All-Time Favorite Opening Lines

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All-Time Favorite Opening Lines

Edited: Mar 18, 2007, 7:33 pm

Inspired by the posts like Please share a few lines from something you are currently reading and the other various quote threads, let's share some of our absolute favorite Opening Lines from our most beloved books!

Here are my two all-time faves:

"The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed." from Stephen King's The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

"Johnny James was sitting on the front porch, sipping from a glass of gasoline in the December heat, when the doomscreamer came." from Robert McCammon's short fiction Anthology Blue World, from the short story Something Passed By.

Edited: Mar 18, 2007, 9:58 pm

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

"Oh damn!" said Lord Peter Wimsey of Piccadilly Circus. Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

"Marley was dead, to begin with." A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

and the first line which has been quoted many times on this site, from The Hobbit. Someone else type it in, I haven't a copy nearby.

Mar 18, 2007, 11:28 pm

"In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 6:00 am

"It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen."
-George Orwell, 1984

ok, I'll go search up a more sci-fantasy opening line as well...

Mar 19, 2007, 6:16 am

I have to wait until I get home... gaah! Why don't I work from home today?!?!

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 6:59 am

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, . . ."
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 8:07 am

"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany."
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

"It was hell's season, and the air smelled of burning children."
Gone South - Robert McCammon

And the entire opening paragraph from Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
"Context is everything. Dress me up and see. I'm a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in tongues, a senator drunk on fillbuster. I've got Tourette's. My mouth won't quit, though mostly I whisper or subvocalize like I'm reading aloud, my Adam's apple bobbing, jaw muscle beating like a miniature heart under my cheek, the noise suppressed, the words escaping silently, mere ghosts of themselves, husks empty of breath and tone. (If I were a Dick Tracy villain, I'd have to be Mumbles.) In this diminished form the words rush out of the cornucopia of my brain to course over the surface of the world, tickling reality like fingers on piano keys. Caressing, nudging. They're an invisible army on a peacekeeping mission, a peaceable horde. They mean no harm. They placate, interpret, massage. Everywhere they're smoothing down imperfections, putting hairs in place, putting ducks in a row, replacing divots. Counting and polishing the silver. Patting old ladies gently on the behind, eliciting a giggle. Only - here's the rub - when they find too much perfection, when the surface is already buffed smooth, the ducks already orderly, the old ladies complacent, then my little army rebels, breaks into the stores. Reality needs a prick here and there, the carpet needs a flaw. My words begin plucking at threads nervously, seeking purchase, a weak point, a vulnerable ear. That's when it comes, the urge to shout in the church, the nursery, the crowded movie house. It's an itch at first. Inconsequential. But that itch is soon a torrent behind a straining dam. Noah's flood. That itch is my whole life. Here it comes now. Cover your ears. Build an ark.
'Eat me!' I scream."

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 9:20 am

Sorry the first two aren't from fantasy books, but those authors often cross genres....

"Roscommon came and laid waste to the garden an hour after dawn, about the time I usually get out of bed and he usually passes out on the shoulder of some freeway." Zodiac by Neal Stephenson

"It was the day my grandmother exploded." The Crow Road by Iain Banks

"The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault." Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Mar 19, 2007, 9:26 am

Oh my goodness, I adore all those opening lines. I must admit, though, the one that flew straight to my head was the opening to Rebecca. The first chapter of that novel is entirely extraordinary and beautifully written.

Mar 19, 2007, 10:04 am

From my 2007 reading:

"Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on." ~ Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

""Too many!" James shouted, and slammed the door behind him." ~ The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

"First the colors." ~ The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

"Once upon a time there was a Martian by the name of Valentine Michael Smith." ~ Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

"124 was spiteful." ~ Beloved by Toni Morrison

Some others that don't fit into SciFi/Fantasy:

"She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather." ~ The Hours by Michael Cunningham

"This is what I write to her." ~ March by Geraldine March

Yes, I love this stuff.

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 10:58 am

My first thought when reading this thread was Rebecca too - it's just such a famous opening! But for some others:

(I'm going to cheat a little and write the opening two lines of this one)

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more." - The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

"The magic in that country was so thick and tenacious that it settled over the land like chalk-dust and over floors and shelves like slightly sticky plaster-dust." - Spindle's End by Robin McKinley (they needed ROOMBAS!!)

and then probably my fondest favourite:

"Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof." - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (WOW!! that one could give "The Thing in the Library" a run for it's money!!!! I hadn't remembered it being just one sentence 8-)

I like these kinds of threads - :-)

Mar 19, 2007, 10:53 am

*giggle* Magic roombas...

Mar 19, 2007, 10:58 am


Mar 19, 2007, 11:05 am


Mar 19, 2007, 11:08 am

I'm going to have to bump up Anne on my TBR list based on that sentence!

Mar 19, 2007, 11:09 am

It does grab you doesn't it? Just plain fun - have you ever read any of the Anne books Morph?

Mar 19, 2007, 11:11 am

Mar 19, 2007, 11:13 am

ROFL!!!! That's so great MyopicBookworm!! I love it, succinct, says it all.

Mar 19, 2007, 11:14 am

>16 katylit: No, I haven't. But I've watched some of the movies.

Mar 19, 2007, 11:17 am

You're in for a treat, the books are wonderful. L.M. Montgomery was a devout nature lover and her descriptions (like the brook) are so lovely. And Anne is just wonderful. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Mar 19, 2007, 11:28 am

#2 - Yes, MrsLee, to me, the first sentence of Rebecca has to be the most beautiful and evocative opening line in English literature.

