While we may live in a world filled with digital distractions and delights, nothing helps us escape better than a good book. Much like a perfect song, a novel can help transport the reader to not only another world, but also another time in our lives. Be they childhood summer holidays, far away travels, or just a lazy Sunday afternoon, a page-turner can be all the accompaniment we need.
Of course, books aren't only for distraction, as the list below proves. The right one can fundamentally change us, helping shape our worldview and personality. There's nothing better than getting to the last page of something truly beautiful, and having that final line stick with you forever.
In tribute to those wonderful works that change us for the better, we've collected 19 of the most spellbinding last lines in literature.
"The eyes and faces all turned themselves towards me, and guiding myself by them, as by a magical thread, I stepped into the room."
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Published in 1963 under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas," Plath's daring semi-autobiographical novel has been an inspiration for young adults for generations.
"But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."
The House At Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne
The second volume of stories about Winnie-the-Pooh introduced everyone's favorite tiger, Tigger. A children's classic for over 90 years.
"So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough. And I will believe the same about you. Love always, Charlie."
Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Incorporating some of the themes seen in J. D. Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye,' Stephen Chbosky created a modern classic of YA fiction, giving contemporary readers something more natural to relate to.
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Regularly referred to as the best-selling book of all time, Dickens' historical novel takes place in both London and Paris before and during the French Revolution.
“She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”
Stardust, Neil Gaiman
Gaiman's third novel saw the British author tackle the fantasy genre in a pre-Tolkien manner, taking influence from writers from the Edwardian era and before.
"I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Deservedly labeled as a Great American Novel, Twain's fourth book was originally conceived as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, following Huckleberry Finn's story into adulthood.
“She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously.”
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Published just as the U.S. was leaving The Great Depression, Steinback's masterpiece won The National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, and was one of the key reasons he was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.
"Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this."
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
As popular a story as ever - 2019's film adaptation receiving six Oscar nominations - many don't remember Alcott wrote two sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886).
"But now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper."
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
Published in 1997, Golden's look into the secret and fading world of the Geisha became an overnight success, selling over 4 million copies and remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for 58 weeks.
"But I don't think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt."
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Despite its acclaim, the novel has been the frequent target of censors, appearing on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000–2009.
"How wonderful the flavor, the aroma of her kitchen, her stories as she prepared the meal, her Christmas Rolls! I don't know why mine never turn out like hers, or why my tears flow so freely when I prepare them - perhaps I am as sensitive to onions as Tita, my great-aunt, who will go on living as long as there is someone who cooks her recipes."
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
Ever wondered about the title? The phrase "like water for chocolate" comes from the Spanish phrase 'Como agua para chocolate.' This is a common expression in many Spanish-speaking countries, meaning that one's emotions are on the verge of boiling over.
"Up the road, in his shack, the old man was sleeping again. He was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about the lions.”
The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
Written in Cuba in 1951, the book's protagonist is thought to be based on one Gregorio Fuentes, a blue-eyed man born on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands who left for sea at the age of ten.
“Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
A huge influence on New Journalism, Capote's combination of true crime coverage and descriptive storytelling, set the literary world on fire when published. It still stands as the second-best-selling true crime book in history.
“...I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”
On The Road, Jack Kerouac
Kerouac's modern classic had multiple rewrites, rejections, and even had a dog urinate on it. It was typed on roll paper not to interrupt his fast writing flow.
"When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of Love."
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Süskind
One of the best-selling German novels of the 20th century, the crimes of the story's protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, resemble those of real-life Spanish serial killer Manuel Blanco Romasanta, known as the "Tallow Man."
"He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."
To Kill a Mockingbird , Harper Lee
Like the character Atticus, author Harper Lee’s father, AC Lee, was also a lawyer. He defended two African American men accused of murder but lost the case.
“I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
After being rejected by publishers, sisters Emily and Anne paid the sum of 50 pounds (around $6,500 today) to publish Wuthering Heights and Agnes Gray together as one volume.
About the Author
Sam Walker-Smart is a British culture journalist currently based in Barcelona. His work has appeared in CLASH, The Huffington Post, Vinyl Me Please, Barcelona Metropolitan, Little White Lies, and many other outlets. He enjoys weird folklore, sad songs, and good beer.