Can You Match the Classic Book to Its Most Famous Line?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: Alicia Llop/Moment/GettyImages

About This Quiz

Mark Twain called a classic "a book everyone wants to have read, but nobody wants to read." And what better way to fake it than to be able to quote a classic book's most famous line? Consider: 
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times;" "It was a pleasure to burn," and "Reader, I married him." Undoubtedly, these famous quotes ring a bell. But can you actually match them to their books? (We can't tell you the answers here; you'll run across all three in the quiz). 

With some books, pretty much everyone agrees on what its most famous line is - this is true of the opening line of "Pride and Prejudice," which you'll find on everything from dishtowels to bookmarks. But with others, there isn't one clear winner. For this quiz, we've picked what we feel is the best-known, most-quoted line. Often it's a first line or the last line, but not always. Here's a helpful hint: though you might see a book used more than once in the answer options (there are choices for each quote), no book will be the right answer more than once. In other words, each question is about a unique book.

You might disagree with one or two of our picks; if so, tell us your choice in the comments. And good luck!

"Stay gold, Ponyboy."

What else could this be but the late-60s teen classic? Johnny Cade says this to his friend, the narrator Ponyboy Curtis, on his deathbed.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

If you're wondering why the full line isn't quoted, trust us, it's for the best. The full quote reads like a paragraph; it's an astounding 119 words long.

"So we beat on, boats against the tide... borne ceaselessly back into the past."

It's amazing to consider that this melancholy line, the last of "Gatsby," was written when Scott Fitzgerald was only 26. His insight into the regrets of midlife was remarkable for such a young man.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a gentleman in possession of a fortune, must be in want of a wife."

This one is famous, of course. Sidebar: does the placement of the commas look wrong to you, like it does to us? Well, that's they way Jane wrote 'em, so we won't quibble.

"There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the thing you were after."

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit" for his children. Generations of children and adults have since taken it to their hearts.

"It was a pleasure to burn."

Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns. Generations of readers have Ray Bradbury's classic novel about book burning to thank for knowing that.

"Call me Ishmael."

Yup, it's another opening line. Enjoy its brevity - from here on out, there's going to be a LOT of complicated, long sentences and paragraphs about the world of whaling.

"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."

Okay, these are three lines. But they all work together to make the reader understand why brazenly dishonest propaganda is called "Orwellian."

"We've got to have rules and to obey them. After all, we're not savages."

This book about preteens shipwrecked on an island is a perennial student favorite, largely because of its relatively short length and involving plot. Spoiler alert: The "we're not savages" thing proves to be wrong. AND HOW.

"Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

This book by Kurt Vonnegut has an odd subtitle: "or, the Children's Crusade, a Duty-Dance with Death." The final clause about "a Duty-Dance" rarely makes it into references to this anti-war novel.

"I will live in the past, the present and the future!"

This is Ebenezer Scrooge's conclusion, after he learns some important life lessons in "A Christmas Carol." It was written, of course, by Charles Dickens.

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

This book is a perennial classic by poet and memoirist Angelou. Fun fact: Angelou wrote and read a poem for Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration.

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

This is the first sentence of the famous Tolstoy novel. "Anna Karenina" is his second-most-famous work, overshadowed slightly by "War and Peace."

"This is the story of America. Everybody's doing what they think they're supposed to do."

Deeply insightful or painfully self-indulgent? This debate about "On the Road," by Beat generation writer Jack Kerouac, is still ongoing.

"I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be."

So what you're saying is that the deck is stacked against you, eh, Pip? Never let it be said that Charles Dickens was afraid of a long pileup of descriptive phrases!

"One man's life or death were a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge I sought."

Oh, Victor. It's going to cost more than one life by the time your mess is cleaned up.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand."

Honestly, our favorite quote from this book is the one that gives it its title. "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." What did Harper Lee have against blue jays?!

"Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined."

"Beloved" is the harrowing story of a mother who kills her daughter rather than have her grow up a slave in the pre-emancipation South. The novel won Toni Morrison the Pulitzer Prize.

"Why didn't you tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn't you warn me?"

Tess is speaking here to her mother, who did not warn her of the dangers of her sophisticated "cousin" Alec. Tess returns home from Alec's estate pregnant outside wedlock.

"Dead men are heavier than broken hearts."

"The Big Sleep" is Raymond Chandler's most famous book, introducing his hero, Philip Marlowe. Chandler also wrote "Farewell, My Lovely" and "The Lady in the Lake."

"I'd known plenty of dead people, of course, but I'd never dated one."

"The Fault in Our Stars" is all about love in the face of death. YouTube star John Green single-handedly changed the course of YA fiction by releasing this realistic, ironic "problem novel" into a market full of vampire and dystopian fantasies.

"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley."

"Rebecca" is probably Daphne duMaurier's best-known novel. The simple, classic line above is its opening line.

"Reader, I married him."

This classic, succinct line has been paraphrased in many ways, ("Reader, I divorced him!"). In its original form, it is the title of a book of Jane-Eyre-inspired short stories.

"High school isn't a very important place. When you're going you think it's a big deal, but when it's over, nobody really thinks it's great unless they're beered up."

This comes from Stephen King's classic chiller about high-school revenge. The quote above reflects King's casual, conversational style.

"But his dreams were as gigantic as his surroundings were small."

This line sums up Thomas Hardy's doomed hero in a few words. Jude wants to be an architect, but England's class system - and misfortune in love - stand in his way.

"What is essential is invisible to the eye."

This is probably the most famous line in Antoine St. Exupery's beloved book. If you haven't seen it lately, check a coffee mug, poster or bumper sticker near you.

"For the dead travel fast."

In Bram Stoker's book, this line appears first in German, then is translated into English. It's one of the lines that stick in readers' memories, along with, "The children of the night... what music they make!"

"I am not afraid of storms, because I am learning how to sail my ship."

This line is from Louisa May Alcott's famous book. She followed it up with "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys."

"Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved."

This line comes late in Stephenie Meyer's first novel. In the movie, it was moved up to a prologue segment about heroine Bella's near-death.

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you."

"Catch-22" is a novel about World War II pilots. The catch in "Catch-22" was that anyone who went to the Army's psychologists asking to be let out of combat missions, based on an irrational fear of them, couldn't be taken off combat duty. Being afraid to fly was rational, therefore proof of being sane.

"He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."

If you enjoy lines like the above, trust us, "Wuthering Heights" is for you. On an emotional scale of 1 to 10, the characters of "Wuthering Heights" are always operating at an 11.

"A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

Many readers point to this as the theme of Ernest Hemingway's classic. Written later in his life, this book was largely responsible for Hemingway winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"I am always saying 'Glad to've met you' to someone I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, though, you've got to say that stuff."

Holden Caulfield narrates "Catcher" as though he's speaking directly to the reader. His thoughts on life are ironic, often funny, sometimes infuriating, and occasionally heartbreaking.

"When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you get it."

Paulo Coelho's book about following one's "personal legend" has become a deeply polarizing book. Some people love it and find it inspirational; others find it misleading and likely to promote self-centeredness.

"A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct."

This quote is from the "Manual of Muad'Dib" in Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic. Also popular are the later lines about "fear... the mind-killer."

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