Mar 19, 2007, 2:35 pm

I'm with everyone who said Rebecca.
I also really like the first line of Pride and Prejudice;
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Mar 19, 2007, 3:34 pm

Oh, these are all so good. I must put on my thinking cap and come back in a bit.


Mar 19, 2007, 3:46 pm

I want to go home and turn to the first page of all my books! :)

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 4:17 pm

Hey, no one said the books had to be Fantasy, right? Good. ;o)

"All this happened, more or less." ~ Slaughterhouse-Five ~ Kurt Vonnegut

"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically." ~ Lady Chatterley's Lover ~ D.H. Lawrence

"I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story." ~ Ethan Fromme ~ Edith Wharton

"A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough; but one that leads from Epsom into Pennsylvania, and thence into the hills that shut in Altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock, and the soft stone smile of an angel, is touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world." ~ Look Homeward, Angel ~ Thomas Wolfe

Mar 19, 2007, 4:26 pm

My all time favorite, and I'm doing it from memory at work:

"When your mother was the geek, my dreamlets,....." and I really don't know it exactly by heart, damn it! I'll post the rest later. It's so brilliant I have to get it right.

Mar 19, 2007, 5:05 pm

All time favourites... I don't know. I've been thinking all day without being able to come up with one. To me it's the books rather than the first line, and a good book can have a not too astounding first line.

However, I think there is some poetic justice in the following -

"I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination."
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K Le Guin

Mar 19, 2007, 6:13 pm

Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. ~ Ireland ~ Frank Delaney

Which is an even better first line the second time you read the book.

Mar 19, 2007, 6:40 pm

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many devices, driven far astray after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy.

The Odyssey

Mr Gum was a fierce old man with a red beard and two bloodshot eyes that stared out at you like an octopus curled up in a bad cave.

You're a bad man, Mr Gum! by Andy Stanton

Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.

Brighton Rock

'What's it going to be then, eh?'

A clockwork orange

Gustave Aschenbach - or von Aschenbach, as he had been known officially since his fiftieth birthday - had set out alone from his house in Prince Regent Street, Munich, for an extended walk.

Death in Venice

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 8:51 pm

#7 - OF COURSE Hitchhiker's, how did I miss THAT!

Also, Gone South!!! I love everything McCammon ever wrote, great choice!

Edited: Mar 19, 2007, 10:42 pm

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. -The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe.

Mar 20, 2007, 12:10 am

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Mar 20, 2007, 8:20 am

Knew someone would post A Tale of Two Cities. :)

This is more of a paraphrase, but:

Based on a true story. Only the most incredible parts are true. The Ghost and the Darkness

I like this because dialogue and the like is likely to be forgotten exactly, but the most amazing parts are remembered.

Mar 20, 2007, 4:09 pm

The best one so far this year was from Margret Atwood's The Penelopiad:
"Now that I'm dead I know everything."

And one that is very fitting for this thread:
"Sometime during your life - in fact, very soon - you may find yourself reading a book, and you may notice that a book's first sentence can often tell you what sort of story your book contains."
-from The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

Mar 20, 2007, 6:08 pm

"The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made alot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

I LOVE that line, haha.

Mar 20, 2007, 7:14 pm

"I met him on the street called Straight."

The Gabriel Hounds -- Mary Stewart

Short, declarative, and alliterative.

Mar 21, 2007, 2:48 pm

OK, here it is:

"When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing."

Geek Love by Katharine Dunn

It only gets weirder from there.

Mar 21, 2007, 3:10 pm

Not an Opening Line, but one of the best and funniest lines, I ever read.

"As I was finishing, I heard a crahing noise. A horned and tusked purple thing went racing along the ridge to my right pursued by a hairless orange skinned creature with long claws and a forked tail. Both were wailing in different keys.

I nodded. It was just one damned thing after another."

I remember when I read it, I had to put the book down for half an hour, because I was laughing too hard to keep reading...

TRUMPS of DOOM by Roger Zelazny.

And every time someone says, "It's just one damned thing after another!", I have an entirely different picture in my head than they do.

Mar 21, 2007, 3:54 pm

"It was a dark and stormy night." - practically everyone in the multiverse.

And not an opening line, but certainly a fantastic one: "In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded." - Terry Pratchett Lords and Ladies

Mar 21, 2007, 4:54 pm


We've frequently mentioned Mary Stewart's Arthur trilogy, but my favorite stuff of hers is her NON-Arthur books. I'm glad to see one mentioned here. Two of my absolute favorite books of all times are The Ivy Tree and Touch Not the Cat.


This book was trippy and delicious and wonderful.

Edited: Mar 21, 2007, 5:30 pm

dressagegrrrl, I never got into the Arthurian books Stewart wrote, but I loved (still do) her other stuff. She does physical atmosphere better than almost anyone I can think of, and her dialogue...the scene in This Rough Magic where Lucy meets Sir Julian on Corfu as he's reciting from The Tempest and she fills in the next line from the rocks below is just wonderful.

Mar 21, 2007, 9:03 pm

Linkmeister, I've got to agree with you. This Rough Magic is an immensely powerful work. I should pick that one up again. It's one that I don't own, so I haven't read it lately.

