124+ Best John Steinbeck Quotes: Exclusive Selection

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was an American author. He won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.” Profoundly inspirational John Steinbeck quotes will challenge the way you think, change the way you live and transform your whole life.

If you’re searching for quotes by famous authors that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of quotes by Upton Sinclair, best H. P. Lovecraft quotes and greatest Jack Kerouac quotes.

Famous John Steinbeck Quotes

I have lost all sense of home, having moved about so much. It means to me now–only that place where the books are kept. – John Steinbeck

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. – John Steinbeck

When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influences and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to himand his dying a cold horror. – John Steinbeck

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. – John Steinbeck

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it. – John Steinbeck

An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion. – John Steinbeck

One can find so many pains when the rain is falling. – John Steinbeck

It is not enough to say that we cannot know or judge because all the information is not in. The process of gathering knowledge does not lead to knowing. A child’s world spreads only a little beyond his understanding while that of a great scientist thrusts outward immeasurably. An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions. So, we draw worlds and fit them like tracings against the world about us, and crumple them when we find they do not fit and draw new ones. – John Steinbeck

One must withdraw for a time from life in order to set down that picture. – John Steinbeck

You’re bound to get idears if you go thinkin’ about stuff – John Steinbeck

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. – John Steinbeck

A little hope, even hopeless hope, never hurt anybody. – John Steinbeck

The free exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. – John Steinbeck

The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. – John Steinbeck

I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like — how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich. – John Steinbeck

Everyone I have ever known very well has been concerned that I would eventually starve. Probably I shall. It isn’t important enough to me to be an obsession. – John Steinbeck

The camera is one of the most frightening of modern weapons, particularly to people who have been in warfare, who have been bombed and shelled for at the back of a bombing run is invariably a photograph. In the back of ruined towns, and cities, and factories, there is aerial mapping, or spy mapping, usually with a camera. Therefore, the camera is a feared instrument, and a man with a camera is suspected and watched wherever he goes… In the minds of most people today the camera is the forerunner of destruction, and it is suspected, and rightly so. – John Steinbeck

Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk. – John Steinbeck

I am writing this from what we Americans call Yurrp. In Yurrp writers are taken as seriously as Lana Turner’s legs are in America – a ridiculous situation. – John Steinbeck

I suffer as always from the fear of putting down the first line. It is amazing the terrors, the magics, the prayers, the straightening shyness that assails one. – John Steinbeck

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised. – John Steinbeck

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. – John Steinbeck

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. – John Steinbeck

I know this… a man got to do what he got to do. – John Steinbeck

Once Charley fell in love with a dachshund, a romance racially unsuitable, physically ridiculous, and mechanically impossible. But all these problems Charley ignored. He loved deeply and tried dogfully. – John Steinbeck

We are lonesome animals. We spend all life trying to be less lonesome. – John Steinbeck

A good writer always works at the impossible. – John Steinbeck

The theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive. – John Steinbeck

A man without words is a man without thought. – John Steinbeck

It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second. – John Steinbeck

That man who is more then his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. – John Steinbeck

We spend our time searching for security and hate it when we get it. – John Steinbeck

His ear heard more than what was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought. – John Steinbeck

There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had. – John Steinbeck

Some men are friends with the whole world in their hearts, and there are others that hate themselves and spread their hatred around like butter on hot bread. – John Steinbeck

In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. – John Steinbeck

Money is not nice. Money got no friends but more money. – John Steinbeck

Books are the best friends you can have; they inform you, and entertain you, and they don’t talk back. – John Steinbeck

If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last. – John Steinbeck

And, of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. – John Steinbeck

A writer lives in awe of words, for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator. – John Steinbeck

If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it-bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there. – John Steinbeck

A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean question: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well – or ill? – John Steinbeck

A creative person has to be alive. He can’t borrow from things he’s done in the past. He can’t let his method choose his subjects or his characters. They can’t be warped to fit his style. – John Steinbeck

We have usurped many of the powers we once ascribed to God. Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed lordship over the life or death of the whole world — of all living things. The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand. Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have. – John Steinbeck

The craft of writing is the art of penetrating other minds with the figures that are in your own mind. – John Steinbeck

You’ve seen the sun flatten and take strange shapes just before it sinks in the ocean. Do you have to tell yourself every time that it’s an illusion caused by atmospheric dust and light distorted by the sea, or do you simply enjoy the beauty of it? – John Steinbeck

Only mediocrity escapes criticism. – John Steinbeck

A town is a thing like a colonial animal. A town has a nervous system and a head and shoulders and feet. A town is a thing separate from all other towns alike. And a town has a whole emotion. How news travels through a town is a mystery not easily to be solved. News seems to move faster than small boys can scramble and dart to tell it, faster than women can call it over the fences. – John Steinbeck

I’ve lived in good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate. – John Steinbeck

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power. – John Steinbeck

Farewell has a sweet sound of reluctance. Good-by is short and final, a word with teeth sharp to bite through the string that ties past to the future. – John Steinbeck

This I must fight against any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. – John Steinbeck

