Friday, November 16, 2012

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations

Q: Where can you find the heart and soul of humanity?

A: The art world? Trendy restaurants, museums or pop culture as found on the internet or other media? You can look to those places for a good start, but if you want to save time, go to Bartlett’s – as in “Familiar Quotations.”
A good quote can serve as a diary, of sorts, that reflects the times and public opinion. In the just-released 18th edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, people, history and world events are summarized in 20,000 quotes throughout more than 1,400 pages. It’s the most extensive overhaul of the reference standard since its original publication of 258 pages in 1855.

Geoffry O’Brien, Library of America editor in chief and author of 15 books, spent six years as general editor determining which quotes to include. In a CBS This Morning interview on Nov. 14, 2012, O’Brien said (there are unforgettable) lines that people recognize that become the basis of conversation. “This is the process by which quotes become familiar.” While the first version was heavy on common Jeopardy! categories like the Bible and Shakespeare, O’Brien’s decision to add 2,500 new quotes from more women, foreigners and the media reflect their changing roles in society. New authors include Patti Smith, David Foster Wallace, Jimi Hendrix, Emily Post, Harper Lee, and the Dalai Lama.

As a journalist, speechwriter and teacher, I’ve used Bartlett’s for years. There’s nothing like a good quote to bring the moment into focus, and express the emotion of the occasion with a succinct, effective phrase to which everyone can relate. So the next time you’re searching for quotes on anything from the Holocaust to South Park, look to Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

Write soon,


  1. I love a good quote. It's the line people remember and refer to again and again. Thanks for the reminder about Bartlett's, Mary!

    Critter Alley

  2. Mary--I'm glad it was revamped. Our language is a living, breathing thing and the reference books that chronicle it should evolve and change and shift right along with our way of speaking and our culture.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I love Bartlett's!

  4. Thanks for the reminder, Mary. Sometimes just the right quote can spark an idea.