Mar 21, 2007, 9:47 pm

All artists, they say, are a little mad.
-- The Man Who Loved a Double Bass in Burning your Boats by Angela Carter

Lest anyone should suppose that I am a cuckoo's child, got on the wrong side of the blanket by lusty peasant stock and sold into indenture in a shortfallen season, I may say that I am House-born and reared in the Night Court proper, for all the good it did me.
-- Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

The bells of St. Mark's were ringing changes up on the mountain when Bud skated over to the mod parlor to upgrade his skull gun.
-- The diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

Dressed in various shades of light brown, the Iron Orchid and her son sat upon a cream-coloured beach of crushed bone.
-- The dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

Surrounded by guards, Lucivar Yaslana, the half-breed Eyrien Warlord Prince, walked into the courtyard, fully expecting to hear the order for his execution.
-- Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop

Mar 22, 2007, 3:51 pm

once upon a midnight dreary...... the raven, Edgar Allen Poe. Yes I know its a poem but hey that is one great opening line!

Mar 24, 2007, 5:46 pm

The book she had been reading was under her pillow, pressing its cover against her ear as if to lure her back into its printed pages. "I'm sure it must be very comfortable sleeping with a hard, rectangular thing like that under your head," her father had teased the first time he found a book under her pillow. "Go on, admit it, the book whispers its story to you at night."

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

I love the way Funke writes about books. :)

Mar 24, 2007, 6:07 pm

Not all time favorite, but it sure got me hooked into reading on:

"Hilton was seven when his grandmother died, and it was a bad time. But it was worse when she died again."

The Between by Tananarive Due

Edited: Mar 24, 2007, 6:30 pm

Great line. Certainly sparked my curiosity -- i'm checking out The Between now.

Wow! Just checked her out on Amazon and can't believe i haven't come across that author before. myshelves, thanks for putting me on to what looks like a wonderful southern horror/fantasy writer!

Mar 24, 2007, 8:02 pm

I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is not my favorite, but it leads into the story so well.

Edited: Mar 24, 2007, 8:46 pm

"It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn't that dumb."

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Yeah, there is probably not much reason I should like that line (it's not my favorite, I can't think of a favorite, but it's one that I remember) - it's goofy and doesn't say one word about the story, really. But I think it does give a feel for the narration of the book; straightforward and blunt, and like the narrator is sitting right there across the table talking to you.

Mar 25, 2007, 3:36 am

"Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen."

The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman

"They set a slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair."

Count Zero, William Gibson

In both cases, we're immediately plunged into the issues, dangers and denizens of another world. No exposition, nothing about the damned weather, the game is afoot and we're off at a run.

Mar 27, 2007, 2:28 pm

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

"The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless and hot."

Consider the Oyster by M. F. K. Fisher
I quoted this on the other thread, but I really like it so I'm posting it again! :o)

"An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life.

Indeed, his chance to live at all is slim, and if he should survive the arrows of his own outrageous fortune and in the two weeks of his carefree youth find a clean smooth place to fix on, the years afterwards are full of stress, passion, and danger."

Mar 27, 2007, 3:43 pm

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

"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."

Mar 27, 2007, 3:59 pm

darrow, thank you. I used to read a blog called Metamorphosis which featured hand-drawn and scanned cartoons of a bug. Now I know what that was all about.

Mar 27, 2007, 4:41 pm

"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it".
William Goldman, The Princess Bride

"As I sat in the bath-tub, soaping a meditative foot and singing, if I remember correctly, 'Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar', it would be decieving my public to say that I was feeling boomps-a-daisy. The evening that lay before me promised to be one of those sticky evenings, no good to man or beast"
P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit

And the opening to Anne of Green Gables, but that's already been posted :-)

Mar 27, 2007, 6:15 pm

ditto on a tale of two cities and 1984

other faves...

"i am an invisible man."
ralph ellison, invisible man

"that's good thinking there, CoolBreeze."
tom wolfe, the electric kool-aid acid test

and while i could hardly insert the whole thing here, since i'm not sure there are any periods in the whole thing:

"i saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked..."
allen ginsberg, howl

Mar 28, 2007, 8:35 am

#53 You are welcome Linkmeister. I wish I still had my copy. It's many years since I read it but I never forgot the opening line.

Mar 28, 2007, 8:43 am

>56 darrow:: Kafka wrote some of the best opening lines in general. Unfortunately I can't quote them here as all my copies are in German...

Mar 30, 2007, 11:22 am

"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cap mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead."

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson

59CamilleHolser First Message
Apr 1, 2007, 11:26 pm

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." -- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"I was not a very good wizard. But it was not a very big kingdom." -- A Bad Spell In Yurt by C. Dale Brittain

"When it was over, the living back where they belonged--or someplace else--and the dead buried, I thought again of the day it all began. I wanted to keep Yurt the charming, bucolic, little out-of-the-way kingdom it was, but I had also wished for a little excitement.
"A wizard should know better than to wish for something. Sometimes wishes come true." -- The Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint by C. Dale Brittain

"That morning I thought my main problem was the three drunk newts. But that was before I got the telephone call from the chaplain. He was not in fact the chaplain anymore, but then a minute ago the newts had been three drunk students." -- The Witch & the Cathedral by C. Dale Brittain

Apr 2, 2007, 1:19 am

Wow. I've never heard of C. Dale Brittain, but those sound really intriguing.

Apr 2, 2007, 10:56 am

I do like the three drunk newts. I think I might have to check out C. Dale Brittain, he sounds like he has good possibilities :)

Apr 2, 2007, 11:07 am

"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

Apr 2, 2007, 2:27 pm

katylit, I Googled. Brittain has a website (and is female).