In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. – John Steinbeck

Can you honestly love a dishonest thing? – John Steinbeck

All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal. – John Steinbeck

There is no lostness like that which comes to a man when a perfect and certain pattern has dissolved about him. – John Steinbeck

All Americans believe that they are born fishermen. For a man to admit a distaste for fishing would be like denouncing motherlove or hating moonlight. – John Steinbeck

Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. – John Steinbeck

How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him–he has known a fear beyond every other. – John Steinbeck

No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself. – John Steinbeck

When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing. – John Steinbeck

Man has a choice and it’s a choice that makes him a man. – John Steinbeck

I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts. – John Steinbeck

When two people meet, each one is changed by the other, so you’ve got two new people. – John Steinbeck

But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units — because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves anymore, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails. – John Steinbeck

I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession. – John Steinbeck

I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost. – John Steinbeck

Our Father who art in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the-town and bums, and Mack and the boys. Virtues and graces and laziness and zest. Our Father who art in nature. – John Steinbeck

I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. – John Steinbeck

People need responsibility. They resist assuming it, but they cannot get along without it. – John Steinbeck

Socialism is just another form of religion, and thus delusional. – John Steinbeck

This I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. – John Steinbeck

The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time. – John Steinbeck

We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat. – John Steinbeck

Boileau said that Kings, Gods and Heroes only were fit subjects for literature. The writer can only write about what he admires. Present-day kings aren’t very inspiring, the gods are on a vacation and about the only heroes left are the scientists and the poor. – John Steinbeck

To be alive at all is to have scars. – John Steinbeck

It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him. – John Steinbeck

I guess there are never enough books. – John Steinbeck

He was born in fury and he lived in lightning. Tom came headlong into life. He was a giant in joy and enthusiasms. He didn’t discover the world and its people, he created them. When he read his father’s books, he was the first. He lived in a world shining and fresh and as uninspected as Eden on the sixth day. His mind plunged like a colt in a happy pasture, and when later the world put up fences, he plunged against the wire, and when the final stockade surrounded him, he plunged right through it and out. And as he was capable of giant joy, so did he harbor huge sorrow. – John Steinbeck

I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why. – John Steinbeck

It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming. – John Steinbeck

Some men hunger so much for love that they lose everything that is loveable about them. – John Steinbeck

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. – John Steinbeck

There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I. – John Steinbeck

My imagination will get me a passport to hell one day. – John Steinbeck

If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck. – John Steinbeck

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. – John Steinbeck

It is astounding to find that the belly of every black and evil thing is as white as snow. And it is saddening to discover how the concealed parts of angels are leporous. – John Steinbeck

To finish is sadness to a writer — a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done. – John Steinbeck

I have taken as much as six years to prepare a book for writing. There is such a delirium of effort in the production of a book; it’s like childbirth. And, like childbirth, one forgets the pains immediately so that when you come to write another one you dare to take it up again. Some precious anesthesia sees you through. – John Steinbeck

And when that crop grew, and was harvested, no man had crumbled a hot clod in his fingers and let the earth sift past his fingertips. No man had touched the seed or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under iron gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it had no prayers or curses. – John Steinbeck

If we could learn even a little to like ourselves, maybe our cruelties and angers might melt away. – John Steinbeck

It is a time of quiet joy, the sunny morning. When the glittery dew is on the mallow weeds, each leaf holds a jewel which is beautiful if not valuable. This is no time for hurry or for bustle. Thoughts are slow and deep and golden in the morning. – John Steinbeck

The last clear definite function of man — muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need — this is man. – John Steinbeck

You must not expect to find that people understand what they do. – John Steinbeck

The final weapon is the brain, all else is supplemental. – John Steinbeck

A guy needs somebody―to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick. – John Steinbeck

There are sometimes…when the love for people is strong and warm like a sorrow. – John Steinbeck

Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens – The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away. – John Steinbeck

I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible. – John Steinbeck

So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world. – John Steinbeck

People like you to be something, preferably what they are. – John Steinbeck

Thoughts are slow and deep and golden in the morning. – John Steinbeck

I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found. – John Steinbeck

Try to understand men. If you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love. – John Steinbeck

These too are of a burning color–not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies. – John Steinbeck

And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed. – John Steinbeck

It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone. – John Steinbeck

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. I fear the disease is incurable. – John Steinbeck

If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. – John Steinbeck

Three hours of writing require twenty hours of preparation. Luckily I have learned to dream about the work, which saves me some working time. – John Steinbeck

No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us. – John Steinbeck

Perhaps the less we have, the more we are required to brag. – John Steinbeck

No one wants advice – only corroboration. – John Steinbeck

Maybe the hardest thing in writing is simply to tell the truth about things as we see them. – John Steinbeck

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. – John Steinbeck

The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is let them help you. – John Steinbeck

To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous. – John Steinbeck

And finally, in our time a beard is the one thing that a woman cannot do better than a man, or if she can her success is assured only in a circus. – John Steinbeck

I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen. – John Steinbeck

The camera need not be a cold mechanical device. Like the pen, it is as good as the man who uses it. It can be the extension of mind and heart. – John Steinbeck

I believe that love cannot be bought except with love. – John Steinbeck

Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids. – John Steinbeck