini-series that will feature the following:

  1. 2021 Top Ten Not-So Favorite Reads
  2. 2021 Top Ten Favorite Books
  3. 2021 Book Wrap Up
  4. 2021 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part I)
  5. 2021 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part II)
  6. 2021 New Favorite Authors
  7. 2022 Books I Look Forward To List
  8. 2022 Top 22 Reading List

The past two years have been my busiest, as a reader. Perhaps aided by the lockdowns, I managed to complete 185 books; 2021 was just the third time I ended a reading year with at least 90 books. The 92 books I have read in 2021 were all wells of memorable and impressionable quotes, and passages. I have noted several quotes and it has been a challenge choosing the best ones. For the second year in a row, I decided to share more than the normal number I choose for this annual post. For my 2021 Most Memorable Quotes, I have picked a total of 40 quotes from various books, to be shared in two installments. Without further ado, here’s the second batch of my favorite quotes from my 2021 reads.


“Description is akin to overuse – it destroys, the colors wear off, the corners lose their definition, and in the end, what’s been described begins to fade, to disappear. This applies most of all to places. Enormous damage has been done by travel literature – a veritable scourge, an epidemic. Guidebooks have conclusively ruined the greater part of the planet; published in editions numbering in the millions, in many languages, they have debilitated places, pinning them down and naming them, blurring their contours. Even I, in my youthful naiveté, once took a shot at the description of places. But when I would go back to those descriptions later, when I’d try to take a deep breath and allow their intense presence to choke me up all over again, when I’d try to listen in on their murmurings, I was always in for a shock. The truth is terrible: describing is destroying.”
~ Olga Tokarczuk, Flights


“If people could climb higher in the social hierarchy in proportion to their incompetence, I guarantee the world would not go around the way it does. But that’s not even the problem. What his sentence means isn’t that incompetent people have found their place in the sun, but that nothing is harder or more unfair than human reality: humans live in a world where it’s words and not deeds that have power, where the ultimate skill is the mastery of language. This is a terrible thing because we are primates who’ve been programmed to eat, sleep, reproduce, conquer and make our territory safe, and the ones who are most gifted at that, the most animal types among us, always get shafted by the others, the fine talkers, despite these latter being incapable of defending their own garden or bringing a rabbit home for dinner or procreating properly. Humans live in a world where the weak are dominant.”
~ Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog


“I think, Zorba – but I may be wrong – that there are three kinds of men: those who make it their aim, as they say, to live their lives, eat, drink, make love, grow rich, and famous; then come those who make it their aim not to live their own lives but to concern themselves with the lives of all men – they feel that all men are one and they try to enlighten them, to love them as much as they can and do good to them; finally, there are those who aim at living the life of the entire universe – everything, men, animals, trees, stars, we are all one, we are all one substance involved in the same terrible struggle. What struggle?… Turning matter into spirit.”
~ Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek


“As we age, we are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade. We are all familiar with the songs our grandparents favored, after all, even though we never danced to them ourselves. At festive holidays, the recipes we pull from the drawer are routinely decades old, and in some cases even written in the hand of a relative long since dead. And the object in our homes? The oriental coffee tables and well-worn desks that have been handed down from generation to generation? Despite being “out of fashion,” not only do they add beauty to our daily lives, they lend material credibility to our presumption that the passing of an era will be glacial.”
~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow


“The worst pair of opposites is boredom and terror. Sometimes your life is a pendulum swing from one to the other. The sea is without a wrinkle. There is not a whisper of wind. The hours last forever. You are so bored you sink into a state of apathy close to a coma. Then the sea becomes rough and your emotions are whipped into a frenzy. Yet even these two opposites do not remain distinct. In your boredom there are elements of terror: you break down into tears; you are filled with dread; you scream; you deliberately hurt yourself And in the grip of terror—the worst storm—you yet feel boredom, a deep weariness with it all.”
~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi


“But he was to find, as the prophets had found, that the whole earth became a prison for him who fled before the Lord. There was peace nowhere, and healing nowhere, and forgetfulness nowhere. In every church he entered, his sin had gone before him. It was in the strange, the welcoming faces, it cried up to him from the altar, it sat, as he mounted the pulpit steps, waiting for him in his seat. It stared upward from his Bible: there was no word in all that holy book which did not make him tremble.”
~ James Baldwin, Go Tell It On the Mountain