Apr 2, 2007, 3:06 pm

thanks linkmeister :)

Apr 2, 2007, 3:10 pm

hahaha, coincidence that linkmeister provided the link? I think not. :P

Apr 2, 2007, 3:23 pm

lefty, somebody in a Yahoo book club started calling me that; that's how I got the name. It was a real surprise that the domain name had never been bought, so I did so for my website. ;)

Apr 2, 2007, 5:20 pm

#59 So that's where the phrase "as pi**ed as a newt" comes from. :-D

Apr 9, 2007, 2:54 pm

"Call me Johah." Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle.

Apr 9, 2007, 3:29 pm

This is such a great thread. It makes me want to rush home and check through all my books for cool openings.

Has anyone else read Great Beginnings: Opening Lines of Great Novels by Georgianne Ensign? It's basically the same idea as this thread; pages and pages of great openings. She's also compiled a list of great endings, but I haven't read that one as I don't want to spoil anything I might read in the future.

Apr 9, 2007, 4:26 pm

i'm loving this thread -- please keep them coming!

Apr 10, 2007, 2:48 am

"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." Gabriel Garcia Marquez, First line of Love in the Time of Cholera I read this book recently and I loved this opening.

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina I'm surprised no one has cited this one yet.

Apr 11, 2007, 8:28 pm

I'm surprised no one has posted this yet. Perhaps it's got something to do with the intense either-love-it-or-hate-it reaction most people have to this book?

"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 the truth." The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

And I haven't read the rest of the book yet, (it's up next), but I love the first line from Perdido Street Station by China Mieville:

"Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth."

Apr 11, 2007, 9:00 pm

Well, aren't we forgetting other opening lines - famous ones - like the classic "Hey babe, what's your sign?" Or "God must be missing an Angel in heaven tonight, because here you are" or that sorta stuff?


Apr 11, 2007, 9:48 pm

You forgot "how do you get into those jeans?" ;)

Apr 11, 2007, 10:47 pm

So many good ones already!

But I did love these:

"On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology. The governess was always getting muddled - she would take it out of the Wart by rapping his knuckles." The Once and Future King by T. H. White

"Vortipor! Foremost in corruption, supreme in spite! A pig with its snout sunk in the entrails of its rival is not swifter than you to suck down iniquity. Your wickedness flows from your smoke-filled hall and inundates the land in a vile flood of wrongdoing." Arthur by Stephen Lawhead

Apr 12, 2007, 3:52 am

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

May 2, 2007, 2:37 pm

How about: 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 Sorcerer's Stone by {{J. K. Rowling}}

May 2, 2007, 2:41 pm

Nice list, hippietrail! One of my favorite books on that list starts with this line:

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board" —Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Edited: May 2, 2007, 3:00 pm

In the beginning and bisimillahi, sing muse and through me tell the tale of the man of the Spear Danes named Gregory Samsa who awoke from the firing squad to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover that all happy families are alike and stately plump Buck Mulligan in his younger and more vulnerable years must be in want of a wife who for a long time went to sleep early at the best of times and worst of times.

(sorry I initially pasted an even better blend from the same site but it wasn't a blend of opening lines - this one is)

May 2, 2007, 2:52 pm

#80 - Ah, you used a literary blender! ;o)

May 2, 2007, 3:02 pm

Wow-some of those could almost qualify as paragraphs let alone first lines!

May 2, 2007, 3:04 pm

Vanye, maybe they are really WIIIIIIIDE books. ;o)

May 2, 2007, 3:15 pm

hey I have another good one;
Once upon a time in a land far far away.....

opening line of many beloved fairy tales, authors unknown!

May 2, 2007, 4:14 pm

There is one on that list in which every single word w/o exception begins w/the letter A & the name of the book is Alphabetical Africa. That must have taken a lot of doing!

May 2, 2007, 4:19 pm

I have always remembered this line from the first time I read it and it is one of my favorite openings to any book I have ever read:

"In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together." The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

(for some reason the touchstone won't load - oh well)

May 8, 2007, 3:57 pm

One of the most memorable first lines for me mainly because it was my favorite book for quite some time and I read it over and over.

Keith, the boy in the rumpled shorts & shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered room 215 of the Mountain View Inn. - The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

May 8, 2007, 5:54 pm

"A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct." Dune by Frank Herbert

Perhaps not technically the first line of Dune since it a quote from "Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan. However it is the first line on the page and I've always been drawn to it.

89Mattguy First Message
May 8, 2007, 6:08 pm

Ditto on The Gunslinger by Stephen King

And from a secular, pure literature point of view you have to love:
"1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." from The Bible

Edited: May 17, 2007, 10:45 am

Here’s another beginning paragraph. This is one of my all time favorites. It may or may not be fitting following #89’s post. I guess depending on your sense of humor.

It was a nice day.
All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn’t been invented yet. But clouds massing east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was on its way, and it was going to be a big one.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Edited to fix HTML. oops

May 17, 2007, 8:19 pm

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in th eears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs..." After that beginning, I knew I was going to love A Confederacy of Dunces, and I was right.

Folks have already mentioned a couple of others that I had thought of: The Left Hand of Darkness and Anna Karenina.

