Drawing on thousands of sparkling, moving, entrancing quotations amassed over decades of slow-savoured reading, to refresh the mind and spirit, invigorate tired thought and flaccid prose, and improve the world’s Powerpoint presentations beyond belief. Dive in!

Of borders and beverages

This description of what really marks a border between one country or region and another delighted me. It boils down to the habitual brew offered to a guest. Rory...

Care package

Rory Stewart has a moment of home comfort when some British soldiers he encounters on his hike across Afghanistan brew him some tea and send him on his way with...

Chests as broad as horses

One of several heart-warming accounts of Rory Stewart's random encounters with British soldiers in Afghanistan.

They always show him and his dog kindness, providing momentary reprieve from remoteness; see the...

How to mess up an interview

What's the gravest problem facing the UK?  Brexit? Not a bit of it. I loved this response of Harry Eyres during his civil service interview.  Needless to say, it didn't...

Government as jugglery

According to this 9th century vizier, policy is what you end up with once you've figured out what works. You throw a few balls in the air and if they...

I love Babur – II

Again, splendid, awkward Babur, the massive mutt picked up by Rory Stewart while trekking across Afghanistan.  Usually Rory has to yank, drag and generally cajole the dog into continuing.

Here...

I love Babur – I

One of the great dogs I've met through reading is Babur, whom Rory Stewart acquired, against his better judgement, while hiking across some of the remoter regions of Afghanistan.  Babur...

Pocket money sexism

Tom Tulliver once again spurns his sister, putting her in her place in a depressing translation of worth of boy versus girl in terms of Christmas gift money.

The novel...

Brother and sister

George Eliot's Mill on the Floss is largely about the relationship between Tom and Maggie Tulliver, brother and sister. Her needy love for him and his genuine but undemonstrative and...

Why fight?

Rory Stewart's trek across Afghanistan allowed him to meet some colourful characters.  Here he questions one of them to understand why he took up arms, first against the Russians and...

What’s the difference?

On his long trek across some of the remoter regions of Afghanistan, Rory Stewart found himself being presented as having a range of professions. Here the man introducing him is...

In celebration of later love

George Eliot noticed a bias in poets' treatment of love, a tendency to say many fine things about its first experience, and far fewer about those that happen later in...

I have discovered that, with the passing of the years, my ignorance in countless areas… has become increasingly perfected while, at the same time, a lifelong practice of haphazard readings has left me with a sort of commonplace book in whose pages I find my own thoughts put into the words of others.   

Source: Alberto Manguel, The City of Words, CBC Massey Lecture Series (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2007), p. 3

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