63 Quotes from the Novels of Nevil Shute

Every once in a while, when making a statement such as, “You can learn a lot from the novels of Nevil Shute,” a friend is bound to put you on the spot.

“Give me an example,” he’ll say. Or, “Like what?” he’ll ask.

And most of the time, you’ll be able to come up with one or two examples and be satisfied with that.

But sometimes you won’t be satisfied with that.

And you won’t be satisfied because, having learned so much, you can’t see how just a few examples could possibly get the point across.

If you’re like me, you’ll then go through every book written by Shute, note the quotes you like, and cull these down into those that are short–where the message is easy to get across.

Then you’ll number these quotes, noting the books you got them from, and share them with both your friend, and the world, like this:

1. “[W]hen it comes to the point men and women are far stronger than they think.” (The Far Country)

2. “If you do a good job you get a good life.” (The Far Country)

3. “It is good to work very hard when everything seems bad.” (The Far Country)

4. “If you go to the hottest and most uncomfortable place on the map [to do business] you’ll find there’s not a lot of competition.” (Round the Bend)

5. “[I]t does you good to have a quiet time to think, before you take off on a dicey trip.” (Round the Bend)

6. “There’s no sense in agonizing over what can’t be helped.” (Round the Bend)

7. “It’s good to have something physical to do when you’re a bit worried.” (Round the Bend)

8. “[G]ood work and good living [are] one and indivisible.” (Round the Bend)

9. “Wars come, and all the world is shattered by their blast. But through it all young people meet and marry; life goes on, though temples rock and the tall buildings start and crumble in the dust of their destruction.” (Landfall)

10. “There are two sorts of people in the company world—the starters and the runners. The people who start things up aren’t usually the best at running them—you want a different sort of mind for that.” (Kindling)

11. “You can’t build ships with nothing but good wishes.” (Kindling)

12. “[W]ithout work men are totally undone.” (Kindling)

13. “Use your own judgment and not other people’s.” (Kindling)

14. “The first and most important element of comfort is an easy mind.” (Kindling)

15. “Good luck and safety [do] not come unless you [reach] for them.” (Pastoral)

16. “Self-pity never did anyone any good.” (Beyond the Black Stump)

17. “Everybody has to learn to live their life in their own way and from their own experience.” (Beyond the Black Stump)

18. “It’s no good looking backwards; one has to go on.” (The Breaking Wave)

19. “Twenty-eight thousand sheep don’t just look after themselves and cut their own hair and send it to market for you.” (The Breaking Wave)

20. “Like some infernal monster, still venomous in death, a war can go on killing people for a long time after it’s all over.” (The Breaking Wave)

21. “When you are tired there is pleasure in a conversation taken in sips, like old brandy.” (Pied Piper)

22. “Children always like a whistle, especially if they see it made.” (Pied Piper)

23. “You can call a sunset by a filthy name, but you do not spoil its beauty.” (Pied Piper)

24. “Adversity makes people better sometimes, makes them cleverer and tougher. It might happen with a country, just the same.” (In the Wet)

25. “[F]ood dulls the brain.” (Most Secret)

26. “A lonely man who has a dog grows almost as dependent upon him as does the dog upon his master.” (Most Secret)

27. “Loneliness, and the aching void caused by a personal loss, do not endure forever. Old wounds heal; new friendships and associations come as anodynes.” (Most Secret)

28. “You get a double lot of troubles when you get engaged, but you get the hell of a lot more fun.” (Most Secret)

29. “All things are in the hands of God, my son. But that does not mean that we are to lie supine, or refuse to use the wit and strength that God has given us.” (Most Secret)

30. “Self-pity [is] a stupid thing.” (On the Beach)

31. “For most of us life is fuller and more satisfying when one is a big frog in a little puddle than when one is battling on as a little frog in a big puddle.” (Slide Rule)

32. “[E]veryone makes mistakes from time to time, and [thus] . . . any second check is better than no second check.” (Slide Rule)

33. “I am very willing to recognize the good in many men of these two classes, but a politician or a civil servant is still to me an arrogant fool till he is proved otherwise.” (Slide Rule)

34. “When a wealthy man comes to the end of his patrimony, he shows the world what he is made of.” (Slide Rule)

35. “There comes a point . . . when cowardice merges with good sense.” (The Rainbow and the Rose)

36. “Nobody has to do anything.” (The Rainbow and the Rose)

37. “There are some people that you don’t mind telling about painful things, but they don’t come very often.” (The Rainbow and the Rose)

38. “[N]ew experiences keep one young.” (The Rainbow and the Rose)

39. “People get more sense as they get older and get settled down in jobs.” (The Chequer Board)

40. “All work that interests you is bloody good fun.” (The Chequer Board)

41. “[M]ake up your own mind from what you see with your own eyes.” (The Chequer Board)

42. “I don’t think trouble hurts people so much. I think it kind of brings out what’s the best in them, don’t you?” (The Chequer Board)

43. “A civilian pilot, like a dramatic critic, is merely a young man who is too lazy to work for a living.” (Marazan)

44. “It’s curious how little a thing can turn the course of one’s life.” (Marazan)

45. “It’s like a kid with its toys. Music, or the sea, or … or flying. A man has to have his toys, and if you try and take them away from him—you just kill him.” (Mysterious Aviator)

46. “[S]ometimes, if you’re lucky, you get a little sort of a St Martin’s summer, a pleasure that you’ve really got no right to expect.” (Stephen Morris)

47. “He had always held that the average human being was a pretty good sort—that things mostly worked out all right in the end.” (Stephen Morris)

48. “It’s never very wise to make a decision in a hurry, or under exceptional circumstances—if you can put it off.” (Pilotage)

49. “No good getting mopey about things . . . .It doesn’t do any good.” (Lonely Road)

50. “[W]e all make mistakes. I make them, so do you, and so does every living being in the world. One just has to admit them.” (No Highway)

51. “A man who [has] the perspicacity to be right in one thing [is] very likely to be right in another.” (No Highway)

52. “[Y]ou never really know a man until you [know] his secret interests.” (No Highway)

53. “[A]n unusual man is apt to look unusual.” (No Highway)

54. “You can’t go through life sitting on the fence. You’ve got to make decisions, and sometimes you’re pretty sure to make them wrong.” (No Highway)

55. “[M]oney’s meant to be used.” (An Old Captivity)

56. “Great flights were made by men who kept their heads.” (An Old Captivity)

57. “Accidents don’t just happen of themselves.” (An Old Captivity)

58. “History is made by plain and simple people like ourselves, doing the best we can with each job as it comes along.” (Vinland the Good)

59. “[T]hink a bit before taking any precipitate action.” (A Town Like Alice)

60. “It never pays to be impetuous.” (A Town Like Alice)

61. “Nothing is real till it happens.” (A Town Like Alice)

62. “Most jobs are interesting when you are learning them.” (A Town Like Alice)

63. “[P]artings are stupid things and best got over quickly.” (A Town Like Alice)

Did you enjoy these?

I certainly hope so.

(This post took some time.)

In any case, if you did, I’d appreciate you sharing the above with one of your friends or, as I did, the whole world.

Nevil Shute is a great author, who wrote many great books–including my all-time favorite, Trustee from the Toolroom.

I personally am better for having read them.

And you or anyone you know probably would be too.