16 Favorite Opening Lines


Most great books have great beginnings. The first sentence or paragraph nails you in your tracks and you have to keep reading. You have to buy the book.

I have my favs. I spent a few hours going over opening lines of books I own and treasure. Now I remember why I treasure them. From the first lines, they had me.

I’m sure you have your favorites.
These are mine.

“I was an ambitious girl child. I knew even then that I had to be, in that environment of thugs, thieves, killers, prostitutes, gamblers—you name it, you’d find it in Trench Town.”
No Woman, No Cry: My life with Bob Marley, Rita Marley

 

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

 

“If this typewriter can’t do it, than fuck it, it can’t be done.”
Still Life With Woodpecker, Tom Robbins
Still life with woodpecker

“In case you hadn’t noticed, you have a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. Have you ever wondered why it talks in there? How does it decide what to say and when to say it?”
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael A. Singer

 

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

 

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

 

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

 

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Franz Kafka

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling

 

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson
Fear and Loathing

 

“You better not never tell nobody but God.”
The Color Purple, Alice Walker

 

“This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.”
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
Breakfast of Champions

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
–The Crow Road, Iain Banks

 

“Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.”
This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

“My suffering left me sad and gloomy.”
__Life of Pi, Yann Martel

 

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”
–A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Feel free to comment or leave your favorite opening line.

About bakoheat

Writer/Musician
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4 Responses to 16 Favorite Opening Lines

  1. Mary says:

    I have always liked the Christmas Carol opening line. Dickens knew how to write them. I think the opening line of Tale of Two Cities is perfection.

    • bakoheat says:

      One of my favorites, too, BUT the opening sentence is so long. I also like “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” (1984)

  2. fiddlrts says:

    A few favorites to add:

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride and Prejudice)

    “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” – C. S. Lewis)

    “Call me Ishmael” (Moby Dick)

    “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams)

    “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.” (The Luck of the Bodkins – P. G. Wodehouse)

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