“The world, being in the constant commission of vast quantities of injustice, is a little too apt to comfort itself with the idea that if the victim of its falsehood and malice have a clear conscience, he cannot fail to be sustained under his trials, and somehow or other to come right at last; ‘in which case,’ say they who have hunted him down, ‘—though we certainly don’t expect it—nobody will be better pleased than we.’ Whereas, the world would do well to reflect, that injustice is in itself, to every generous and properly constituted mind, an injury, of all others the most insufferable, the most torturing, and the most hard to bear; and that many clear consciences have gone to their account elsewhere, and many sound hearts have broken, because of this very reason; the knowledge of their own deserts only aggravating their sufferings, and rendering them the less endurable.”
~ Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop


“Though I had resolved to live as if I were dead, my heart would at times respond to the activity of the outside world and seem almost to dance with pent-up energy. But as soon as I tried to break my way through the cloud that surrounded me, a frighteningly powerful force would rush upon me from I know not where, and grip my heart tight, until I could not move. A voice would say to me: “You have no right to do anything. Stay where you are.” Whatever desire I might have had for action would suddenly leave me. After a moment, the desire would come back, and I would once more try to breakthrough. Again, I would be restrained. In fury and grief, I would cry out: “Why do you stop me?” With a cruel laugh, the voice would answer: “You know very well why.” Then I would bow in hopeless surrender.”
~ Sōseki Natsume, Kokoro


“Because when all is said and done the setting doesn’t matter: the space, the walls, the light. It makes no difference whether I’m under a clear blue sky or caught in the rain or swimming in the transparent sea in summer. I could be riding a train or traveling by a car or flying in a plane, among the clouds that drift and spread on all sides like a mass of jellyfish in the air. I’ve never stayed still, I’ve always been moving, that’s all I’ve ever been doing. Always waiting either to get somewhere or to come back. Or to escape. I keep packing and unpacking the small suitcase at my feet. I hold my purse in my lap, it’s got some money and a book to read. Is there any place we’re not moving through? Disoriented, lost, at sea, at odds, astray, adrift, bewildered, confused, uprooted, turned around. I’m related to these related terms. These words are my abode, my only foothold. On the Train There are five of them, four men and a woman, all more or less the same age.”
~ Jhumpa Lahiri, Whereabouts


“These women lived their lives happily. They had been taught, probably by loving parents, not to exceed the boundaries of their happiness regardless of what they were doing. But therefore they could never know real joy. Which is better? Who can say? Everyone lives the way she knows best. What I mean by ‘their happiness’ is living a life untouched as much as possible by the knowledge that we are really, all of us, alone. That’s not a bad thing. Dressed in their aprons, their smiling faces like flowers, learning to cook, absorbed in their little troubles and perplexities, they fall in love and marry. I think that’s great. I wouldn’t mind that kind of life. Me, when I’m utterly exhausted by it all, my skin breaks out, on those lonely evenings when I call my friends again and again and nobody’s home, then I despise my own life – my birth, my upbringing, everything. I feel only regret for the whole thing.”
~ Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen


“To the one in the skies, this city must look like a scintillating pattern of speckled glows in all directions, like a firecracker going off amid thick darkness. Right now the urban pattern glowing here is in hues of orange, ginger, and ochre. It is a configuration of sparkles, each dot a light lit by someone awake at this hour. From where the Celestial Gaze is situated, from that high above, all these sporadically lit bulbs must seem in perfect harmony, constantly flickering, as if coding a cryptic message to God.””
~ Elif Shafak, The Bastard of Istanbul


“But the only revolution you can commit to is the one that lets you laugh and laugh and laugh, because the downfall of every revolution is when it loses its sense of absurdity. This, too, is the dialectic, to take the revolution seriously but not to take the revolutionaries seriously, for when revolutionaries take themselves too seriously, they cock their guns at the crack of a joke. Once that happens, it’s all over, the revolutionaries have become the state, the state has become repressive, and the bullets, once used against the oppressor in the name of the people, will be used against the people in their own name. That is why the people, if they wish to survive and to dodge those bullets, must be nameless.”
~ Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Committed


“The present, we realize, eludes us more and more as the years go by, showing itself for fleeting moments before losing us in the world’s incessant movement, fleeing the second we look away and leaving scarcely a trace of its passing, or this at least is how it usually seems in retrospect, when in the next brief moment of consciousness, the next occasion we are able to hold things still, we realize how much time has passed since we were last aware of ourselves, when we realize how many days, weeks, and months have slipped by without our consent.”
~ Anuk Arudpragasam, A Passage North


