I recommend Julie Rose’s translation of Les Miserables. I read the more common English translation a few years ago and enjoyed it (the story is a classic, after all), but Rose’s translation is like going from a black-and-white television to color. Here are my 17 favorite quotes from the book:

“He did not study God, he was dazzled by Him.” (48)

“Pain everywhere is an occasion for goodness always.” (49)

“Indigestion was invented by God to force morality on stomachs.” (115)

On the virtuous: “Their lives have a sequel.” (153)

“To write the poem of the human conscience, were it only that of a single man, were it only that of the most insignificant man, would be to meld all epics into one superior epic, the epic to end all.” (184)

“Good thoughts have their bottomless pits just as bad ones do.” (365)

“The counterfeits of the past assume false identities and happily call themselves the future. That ghost, the past, tends to fake his passport. Let us be alert to such a trick. Let us be on our guard.” (421)

“Joy is the backward surge of terror.” (463)

“All the crimes of the man begin in the straying of the child.” (482)

“Many great deeds are performed in the small struggles of life.” (560)

“If there wasn’t someone who loved, the sun would go out.” (769)

“The peculiarity of the sun rising is to make us laugh at all our terrors of the night, and the laugh we have is always in proportion to the fear we have had.” (765)

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable spelled out sparkles.” (810)

“Ideas can’t flow backward any more than rivers can.” (822)

“The mind expands when you are close to the grave; to be close to death makes you see things as they really are.” (924)

“To love beauty is to seek the light.” (1017)

“Dying is nothing; what’s terrible is not to live.” (1490)

(See firstsecondthirdfourthfifth, sixth, and seventh posts with quotes from Les Miserables.)