Another year is winding down. It’s time to pause and reflect. Here at Off the Shelf, literature—more than anything—helps us put our meditations into words. So, to celebrate the end of 2018, we wanted to present 18 of our favorite last lines. From modern classics to eye-opening non-fiction, these evocative lines will stay with you long into 2019.
“There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”
Many of us have seen the ineffably beautiful Ang Lee film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, but how many have read the Annie Proulx short story that was the basis for it? Originally published in The New Yorker in 1997, this elegant literary work manages to convey the magnitude of the film in very few pages—and is a revelation for those who believe the short story too narrow to contain multitudes. If you love this story, you'll want to read the original story collection, Close Range.
“But, being who I am and what I am, I cannot find it in my heart to wish you pleasant dreams…”
In a narrative that traverses centuries and space, David Mitchell reveals how his disparate characters connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky. It is a daring exploration of reality and identity.
“Saying farewell is also a bold and powerful beginning.”
It was 2:41 P.M. Eight miles from his truck, in a deep and narrow slot canyon, Aron was climbing down off a wedged boulder when the rock suddenly, and terrifyingly, came loose. Before he could get out of the way, the falling stone pinned his right hand and wrist against the canyon wall. One of the most extraordinary survival stories ever told — Aron Ralston's searing account of his six days trapped in one of the most remote spots in America, and how one inspired act of bravery brought him home.
“Within, its walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
For fans of “American Horror Story”
Though visually stunning, “American Horror Story” is pure nightmare fuel. Borrowing from the classic horror tropes that precede it, AHS is comparable to Shirley Jackson’s classic supernatural thriller THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. Four seekers arrive at the notoriously unfriendly Hill House, where they experience powerful encounters with inexplicable phenomena. (shudders)
“Climb up there and touch the horizon, jump across and find the next.”
“I love you, always. Time is nothing.”
A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.
“He says get ready to have some fun, little girl, because it’s a big bright morning, and this is where the story begins.”
Joe Hill’s novel, like many of the others on this list, features a pandemic, but of a different sort: fire. No one knows exactly why people are suddenly spontaneously combusting, but millions are being affected and no one is safe. One couple is faced with the possibility—and probable inevitability—of becoming sick, and as they become increasingly unhinged, society descends into chaos.
“If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”
“There’s no need for me to be present; I’m not saying goodbye.”
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1918, the “ungettable” Zelda falls for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or even a Southerner, and he keeps insisting that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. What comes next, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time.
“Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?”
A milestone in American literature, this novel has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. Ralph Ellison was awarded in 1969.
“Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”
A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells the story of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha with exquisite lyricism. Published in 1999, with an acclaimed film adaptation released in 2005, Memoirs of a Geisha remains Arthur Golden’s only novel.
“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”
This story about a married couple attending a Christmas-season party ends with a shocking confession. This admission showcases the power of Joyce’s greatest innovation: the epiphany, that moment when everything, for character and reader alike, suddenly becomes clear.
A solo thousand mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State taken by an inexperienced hiker is a revelation. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.