This is the full first sentence from Paul Clifford: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness." and here are the results of last year's Bulwer-Lytton contest for worst opening lines:

May 18, 2007, 9:52 am

Hmm, I'm fond of the opening to A Tale of Two Cities but loathe Rebecca and all associated incl. the 1st line, I also have an allergic reaction to the opening of Pride and Prejudice because I was made to memorise it.
The one that sprang to mind is Pratchett
"The morris is common to all known parts of the multiverse.." or something similar - I'm at work so don't have it to hand (Lords and Ladies?) but that might be because we have morris dancers coming to the pub tomorrow..

May 19, 2007, 2:49 pm

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
Neuromancer by William Gibson.

"As the London divisions of the glorious troops of the Fatherland march proudly past the gauleiter's podium, they salute the Thousand Year Reich!" the announcer intoned pompously. "Following them, in impressive formation, are the noble soldiers of our great allies, the Red Army! Together our victorious armies will defeat the evil empire of capitalist gangsters across the Atlantic, and claim our rightful place as the only superpower of the millennium!"
The Children's War by J. N. Stroyar.
Now you know exactly what the book is about! I particularly like the last line here - sliding from "Together . . ." to ". . . the only superpower of the millennium!".

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palette to tap, at three, on the teeth.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov.

This is not a conventional cookbook.
The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester.

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice "without pictures or conversation?"
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

May 19, 2007, 5:01 pm

Maybe I missed it; did anyone mention, "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." ? CSL, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Edited: May 19, 2007, 5:53 pm

That morning I thought my main problem was the three drunk newts.

The witch & the cathedral -- C. Dale Brittain

I just got this from the library today, and I have four other books in line before I get to it. However, I glanced at chapter one and that line has hooked me. I'm trying very hard to read the Tales of the Wizard of Yurt in order, but it's difficult.

Dratted touchstone for the book doesn't want to take.

96nugs First Message
May 19, 2007, 8:52 pm

Here's one from the great Flannery O'connor: The Violent Bear it Away

"Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from teh breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up."

One of the longest sentences to kick off a book I've seen in awhile, and definetly full of her southern humor and outstanding wit.

May 22, 2007, 4:09 pm

"The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings." The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as
men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. War of the Worlds H.G. Wells

Ok, so they're not novels.

Jun 23, 2007, 4:52 am

"Morgon of Hed met the High One's harpist one autumn day when the trade-ships docked at Tol for the season's exchange of goods."-Patricia A. McKillip The Riddle-Master of Hed (It only catches in my throat because I've read the rest of the trilogy: it's merely pleasant enough if you haven't.)

"In the year 1901, it was the custom at Harvard for seniors to entertain the incoming freshmen at 'beer nights', where crackers and cheese and beer, to those who drank, and ginger ale, to those who did not drink, were served."-Austin Tappan Wright Islandia (An utterly mundane start to a book that _isn't_ by page 30.)

"Their netword of trade and information ... is too sophisticated for me to maintain my Stupid Foreign Castaway act any longer." -"The Matter of Seggri"
from Ursula LeGuin's Birthday of the World

Does someone have the first line of The Bridge of Birds?

Jun 23, 2007, 11:22 am

The moment after Lew Nolan wheeled his horse away and disappeared over the edge of the escarpment with Raglan's message tucked away in his gauntlet, I knew I was for it.

Flashman at the Charge

Jun 25, 2007, 7:32 am

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

Moby Dick

Jun 25, 2007, 8:22 am

>98 Kushana: The Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world"

Jun 28, 2007, 3:44 am

Thank you, ryn_books. It should have been easy enough to remember but I did not want to try and quote it from memory. :)


Jun 28, 2007, 9:26 pm

The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended.

2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke

Now THAT will pull you in!!

Edited: Jun 29, 2007, 12:56 am

I looked but I don't see it elsewhere in this thread: From Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and loathing in Las Vegas : a savage journey to the heart of the American dream:

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."

Jun 29, 2007, 8:40 am

How about:

He - for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it - was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.

Virginia Woolf Orlando

Jun 29, 2007, 6:26 pm

"The coffin stuck fast at the angle of the garden path and gateway out into the road." This from Penelope Lively's splendid "Passing On," and the mother inside the coffin had passed on, but. . . . Esta1923

Jun 29, 2007, 8:36 pm

#106 - Ooooh, Esta. That sounds very promising!
I'm going to have look that book up.

Jul 13, 2007, 9:13 pm

"As I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the moviehouse, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."

from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


Jul 13, 2007, 9:50 pm

Oh My Goodness! How did I miss posting that?!
One of my all time favourite books (ln case my screen name doesn't give that away.)

Jul 14, 2007, 4:13 am

"It was a nice day. All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn't been invented yet." - Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Though the following are not sci-fi or fantasy:
"The accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace, his palms placed softly on the defendant's table - the posture of a man who has detached himself insofar as this is possible at his own trial." - Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

"Two ELIZABETHANS passing the time in a place without any visible character." (which aptly sums up the entire play, not to mention its more famous cousin) from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard

"Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, 'That afternoon when I met so-and-so...was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon.'" - Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Others of my favorites have already been touched on - A Christmas Carol, The Hobbit, Kushiel's Dart, The Princess Bride, I Capture the Castle, Pride & Prejudice, Harry Potter, Dune, Alice in Wonderland, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (honestly, most of the opening lines of each of the books in this series are wonderful), Moby Dick (though I hate the book itself, I love the first line). So many good first lines, or first paragraphs!

