Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations (1776)

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely. The charity of well-disposed people, indeed, supplies him with the whole fund of his subsistence. But though this principle ultimately provides him with all the necessaries of life which he has occasion for, it neither does nor can provide him with them as he has occasion for them. The greater part of his occasional wants are supplied in the same manner as those of other people, by treaty, by barter, and by purchase.

Umberto Eco – Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)

I was the type who looked at discussions of What Is Truth only with a view toward correcting the manuscript. If you were to quote “I am that I am,” for example, I thought that the fundamental problem was where to put the comma, inside the quotation marks or outside.


Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology (2017)

At this the gods all nodded and grunted and looked impressed. All of them except for Freya, and she looked angry. “You are fools,” she said. “Especially you, Loki, because you think yourself clever.”


Douglas Hofstadter – Metamagical Themas (1985)

To express my debt to Martin [Gardner] and to symbolize the heritage of his column, I have kept his title “Mathematical Games” in the form of an anagram: “Metamagical Themas”.

What does “metamagical” mean? To me, it means “going one level beyond magic”. There is an ambiguity here: on the one hand, the word might mean “ultramagical”—magic of a higher order—yet on the other hand, the magical thing about magic is that what lies behind it is always non-magical. That’s metamagic for you!


Simon Garfield – Just My Type (2010)

[The Caslon ampersand] is fiendishly difficult to draw, and when done badly may resemble aimless scribble. But when done well, it can be a work of wild freehand art that few regular characters are allowed to be. It can bestow aristocratic virtue to a font, and it can cause the writer about fonts a considerable struggle to contain the purple prose.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

The satisfaction of one’s needs–good food, cleanliness, and freedom–now that he was deprived of all this, seemed to Pierre to constitute perfect happiness; and the choice of occupation, that is, of his way of life–now that that choice was so restricted–seemed to him such an easy matter that he forgot that a superfluity of the comforts of life destroys all joy in satisfying one’s needs, while great freedom in the choice of occupation–such freedom as his wealth, his education, and his social position had given him in his own life–is just what makes the choice of occupation insolubly difficult and destroys the desire and possibility of having an occupation.

Susan Cain – Quiet (2012)

Introverts talking to extroverts chose cheerier topics, reported making conversation more easily, and described conversing with extroverts as a “breath of fresh air.” In contrast, the extroverts felt that they could relax more with introvert partners and were freer to confide their problems. They didn’t feel pressure to be falsely upbeat.

…Extroverts need to know that introverts–who often seem to disdain the superficial–may be only too happy to be tugged along to a more lighthearted place; and introverts, who sometimes feel as if their propensity for problem talk makes them a drag, should know that they make it safe for others to get serious.