NPR : News

Close Out The Year With Some Best-Selling Last Words

People often make lists of the greatest opening lines in fiction, but closing lines really appeal to me. They're your final moments with a book and can help you remember and treasure it forever.

The last weekend of the year seems an appropriate time to consider the final words of our favorite novels and short stories. Here are some that I'm especially fond of:

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

George Eliot
"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive, for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs."

Still Life With Woodpecker
Tom Robbins
"But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know: (1) Everything is part of it. (2) It's never too late to have a happy childhood."

The Good Earth
Pearl Buck
"'Rest assured, our father, rest assured. The land is not to be sold.' But over the old man's head they looked at each other and smiled."

The Dharma Bums
Jack Kerouac
"Then I added 'Blah,' with a little grin, because I knew that shack and that mountain would understand what that meant, and turned and went on down the trail back to this world."

Angela's Ashes
Frank McCourt
"I stand on the deck with the Wireless Officer looking at the lights of America twinkling. He says, 'My God, that was a lovely night, Frank. Isn't this a great country altogether?' 'Tis.'"

The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson
"Within, 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."

The Dead
James Joyce
"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."

The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris
"But the face on the pillow, rosy in the firelight, is certainly that of Clarice Starling, and she sleeps deeply, sweetly, in the silence of the lambs."

The World According to Garp
John Irving
"In the world according to her father, Jenny Garp knew, we must have energy. Her famous grandmother, Jenny Fields, once thought of us as Externals, Vital Organs, Absentees, and Goners. But in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases." (Note: John Irving has told interviewers that he always writes the last lines of his novels first.)

What last lines would you share from your favorite books? Please add yours to the comments section below.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


'We All Have To Do Something': Nina Jacobson On Diversifying Hollywood

No one knows the struggles and successes of women in Hollywood better than Nina Jacobson, the producer of the Hunger Games movies. NPR catches up with one of the most powerful women in the business.

Fine Brine From Appalachia: The Fancy Mountain Salt That Chefs Prize

An artisanal salt producer is processing brine from ancient ocean deposits below West Virgina's mountains. The company, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, ships to top chefs who value the salt's minerality.

Downed Russian Warplane Highlights Regional Divide On Syria

Hugh Pope, director of communications and outreach at the International Crisis Group in Brussels, explains the growing divide between Turkey and Russia on their priorities inside Syria.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.