Jul 18, 2007, 3:24 am

I can never go past "Personally I blame the Pope" the opening line from A Death in the Venetian Quarter by Alan Gordon. The text continues with Feste the Fool listing all those he blames for the diversion of the Fourth Crusade to Constantinople but the first line strikes a chord.

The first chapter was presented at the end of the previous novel Jester Leaps In and I was waiting with bated breath for the novel to be released. It took the better part of 10 years for a paperback copy to finally get past the printers.


Jul 29, 2007, 5:02 pm

"Now is the winter of our discontent...

-From Richard III

Jul 30, 2007, 4:36 pm

Halfway through the journey of my life,
Having strayed from the right path and lost it,
I awoke to find myself in a dark and thickening wood.

-- Dante, Inferno, (1308-1321)

Dante, a poet for our times.

Jul 30, 2007, 4:47 pm

"Outside my front door the street is full of leaves."
- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail

"The Trembler was young and fair, with red hair and stupid blue eyes and the pale furry limbs of a spider monkey."
- Will Christopher Baer, Penny Dreadful

"I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug."
- Warren Ellis, Crooked Little Vein

Jul 30, 2007, 4:56 pm

"The city was silently bloating in the hot sun, rotting like the thousands of bodies that lay where they had fallen in street battles."

A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

Jul 30, 2007, 6:39 pm

Not actually the first line of the book, but the first line of Chapter 1 -
"Always remember they come from the desert"
-- The Lions of Al-Rassan bye Guy Gavriel Kay

"You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler."
-- If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino, obviously

"Burning ice, biting flame, this is how things begin."
-- Norse mythology

Jul 30, 2007, 8:39 pm

"Call me Ishmael." - Moby Dick

Alas, it was all downhill from there.

Aug 15, 2007, 11:46 am

Mrs Rachael Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies eardrops....

Aug 15, 2007, 12:48 pm

So many good ones! Kudos to The Gunslinger, 1984, and everything Douglas Adams!

One of my personal favorites is the very clever and instantly hooking intro to Howl's Moving Castle:

"In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes."
-Diana Wynn Jones

Edited: Aug 15, 2007, 1:32 pm

#1 ==> "The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed." from Stephen King's The Dark Tower I, The Gunslinger
That's one of my all-time favorites too. :)

(BTW, I could've sworn I had already posted something here... I'm having the strongest sense of déjá-vu...)

Kudoz to The Hobbit and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!!!

Another one:
September 15th was Kevin's birthday, and he got exactly what he wanted: a Sun.
From The Sun Dog by Stephen King (short story in Four Past Midnight, not exactly the opening line in the book per se, as this is the fourth and last story in the book, but still...)

P.S.: I don't know why the touchstone for The Gunslinger points to the Russian version! Weird!

Aug 15, 2007, 1:43 pm

I think the opening paragraph of A Farewell to Arms is one of the most elegant sentences in English Literature.

Aug 15, 2007, 2:00 pm

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini.

Edited: Aug 15, 2007, 4:11 pm

Douglas Adams had some great ones -- I particularly like:

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression "As pretty as an airport."

-- The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Which, by the way, is one of my favorite book titles ever)

And, if you'll bear with me for an entire paragraph:

Linderwall was a large kingdom, just east of the Mountains of Morning, where philosophers were highly respected and the number five was fashionable. The climate was unremarkable. The knights kept their armor brightly polished mainly for show -- it had been centuries since a dragon had come east. There were the usual periodic problems with royal children and uninvited fairy godmothers, but they were always the sort of thing that could be cleared up by finding the proper prince or princess to marry the unfortunate child a few years later. All in all, Linderwall was a very prosperous and pleasant place.
Cimorene hated it.

-- Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

edited because the touchstones were funky

Edited: Aug 16, 2007, 12:18 pm

Aug 15, 2007, 7:36 pm

"The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide." Three Kingdoms, translated by Moss Roberts.

Aug 15, 2007, 7:56 pm

And I love the opening to Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York,
And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

I remember seeing the play performed, and the actor's voice absolutely dripped with sarcasm on that second line.

Of course, I also love Henry V:

O, for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

(I probably shouldn't have gotten myself started on Shakespeare.)

Aug 16, 2007, 12:28 am

"There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart's Desire." Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Edited: Aug 17, 2007, 5:08 am

"It was a pleasure to burn."
Fahrenheit 451 by the great Ray Bradbury

edited to add touchstone

Aug 16, 2007, 11:25 am

All these, and no one's mentioned:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle

The lyricism, the humor, the puzzlement .... what a great start. Rivaled only by the end...

Edited: Aug 16, 2007, 11:26 am

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Aug 16, 2007, 11:33 am

#129 - Great pick! My library is tragically lacking James Joyce!! Must remedy that soon....

Aug 16, 2007, 11:41 am

"Once upon a time, in an ice-cream-colored-realm,
there lived a little princess named Delirium and her dog Barnabas."

The little Endless storybook by Jill Thompson

What a wonderful description!

Aug 16, 2007, 4:55 pm

>126 foggidawn:: Your Richard III quote reminded me of MacBird.

This heah is the wintah of oua discontent,
Made odious by those Sons-a-Bitches....

Aug 16, 2007, 9:48 pm

Not my favorite, but I like it:

"Eddie O'Hare considers himself to be the unluckiest man in the entire cosmos. And, bluntly, he's got a damned fine point."

From Colony, by Rob Grant.

