50 quotes on change from literature to help kickstart 2020

Posted by
Francesca Brown
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Looking for some serious inspiration about life’s big changes? Here’s our pick of the best quotes on change in novels, essays, children’s books, poems and memoirs. 

We’ve just stepped into a new decade, which means many of us are thinking about the big life changes ahead. With wise words from some of the world’s greatest feminist writers including Toni Morrison and Sylvia Plath, classics including Jane Austen and George Eliot and breakout contemporary writers such as Candice Carty-Williams and Tayari Jones via much-loved children’s classics, these are 50 of the best quotes from literature which will help you navigate life’s changes. 

Whether you’re facing a new career path, a break-up, a change of outlook, a wedding, a funeral or falling in love, here are the best quotes from books for finding hope and embracing a whole new direction. 

You may also like

10 books about female friendship for you and your bestie to read together


“I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists


“Isn’t life exciting! Everything can change all of a sudden, and for no reason at all!”

Tove Jansson, Moominpappa At Sea


“Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale


“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere


“Is this what growing into an adult woman is – having to predict and accordingly arrange for the avoidance of sexual harassment?”

Candice Carty-Williams, Queenie

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

“Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Inspirational quotes about strength from books and literature: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon


“I’ll think about going (to yoga). But I’m not sure I want to be that relaxed. I am who I am and I might not do so well as a relaxed person.”

Nina Stibbe, Love, Nina


“You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book


“The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder


“There was novelty in the scheme, and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


“The strangeness of Time. Not in its passing, which can seem infinite, like a tunnel whose end you can’t see, whose beginning you’ve forgotten, but in the sudden realization that something finite, has passed, and is irretrievable.”

Joyce Carol Oates, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang


“The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


“There is a curious thing that happens with the passage of time: a calcification of character… Change isn’t always for the worst; the shell that forms around a piece of sand looks to some people like an irritation, and to others, like a pearl.”

Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper


“It is not possible to control the outside of yourself until you have mastered your breathing space. It is not possible to change anything until you understand the substance you wish to change.”

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit


“…he often caught himself living in the mistaken belief that transformation was the same thing as progress. Things could look very different while remaining the same: time could seem to have altered everything, without changing the thing that needed to change.”

Rachel Cusk, Transit


“Being grateful all the time isn’t easy. But it’s when you feel least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective. Gratitude can transform any situation, it alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest, most powerful way to effect change in your life – this I know for sure.”

Oprah Winfrey, What I Know for Sure


“It’s like a snake that sheds its skin. The outside look different when the scales change, but the inside always the same.”

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing


“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…”

Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner


“They say I’m old fashioned and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast.”

Dr Seuss, The Lorax


“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”

Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance


“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit


“You know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon… everything’s different.”

Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes


“Can’t say it often enough – change your hair, change your life.”

Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice


“Since we live in a society that promotes faddism and temporary superficial adaptation of different values, we are easily convinced that changes have occurred in arenas where there has been little or no change.”

bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center


“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

You may also like

The greatest ever Winnie the Pooh quotes for all moments in life


“You’ve no idea how long life goes on and how many, many changes it brings. Young people seem to imagine that it’s over in a flash, that they do this thing, or that thing, and then die, but I can assure you they are quite wrong.”

Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate


“Some changes happen deep down inside of you. And the truth is, only you know about them. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Judy Blume, Tiger Eyes


“This is what divorce is: taking things you no longer want from people you no longer love.”

Zadie Smith, White Teeth


“If I got places, sir, it was because I made myself fit for ’em. If you want to slip into a round hole, you must first make a ball of yourself; that’s where it is.”

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss


“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change.”

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower


“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.”

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis


“People weren’t sane anymore, which didn’t mean they were wrong. Some sort of cord between action and consequence had been severed. Things still happened, but not in any sensible order, it was hard to talk about truth because some bits were hidden, the result or maybe the cause, and anyway the space between them was full of misleading data, nonsense and lies.”

Olivia Laing, Crudo


 “What turning forty means to me? I need to take my pants off as soon as I get home. I didn’t used to have to do that. But now I do.”

Tina Fey, Bossypants


“Sometimes when you like where you end up, you don’t care how you got there.”

Tayari Jones, An American Marriage


“Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don’t mind this when you live here; when you live here, it’s part of the caffeinated romance to this city that never sleeps. But when you move away, your experience change as a betrayal.”

Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman


“Change is one thing. Acceptance is another.”

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things


“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Sign up for our essential edit of what to buy, see, read and do, and also receive our 11-page Ultimate Guide To Making Your Home Feel Bigger.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Main image: Book jackets provided, curated by Alessia Armenise


Share this article


Francesca Brown

Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown

Recommended by Francesca Brown


20 of the most powerful quotes on heartbreak in literature

20 of the most powerful quotes on heartbreak in literature

Posted by
Abi Jackson