Mighty Life List
Jun 12 2013

Ink on Ink, Literary Tattoos

All of my favorite books would make bummer tattoos. “What’s that about?” “Oh! I’m way into Lolita. I just think it’s so beautifully written.” Tiny bit unsettling, right?

Still, I love these.


Moby Dick


Alice in Wonderland


Peter Pan


Bukowski, “Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.”


Clockwork Orange


The Outsiders

Have you ever considered getting a readerly tattoo? Which book?

If you liked this, you might also like:
Children’s Book Tattoos
My Tattoo Art board on Pinterest

Eight Books that Changed Things for Me

21 Responses to “Ink on Ink, Literary Tattoos”

  • Corin Says:

    Last summer I got “But sometimes you do” tattooed on my wrist, which is from “To Kill A Mockingbird,” when Atticus is explaining to his kids what courage is (“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”) I love it, but the one downside is having to explain to people constantly. I feel like I should just carry copies of the book and hand them out. :)

  • Sarah E Says:

    My next tattoo will incorporate a line from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

    “Is is our choices, far more than our abilities, that show what we truly are.”

    That line resonated deep within me from the first moment I read it.

  • GirlsGoneChild Says:

    I think you know the story of my misquoted Anais Nin tattoo, yes? The one on my hip that I was convinced I knew by heart but actually remembered wrong? Yeah. Solid work, self. And yet, I think I love it all the more because of its preposterousness? Because I was a know-it-all punk kid and didn’t even THINK to look it up until AFTER I inked it across my body. Anyway… before I write an entire post in your comments, I love these. And you.

  • Maren Says:

    Vonnegut tattoos are so cliche, I know, but I’ve always wanted “There’s only one rule I know of, babies, and that’s this — god damn, you’ve got to be kind.”

  • Kellee | FreeTime Ltd. Says:

    Jitterbug Perfume, for sure. But I can’t figure out what it would be. A beet? No. A bottle of perfume? Meh. Simply “Erleichda”? That might work.
    There’s also a quote in the book that I’m totally going to butcher now but it’s something about the purpose of love being to make the loved one feel like a cherished and unique being. The only words I know I have right in that whole sentence is “loved” and “unique.” But the real quote is lovely, and stopped me in my tracks when I first read it. Another Tom Robbins quote I love (but this one from Another Roadside Attraction) is “The only authority I respect is the one that causes butterflies to fly south in fall and north in springtime.”

  • Katie Says:

    Seconded to a Jitterbug Perfume quote. The quote Kellee mentioned is “The highest function of love is that it makes the loved one a unique and irreplaceable being” which is just lovely :)

  • Laurel Says:

    I have a tattoo on my wrist that says “Don’t Panic” :)

  • Nora Says:

    My sister has a Curious George tattoo. Personally I’m not really a tattooed sort, but if I were, I’d get the prophecy from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell (because Spoiler Alert). Or maybe just the word ‘bookworm’ across my knuckles.

  • Eleanor Says:

    I have the word “Timshel” on my wrist – from East of Eden by Steinbeck. It’s one of my favorite books ever in all the land and the meaning of the word and the theme of the book resounded in me the first time I read it: “thou mayest”.

    I’m also getting the Quentin Blake cover illustration for Roald Dahl’s book “Matilda” soon. I adored all of his stories growing up, but Matilda the most.

  • Kristina Says:

    Mine’s math-y and literary at the same thing, kind of? It’s the Adrakhonic Theorem (pythagorean theorem, basically) from Anathem by Neal Stepehenson. I I got it with my sister-in-law who got a deathly hallows tattoo. We cool.
    http://instagram.com/p/Yimmqau-gt/

  • Lauren Says:

    I have a don’t panic tattoo on one wrist and a stay gold tattoo on the other. I always thought if I were going literary I would want to go fancy (well read?) but when it really came down to it, the outsiders has been and always will be one of my favorite books. Not to mention that no one can deny that staying authentic and true to yourself is a good reminder to have with you, always (it goes without saying that the same is true for don’t panic!???)??

    I also have a Jurassic Park inspired dragon curve fractal – my bestie has a matching one, we’re committed for life as platonic life partners in love with Jurassic Park.

  • Lindsay Says:

    I’m dying to get a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird- it goes “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” –> I want the “One does not love breathing” part tattooed on my ribcage but since I’m a graphic designer, I can’t decide on a font! Sigh.

  • natasha Says:

    God. I love Jitterbug perfume.

    “hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic”

  • Elis Says:

    I have a “stay gold” tattoo, and my friend has one for Moby Dick. Like bookends to this post. :)

  • Journie Says:

    I have a little pirate hook crossed with a curvy dagger, which I got in honor of my pirate Border Collies. This counts because they are named Hook and Smee. Smee has a curvy dagger named Johnny Corkscrew. It’s on my bum.

  • Kara Says:

    I have always loved Kipling’s Just So Stories, particularly “The Cat Who Walked By Himself”.

    My ideal literary tattoo is a silhouette of a black cat, and the line “I am the cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me”. It is a line that has always stuck with me.

  • Anastasia Says:

    I already have a star on my wrist. I want to add the Oscar Wilde quote “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are gazing at the stars.”
    And I’ve always wanted a Harry Potter tattoo but not sure what.

  • Amy | Minimally Invasive Says:

    I hadn’t considered it until just this very minute, but I’d lean toward a quote from Little, Big. “‘Love is a myth, like summer.”

    For context, the fuller quote:
    ‘Love is a myth,’ Grandfather Trout said. ‘Like summer.’
    ‘What?’
    ‘In winter,’Grandfather Trout said, ‘summer is a myth. A report, a rumor. Not to be believed in. Get it? Love is a myth. So is summer.”

    God, I love this book. Just about time for a re-read.

  • Laurie Says:

    At age 48, my first tattoo is a paraphrased quote by the poet Mary Oliver on my left inner forearm (The name of the poem is The Summer Day):

    “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

    I love it so much. Phenomenal conversations have resulted from this tattoo, which is at least half of why I wanted it.

  • Danialle Lewis Says:

    I have the Key to Hell from the Sandman comics on my spine. It was my favorite book as a young adult, and cemented my love of Neil Gaiman’s work. It was fun to explain to my grandmother, but mostly I just loved the whole concept and look. Plus, bonus, art from Dave McKean!

  • Heather @ Beyond the Aisle Says:

    I don’t have any tattoos, but my husband and I were talking about the appropriateness of the Dumbledore quote, “words are… our most inexhaustible source of magic.” I love the idea of a “stay gold” tat, though – I teach The Outsiders every year and usually end up writing that in yearbooks.