What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You’ve Ever Read?


In May, Reddit asked, “What’s the most beautiful paragraph or sentence you’ve ever read?” Such a good question! I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since. Here are a few of my best-loved lines, and I’m curious to hear yours…

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
—J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew

“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all of its moments — which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story.”
— Atul Gawande, Being Mortal

“ ‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.”
— A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“Some people say, ‘Never let them see you cry.’ I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”
― Tina Fey, Bossypants

“There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before one’s self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.”

“Where did he put them?”

“He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.”
— Conversation between Mrs. Darling and Michael, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

“Three things no one has ever said about me:
You make it look so easy.
You are very mysterious.
You need to take yourself more seriously.”
― Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

“Maybe… you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”
“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”
“Yes. I want to ruin you.”
“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”
— Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Plus, nine poems that make me tear up.

What about you? If you have a minute to share your favorite line, poem or book, I’d love to hear…

P.S. Caroline’s five favorite books, and wise words.

(Top photo by Richard Foulser; Peter Pan quote via Momfilter. Reddit thread via Kottke)

  1. Gisela Soldovieri says...

    I was right away thinking of the same Mary Oliver as Katie,
    Love that Poem.

    and this one, by Leigh Hunt:
    Suppose flowers themselves were new!
    Suppose they had just come into the world a
    sweet reward for some new goodness: and that
    we had not yet seen them quite developed; that
    they were in the act of growing: had just
    issued their green stalks out of the ground
    and engaged the attention of the curious.
    Imagine what we should feel when we saw the
    first lateral stem bearing off from the main one,
    or putting forth a leaf. Til at length in all its
    fairy beauty, and odorous tender and living
    sculpture shone forth ‘the bright consummate
    flower’! Yet this phenomenon, to a mind of any thought
    and and lovingness, is what may be said
    to take place every day.

  2. Lacey Estrada says...

    Into the Mystic by Van Morrison (my favorite song)
    We were born before the wind
    Also younger than the sun
    Ere the bonnie boat was won
    As we sailed into the mystic

    Hark, now hear the sailors cry
    Smell the sea and feel the sky
    Let your soul and spirit fly
    Into the mystic

  3. Chai Ling says...

    ” You meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet one person and your life is changed… forever. ” – Love and Other Drugs

  4. Katie says...

    Mary Oliver has such a wonderful way with words. I stumbled across a recording of her reading this poem and now I hear her soft drawl whenever I read any of her work. Take a listen, it’s beautiful:


    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

  5. Megan M says...

    The old life is an old life.
    one you have already lived.
    one you do not have to keep living.
    you are too wondrous
    for one life.
    – Nayyirah Waheed

  6. FLS says...

    Words of love for my children, written by e.e. cummings:

    i carry your hear with me (i carry it in
    my hear) i am never without it (anywhere
    i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing, my darling)
    i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
    no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

    • FLS says...

      Shoot! Typo –

      i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
      my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
      i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
      by only me is your doing, my darling)
      i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
      no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

  7. Christine says...

    When I’m spending time with my daughter, I often remember a passage from an essay by Paul Kalanithi:

    “When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

    • Kelly says...

      Oh this. It’s stuck with me as well…it’s so beautiful and heartfelt and satiated with a Fathers love. I’m absolutely undone by it.

    • Jennifer L. Sullivan says...

      This stayed with me too. My father died when I was an infant and when I read this it spoke to that part of my life, which I don’t remember at all, but would have had meaning like this.

  8. Dorothy DeMaria says...

    And so they beat on, boats against the current, Bourne back ceaselessly into their past
    The Great Gatsby (last line)

  9. Jamie says...

    “You all righ’?” he said gruffly. “Yeah,” said Harry. “No, yeh’re not,” said Hagrid. “’Course yeh’re not. But yeh will be.”

    “No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it. What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”

    -Harry Potter

  10. “I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.”
    ― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

  11. Courtney says...

    I loved this description of marriage in Anne’s House of Dreams (right as Anne and Gilbert are about to get married):

    “They belonged to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid.”

    Such a beautiful sentiment.

    • Kathryn says...

      Ah! Anne’s House of Dreams might be my favorite novel. The depiction of faithful love is so moving.

  12. We had Elizabeth Alexander’s Praise Song for the Day read at our recent wedding. Alexander wrote it for Barack Obama’s Inauguration and it perfectly captures the the power and grit of love. My favorite line reads, “We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of some one and then others, who said I need to see what’s on the other side.”

  13. Silvie says...

    My 8 year old (very sensitive) boy wrote in Literacy Class:
    “Under the very rough waves, I swam into another world”
    This brought tears to my eyes…By the way he is German at a British School

    • kaela says...

      I can’t get over this. It’s so beautiful and moving. Sounds like a little boy with an old soul. Thanks for sharing. xoxo