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Literary Tattoo Ideas: Quotes From Books

From "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut

From "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut

Book Quote Tattoos

When I was little, I used to beg the adults in my life to read to me. I'd approach my mother, my grandmother, or my godfather with a book in hand and puppy dog eyes every chance I got. Very luckily, I was blessed with a family that never told me no. Some of my earliest, happiest memories are of sitting on my grandmother's lap, not-so-secretly sneaking sips from her cup of tea as she read to me from some of our favorite books: The Berenstain Bears, The Little Critter series, Grover's First Day of School, and Babar the Elephant. Even then, I couldn't get enough of the written word.

I will never forget the moment when something clicked inside my brain, and I learned how to read for myself. I was barely four years old, sitting on my twin-size bed and flipping through the children's book Little Miss Sunshine. No one was available to read to me at just that moment, so I made up my mind to shut my bedroom door and figure it out on my own. I was looking at the colorful pictures and struggling with sounding out each individual word when all of a sudden something shifted within me, the words began flowing into full sentences, and I was reading effortlessly. When it came to reading, there were no challenges for me after that moment; it was in that instant that I grew the wings that let my mind take flight. Reading eventually gave way to writing and I've been hooked on both ever since. To this day, I still love reading aloud as well as being read to, though it's been ages since I've had a partner who was willing to do so. I'm an emotional person in general—movies, TV shows, sometimes even commercials can make me cry. But nothing has the power to move me the way a work of literature can. I remember so clearly the first book that made me cry actual tears (Heaven by V.C. Andrews), the first book I ever read more than once (Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen; I read the last sentence and closed the back cover only to flip it over and begin reading it again immediately), I remember discovering Anais Nin and Nietzsche like they were long lost mentors, and the vast universes their words opened up for me. I remember coming across the quote, "The world inside me is bigger than the world around me," and knowing exactly what the author meant.

Anais Nin

Anais Nin

Literary Tattoos

Reading is the ultimate form of escape. When a story is written well, it has the power to inspire and ensnare, planting ideas that were once unknown and germinating beliefs that were previously unfamiliar. My desire to consume the works of others is an ever-pressing need that never seems to fade, which is probably why 3/4 of my own tattoos are words—lumenn, an Elvish word meaning "to shine," is taken from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and tattooed on my lower stomach; a Polish quote by a famous scholar surrounds my arm; the second half of a quote from the German film Aimee & Jaguar, which says "I only want now" decorates my lower back; and lastly, a paraphrase scrawled across the back of my neck says "wake your dreams."

I am far from the only one who feels so strongly about the written word that she would tattoo it permanently on her skin. There are more tattoos out there than you could ever imagine that serve as testaments to the power of a good book. The most obvious homages are, of course, a word, quote, or even an entire paragraph taken directly from the text. Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, and Jack Kerouac are just three of the many authors whose words are frequently found in tattoo form, along with the poems of Shakespeare, Robert Frost, and T.S. Eliot.


Some tattoos borrow images from the cover art of a dust jacket, such as the Fight Club logo from Chuck Palahniuk's novel by the same name, or the man on fire found on the cover of Fahrenheit 451. Of course, children's books are ripe with excellent drawings, but some novels include illustrations found on the inside of the book as well. One of my favorites is the tombstones from Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian which read, "Everything was beautiful" and "Nothing hurt."

A Tough Decision

It's been four long years since my last tattoo, and I find that the urge for another is steadily growing stronger. I certainly have no shortage of ideas, the only challenge will be narrowing down my favorite passages from a lifetime of literature and choosing the perfect one.

Comments on May 05, 2013:

I think there are few interesting quotes from books at Some of those quotes would make great tattoos.

Andrew on December 10, 2012:

I love tattoos. I came back from work the other day to see my girlfriend with her new tattoo on her back and she looked so beautiful. Are you looking for some of the craziest tattoos on the planet? These are some of the best websites I found on Google.

Check them out!

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on November 16, 2012:

I liked looking at the tattoos. I don't think I'll get one though.

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on November 16, 2012:

This is such a wonderful hub! I love the idea of literary tattoos, but choosing a favorite quote would be almost impossible! I love the pictures here, especially the quote done in typewriter font.. That is pretty cool!

Voting up!

Jen from Couch on September 26, 2011:

I loved this Hub! Really great ideas :) Voted Up Interesting useful thanks for posting this, it's very original and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

addictedtolife from Sydney on September 26, 2011:

Beautiful! I absolutely love this idea :))

Stephanie Moulton on September 09, 2011:

This is full of some wonderful ideas. Thanks so much!

MissLuLuMarie from Ohio on August 02, 2011:

I have been wanting a literary tattoo for awhile! Thanks for the ideas!

emichael from New Orleans on July 27, 2011:

Very cool. I like the idea of a literary tattoo. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

cheap oakley sunglasses on July 26, 2011:

Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I feel fervently about this and I like learning about this subject

tebo from New Zealand on July 21, 2011:

I use to love reading that book "Where The Wild Things Are to my children. I quite like the idea of word tattoos. I enjoyed reading the different quotes, thanks.

Beth Perry from Tennesee on July 15, 2011:

How cool!

successfulblogger from Los Angeles,Ca on July 14, 2011:

Many interesting tats.