The Last Lines From 19 Popular Books

The last lines from The Great Gatsby are also on F. Scott Fitzgerald's gravestone.
The last lines from The Great Gatsby are also on F. Scott Fitzgerald's gravestone. / Oli Scarff/Getty Images

While you might remember what happens at the end of all (or at least most of) the books you read, the exact words printed on the last page may not embed themselves in your brain quite so well.

To celebrate National Book Lovers Day on August 9, WordTips writer Sam Walker compiled a list of last lines from 19 beloved books of all eras. Without context, these final sentences don’t give away much, if anything, about the plot, and many of them—like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby—are long-standing classics that hardly qualify for spoiler alerts anyway. That said, there are a few more recent novels on the list (Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower among them), so proceed with caution if you like to read your books from front to back.

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“The eyes and faces all turned themselves towards me, and guiding myself by them, as by a magical thread, I stepped into the room.”

Sylvia Plath’s only novel is technically fiction, but it’s loosely based on her own experience as a “guest editor” at Mademoiselle.

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2. The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh was based on a black bear cub named Winnipeg (“Winnie” for short), though the real Winnie was a female bear.

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3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The 2012 film birthed a whole new generation of Perks fans.
The 2012 film birthed a whole new generation of Perks fans. / MTV Books/Amazon

“So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough. And I will believe the same about you. Love always, Charlie.”

As Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel climbed the bestseller list in 1999, some people tried to have it banned for its frank discussion of things like homosexuality, sexual abuse, and substance abuse.

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4. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Dickens’s final line in A Tale of Two Cities might be better remembered if it weren’t overshadowed by the book’s opening quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”

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5. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

“She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”

Stardust isn’t Neil Gaiman’s most famous novel, but it did get the blockbuster treatment in 2007; the all-star cast included Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Claire Danes.

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6. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

“I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.”

Before Huckleberry Finn got his own novel, he appeared in Tom Sawyer as the “juvenile pariah of the village.”

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7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Looks dusty.
Looks dusty. / Penguin Classics/Amazon

“She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously.”

Steinbeck was inspired to write this Dust Bowl epic after witnessing the poor living conditions at California’s migrant labor camps.

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8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this.”

Louisa May Alcott was undeterred when fans begged her to have Jo marry Laurie. “I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone,” she wrote in her journal.

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9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

“But now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”

Steven Spielberg bought the rights to Arthur Golden’s bestselling novel, intending to direct the film, but passed it to Rob Marshall to free himself up for A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

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10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

“In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment.”

Haruki Murakami’s Yomiuri Prize-winning novel wasn’t without critics. The New York Times review called it “fragmentary and chaotic.”

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11. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Alice Walker's novel broke literary barriers and helped Oprah nab an Oscar nomination.
Alice Walker's novel broke literary barriers and helped Oprah nab an Oscar nomination. / Penguin Books/Amazon

“But I don't think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt.”

Alice Walker’s 1982 epistolary novel—meaning it was written in the form of letters—won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award, and has since been adapted for stage and screen.

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12. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

“How wonderful the flavor, the aroma of her kitchen, her stories as she prepared the meal, her Christmas Rolls! I don't know why mine never turn out like hers, or why my tears flow so freely when I prepare them - perhaps I am as sensitive to onions as Tita, my great-aunt, who will go on living as long as there is someone who cooks her recipes.”

Laura Esquivel’s classic novel, rife with recipes and magical realism, proves that there’s much more to cooking than simply getting food on the table.

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13. The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

“Up the road, in his shack, the old man was sleeping again. He was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming about the lions.”

Coming off an unproductive decade, Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1952 to prove to critics that he wasn’t washed up.

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14. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

“Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”

When Truman Capote traveled to Kansas to investigate the Clutter family murders for In Cold Blood, he was accompanied by his childhood friend and fellow author, Harper Lee.

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15. On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac's prose is just as meandering as his protagonist's road trips.
Kerouac's prose is just as meandering as his protagonist's road trips. / Penguin Classics/Amazon

“... I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

Jack Kerouac drew inspiration for his 1957 novel On the Road from his own cross-country road trips, as well as from the experiences of fellow Beat writers like Neal Cassady.

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16. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

“When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of Love.”

This bestselling German historical fantasy by Patrick Süskind follows a French orphan whose heightened sense of smell leads him into trouble.

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17. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”

Harper Lee used Truman Capote in her work, too: Scout’s neighbor, Dill, is based on him.

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18. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Before landing on The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald experimented with many other titles, including: Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; and Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover.

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19. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

Since female writers were so heavily discriminated against in the mid-19th century, Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights under the alias “Ellis Bell.”

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[h/t WordTips]