Aug 16, 2007, 9:54 pm

"{Mrs. Dalloway} said she would buy the flowers herself." Virginia Woolf

Edited: Aug 16, 2007, 10:01 pm

"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman." A Scandal in Bohemia.

The essence of the story....just that line.

Aug 17, 2007, 3:56 am

>>126 foggidawn:
The California Shakespeare Company, which performs at an outdoor amphitheater in Orinda, was showing Richard III one afternoon. As the actor playing Richard delivered that opening line, the sky opened up and it just *poured*, provoking the crowd to laugh; the actor had obvious difficulty keeping a straight face. The play was called on account of rain by the end of the first scene...

Aug 18, 2007, 3:28 pm

123> I second Dealing with Dragons as the best opening page ever.

Oh, and I'd completely forgotten:

"I am the vampire Lestat. I'm immortal. More or less." -The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice

Series goes downhill from there, but still.

Aug 19, 2007, 9:50 pm

And another great Rafael Sabatini opening line from Bardelys the Magnificent....

"Speak of the Devil," whispered La Fosse in my ear, and, moved by the
words and by the significance of his glance, I turned in my chair.

Aug 20, 2007, 9:52 am

Inspired by another thread, here's another great opening line: "In the beginning was the Word..." - The poetic tone, the parallelism to Genesis, the depth of the thought itself - it has to be the best opening line from the ancient world (and consider that last a challenge...)

Aug 20, 2007, 6:17 pm

Two that caught me - one right away, one more slowly as the book and series drew me in:

"It's hard to be a larva." Nor Crystal Tears by Alan Dean Foster. My absolute favorite of the Humanx books (Ryo beats Flinx hollow!).


"The man who was not Terrence O'Grady had come quietly." Agent of Change by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. It's a very simple opening to a story that within two pages is very not-simple....

Aug 20, 2007, 7:47 pm

# 90 I totally agree with you about Good Omens it is an excellent beginning tto an excellent book. I think it is my all time favorite book (which is really saying something, heh)

I also love the opening to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

Aug 20, 2007, 7:50 pm

Yes, thank 42 we're beyond that, and now think ipods are a pretty neat idea.

Aug 20, 2007, 10:57 pm

I second "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink" from I Capture the Castle

and I add, "Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn't go, there lived a cold aggressive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda" from The Thirteen Clocks

Aug 20, 2007, 10:57 pm

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Aug 20, 2007, 10:58 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: May 4, 2021, 2:56 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 5, 2007, 11:28 am

Every Who Down in Who-ville Liked Christmas a lot...
But the Grinch, Who lived just North of Who-ville, Did NOT!

Sep 5, 2007, 12:24 pm

"As the seventeen-year-old Karl Rossmann, who had been sent to America by his unfortunate parents because a maid had seduced him and had a child by him,..." Amerika, by Franz Kafka.

"One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch's Ponds." The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

"It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me." Nine Princes in Amber, Roger Zelaznny.

Edited: Sep 8, 2007, 10:57 am

#144 - "I second "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink" from I Capture the Castle"

I had to laugh reading this, because last night I got an email from a buddy of mine that started with:

> Hiya Larry,
> I'm typing this while standing at my kitchen counter - I'll write
> more later.

Does this mean that I have to add I Capture the Castle to my Must Read List?

Sep 11, 2007, 1:28 am

"Whan that Aprille with hir shoores soote
And the droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swych licour
Of swich vertu engendred is the flour...
... in hir courages,
...folke to goon on pilgrimages"

Dang my memory. I only half know it. You get the idea.

"Christ in a cream-cheese sauce!"
Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks

Sep 18, 2007, 12:16 am

This is long, but stay with it, please.
"His name was James Gilchrist Swan, and I have felt my pull toward him ever since some forgotten frontier pursuit or another landed me into the coastal region of history where he presides, meticulous as a usurer's clerk, diarying and diarying that life of his, four generations and seemingly as many light-years from my own." Ivan Doig starting his wonderful "Winter Brothers," in which he walks in Swan's footsteps and interweaves their diaries.

Sep 18, 2007, 1:22 pm

#151 - I've had to recite that so many times over the years! I'll spare you all the entire transcription of it, but if we're talking Middle English:

"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne;
All this mene I by Love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
So sore, iwis, that whan I on hym thynke,
Nat wot I wel wher that I flete or synke."

Parliament of the Fowls

Sep 18, 2007, 8:34 pm

153 - That's really nice. *Runs to google to find the full text.*

Sep 18, 2007, 9:11 pm

"The escalater crept along slowly, straining upward. In an old station like this, what else could you expect? But the wind swirled like a wild thing inside the concrete pipe--ruffling his hair, tugging the hood off his head, sneaking under his scarf, pressing him downward.
"The wind didn't want Egor to go up."

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Sep 18, 2007, 9:41 pm

I've quoted The Villain's Guide to Better Living by Neil Zawaki's
"Sure, it's good to be bad, but the life of a villain is not always about blocking the sun." in class sometimes... --Kris

Sep 19, 2007, 12:27 am

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" cried Fern.
Charlotte's Web by 'E.B. White

Edited: Apr 23, 2008, 4:51 pm

Time to revive an oldie but goodie! This thread, I mean...

"Over the last three decades, fast food has infiltrated every nook and cranny of American Society."

Fast Food Nation

Apr 28, 2008, 1:16 am

"Beware thoughts that come in the night."

Blue Highways

Apr 28, 2008, 7:11 am

11 -
I have adored Anne of Green Gables since I was little. I adore that opening paragraph. Oh now I want a nice hard-bound copy of them... I really loved them all, but the first one was my favourite.

