Books

The 19 Best Sentences of 2017

Straight from the pens of Sally Rooney, Durga Chew-Bose, and James Comey, to name a few.

Lisa Larson-Walker

“Style is not a glaze applied late in the day to make prose look or sound better.” —Geoff Dyer, “Dead Ball Situation,” Harper’s

“Is there anything less clear than an accusation made when you’re running out the door?” —Durga Chew-Bose, Too Much and Not the Mood

“It was just the usual struggle to stay in love, keep it hot, keep it real, the boredom and revulsion, the afterthought of copulation, the fight for her attention, treating me like a roommate, or maybe like a vision of some shuddering gelatinous organ she’d forgotten still worked inside her.” —Matthew Klam, Who Is Rich?

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“He’s trying to choose between three or four different options, all of which are so crusted with ornament that they appear actually diseased, as if King Midas had contracted an STD and then foolishly touched himself.” —Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy: A Memoir

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“Much happens in dreams that tests the boundaries of believability, and tests them in meticulous psychological terms, eventually bullying us into belief.” —Teju Cole, Blind Spot

“If I were an early person
I’d look for the limits of wisdom
by going to sacred oak trees
or the local blind man with lips on fire.
But this is now. This is N.Y.C.” —Anne Carson, “Clive Song,” New Yorker

“When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, ‘I want to talk about Mike Flynn.’ ” —James Comey in prepared testimony to congress

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“A word, like a virus, is a minimal kind of agent: it wants to get itself said.” —Daniel C. Dennett, From Bacteria to Bach and Back

“The strange, violent, beautiful sea: this was what she had wanted Lydia to see. It touched every part of the world, a glittering curtain drawn across a mystery.” —Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach

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“Saeed’s father then summoned Nadia into his room and spoke to her without Saeed and said that he was entrusting her with his son’s life, and she, whom he called daughter, must, like a daughter, not fail him, whom she called father, and she must see Saeed through to safety, and he hoped she would one day marry his son and be called mother by his grandchildren, but this was up to them to decide, and all he asked was that she remain by Saeed’s side until Saeed was out of danger, and he asked her to promise this to him, and she said she would promise only if Saeed’s father came with them, and he said again that he could not, but that they must go, he said it softly, like a prayer, and she sat there with him in silence and the minutes passed, and in the end she promised, and it was an easy promise to make because she had at that time no thoughts of leaving Saeed, but it was also a difficult one because in making it she felt she was abandoning the old man, and even if he did have his siblings and cousins, and might now go live with them or have them come live with him, they could not protect him as Saeed and Nadia could, and so by making the promise he demanded she make she was in a sense killing him, but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” — Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

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“For as long as people have been making stories, they have been inventing islands.” —Malachy Tallack, The Un-Discovered Islands

“I enjoyed playing the smiling girl who remembered things.” —Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends

“To survive, we have to trust someone. But we have to convince ourselves that absolute trust, of the kind that sometimes happens when people fall in love, does not exist—that the only trust is probabilistic.” —Umberto Eco, Chronicles of a Liquid Society

“im afraid i must say that i do not find the mysteries featured on ‘scooby-doo’ challenging enough .” —“dril” on Twitter

“I don’t believe in not believing in guilty pleasures.” —Elisa Gabbert, “On the Pleasures of Front Matter,” Paris Review

“My aim is to never be caught, as the rappers say. And my ambition is to write both in defiance of tragedy and in blindness of its possibility, to keep screaming into the waves—just as my ancestors did.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power

“Now goddess, child of Zeus,
Tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.” —Homer, translated by Emily Wilson, The Odyssey

“It’s in the nature of the landscape to change, and it’s in the nature of people to help the process along.” —John Darnielle, Universal Harvester

“Suddenly…everything mattered.” —Cathy Malkasian, Eartha

Read all the pieces in the Slate Book Review.

And read more of Slate’s coverage of the best movies, TV, books, and music of 2017.

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