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Literary Tattoo Ideas: Quotes from Books

Updated on January 24, 2016
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

When I was little I used to beg the adults in my life to read to me. I'd approach my mother, my grandmother, 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 Behrenstein Bears, The Little Critter series, Grover's First Day of School, Barbar 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

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.

Literary Tattoos: Quotes & Excerpts

What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire, by Charles Bukowski
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire, by Charles Bukowski
Roll the Dice, by Charles Bukowski
Roll the Dice, by Charles Bukowski
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, poem by Dylan Thomas
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, poem by Dylan Thomas
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
I Go Back To May 1937, poem by Sharon Olds
I Go Back To May 1937, poem by Sharon Olds
Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk
Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk
Final lines in Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
Final lines in Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Player Piano, by Kurt Vonnegut
Player Piano, by Kurt Vonnegut
The Giving Tree, children's book by Shel Silverstein
The Giving Tree, children's book by Shel Silverstein
The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman
The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman

Literary Tattoos: Illustrations

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 favorite is the tombstones from Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian which read: Everything was beautiful. and Nothing hurt.

Cover art from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Cover art from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Cover art from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Cover art from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Illustration from Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Illustration from Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

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.

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    • successfulblogger profile image

      successfulblogger 5 years ago from Los Angeles,Ca

      Many interesting tats.

    • bethperry profile image

      bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee

      How cool!

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 5 years ago from New Zealand

      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.

    • profile image

      cheap oakley sunglasses 5 years ago

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

    • emichael profile image

      emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

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

    • MissLuLuMarie profile image

      MissLuLuMarie 5 years ago from Ohio

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

    • profile image

      Stephanie Moulton 5 years ago

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

    • addictedtolife profile image

      addictedtolife 5 years ago from Sydney

      Beautiful! I absolutely love this idea :))

    • JeniferRW profile image

      Jen 5 years ago from Couch

      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!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      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!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

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

    • profile image

      Andrew 4 years ago

      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!

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    • profile image

      Bookquoteshub.com 3 years ago

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

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