May 1, 2008, 11:29 am

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

May 1, 2008, 12:35 pm

Here I am, picking nits....

The first line is actually:

I am Sam. Sam I am.

Ok, first 2 lines.

I'm done now.

May 1, 2008, 1:03 pm

Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.


May 2, 2008, 8:08 am

I stand corrected. OK, I lay down corrected.

May 2, 2008, 10:08 am

"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, " and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?""

May 2, 2008, 12:06 pm

Forgive me, I'm going to give you the whole first paragraph because I like it so much:

"In Munich are many men who look like weasels. Whether by genetic accident, meticulous crossbreeding, an early and puzzling migration, coincidence, or a reason we do not know, they exist in great numbers. Remarkably, they accentuate this unfortunate tendency by wearing mustaches, Alpine hats, and tweed. A man who resembles a rodent should never wear tweed."

from The Schreuderspitze, the first story in Mark Helprin's Ellis Island and other stories.

Also, one of my absolute favorite openings:

" 'Take my camel, dear,' said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."

--Rose Macauley, The Towers of Trebizond.

>141 jjmcgaffey:, I also like the opening to Agent of Change -- I love that it starts out with who someone is not.

May 2, 2008, 6:58 pm

In those days, there were heroes and villains, and darkness walked the earth. There were dragons to be slain, captured princesses to be saved, and might deeds to be accomplished by knights in shining armor. Many tales are told of that time, tales of steadfast bravery and derring-do. . . This isn’t one of them.

Blue Moon Rising by Simon R. Green

It is not really the first line, but it is on the cover leaf and back cover.

Aug 6, 2008, 6:35 am

Imagine all the variety of the human species confined to a single world...

Aug 6, 2008, 6:59 am

"It was a dark and stormy night." by Snoopy

trivia question:
- What was the second sentence ?

Aug 6, 2008, 11:03 am

Suddenly, a shot rang out.

I love Snoopy's novel!

Aug 6, 2008, 11:45 am

"When God throws angels down, it starts like this."

from The Wall by Jeff Long

Actually, I love the whole first page.

Aug 6, 2008, 12:38 pm

>163 Arctic-Stranger: Yay! Another Proust fan! But my all-time favorite opening line has to be from Anna Karenina:

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Aug 6, 2008, 7:12 pm

"Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead." from Blaze of Glory by Michael Pryor

It's a pretty good hook. (and book, too).

Aug 6, 2008, 9:57 pm

These are from two of my First Word Love books; that is, books I loved from the first word to the last:

"At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy."
-- The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

"In the fabled, glittering world that was St. Petersburg before the First World War there lived, in an ice-blue palace overlooking the river Neva, a family on whom the gods seemed to have lavished their gifts with an almost comical abundance."
-- The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson

Edited: Aug 7, 2008, 9:14 am

They're a little melodramatic, but I remember that each of the following grabbed my attention from the start:

It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat;
-- The Cats of Ulthar by H. P. Lovecraft

The Land.

"What will we do, Prinado? Why we will perish. We will all die, and the Land will die, and the world will die, and the Cuckoo will reign in bleak dominion over all. That is what we will do.
-- A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

Oct 11, 2008, 9:14 pm

Watchmen's "Rorschach's Journal. October 12th, 1985. Dog Carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'Save us!' And I'll look down, and whisper 'no.' They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsteps of good men like my father, or President Truman. Decent men, who believed in a day's work for a day's pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn't realize that the trail led over a precipice until it was too late. Don't tell me they didn't have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers, and all of a sudden nobody can think of anything to say."

Oct 12, 2008, 1:43 am

Two of my fun favorites, though the second is the first paragraph:

"The moment I saw Morland step into the Beauregard, I hit the floor and started crawling for the back door."
- Snatch by Rennie Airth, an old-fashioned caper with shades of The Ransom of Red Chief

"It was a scene straight out of a nightmare. Gideon Westbrook, Viscount St. Justin, stood on the threshold and gazed into the cheerful little anteroom of hell."
- Ravished by Amanda Quick

Edited: Oct 14, 2008, 3:17 am

Oh that's exactly what I was going to post when I saw this thread. :)

Thanks for bumping this thread, by the way!!


Wake up, sir. We're here.
Sleep of the Just - Neil Gaiman
("Preludes and Nocturnes", The Sandman Vol.1)

The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, on the north we are bounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by the rising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of the Equinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgement. - The American Joe Miller's Jest Book
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
(Well, actually, the first lines of the novel proper are:
Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife. I love this description.)

The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

Ahhh but this:
The Morris dance is common to all inhabited worlds in the universe. It is danced under blue skies to celebrate the quickening of the soil and under bare stars because it's springtime and with any luck the carbon dioxide will unfreeze again. The imperative is felt by deep-sea beings who have never sen the sun and urban humans whose only connection with the cycles of nature is that their Volvo once ran over a sheep.
Reaper Man - Terry Pratchett

(Edited to fix touchstones.)

Oct 14, 2008, 1:15 pm

It was the day after Tuesday and the day before Wednesday.

-from The Epiplectic Bicycle by Edward Gorey

Oct 14, 2008, 2:50 pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Oct 14, 2008, 2:52 pm

"My name is Joseph Fracis Cassavant and I have just returned to Frenchtown in Monument and the war is over and I have no face."

Heroes by Robert Cormier