“At first you always see what’s alive and vibrant. You’re delighted by nature, by the local church painted in different colours, by the smells and all that. But the longer you’re in a place, the more the charm of those things fades. You wonder who lived here before you came to this home and this room, whose things these are, who scratched the wall above the bed, and what tree the sills were cut from. Whose hands built the elaborately decorated fireplace, paved the courtyard? And where are they now? In what form? Whose idea led to these paths around the pond and who had the idea of planting a willow out the window? All the houses, avenues, parks, gardens and streets are permeated with the deaths of others. Once you start feeling this, something starts to pull you elsewhere, you start to think it’s time to move on.”
~ Olga Tokarczuk, Flights


“This could be their life together, each moment, shared, passed back and forth between each other to alleviate the pressure, the awful pressure of having to hold time for oneself. This is perhaps why people get together in the first place. The sharing of time. The sharing of the responsibility of anchoring oneself in the world. Life is less terrible when you can just rest for a moment, put everything down and wait without having to worry about being washed away. People take each other’s hands and they hold on as tight as they can, they hold on to each other and to themselves because they know that the other person will not.”
~ Brandon Taylor, Real Life


“History is natural selection. Mutant versions of the past struggle for dominance; new species of fact arise, and old, saurian truths go to the wall, blindfolded and smoking last cigarettes. Only the mutations of the strong survive. The weak, the anonymous, the defeated leave few marks: field-patterns, ax-heads, folk-tales, broken pitchers, burial mounds, the fading memory of their youthful beauty. History loves only those who dominate her: it is a relationship of mutual enslavement.”
~ Salman Rushdie, Shame


“I do not think the sunny youth of either will prove the forerunner of stormy age. I think it is deemed good that you two should live in peace and be happy – not as angels but as few are happy amongst mortals. Some lives are thus blessed: it is God’s will: it is the attesting trace and lingering evidence of Eden. Other lives run from the first another course. Other travelers encounter weather fitful and gusty wild and variable – breast adverse winds are belated and overtaken by the early closing winter night. Neither can this happen without the sanction of God and I know that amidst His boundless works is somewhere stored the secret of this last fate’s justice: I know that His treasures contain the proof as the promise of its mercy.”
~ Charlotte Brontë, Villette


“His life was, is, one long film with mobs of extras and exotic, expensive sets. Long reams of film and miles of dialogue extending back as he struts from one scene to another. He can imagine how his movie looks even now: the camera zooming in from above on to the cobblestone prison yard and then merging into a close-up of his thoughtful, upturned face, smoke billowing out from the corner of his dark lips. A colour film, it must be that. It has everything: comedy, music, dance, travel, murder, the wrong man caught, a crooked trial, a race against time and then the happy ending, the wife swept up in the hero’s arms as he walks out, one sun-filled day, to freedom.”
~ Nadifa Mohamed, The Fortune Men


“Beauty meant that you were good. And being good meant being happy. Happiness can be defined all kinds of ways, but human beings, consciously or unconsciously, are always pulling for their own version of happiness. Even people who want to die see death as a kind of solace, and view ending their lives as the only way to make it there. Happiness is the base unit of consciousness, our single greatest motivator.”
~ Mieko Kawakami, Breasts and Eggs


“However apparently insignificant the event, whether it be the ring of tobacco ash surrounding the table, the direction from which the wild geese first appeared, or a series of seemingly meaningless human movements, he couldn’t afford to take his eyes off it and must note it all down, since only by doing so could he hope not to vanish one day and fall a silent captive to the infernal arrangement whereby the world decomposes but is at the same time constantly in the process of self-construction.”
László Krasznahorkai, Satantango


“We all believe we can choose our own path from among the many alternatives. But perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we make the choice unconsciously. I think I did – but now I knew it because now I was able to put it into words. But I don’t mean this in the fatalistic sense; we’re constantly making choices. With the breaths we take every day, with the expression in our eyes, with the daily actions we do over and over, we decide as though by instinct. And so some of us will inevitably find ourselves rolling around in a puddle on some roof in a strange place with a takeout katsudon in the middle of winter, looking up at the night sky, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.”
~ Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen