August 16, 2009

TSS: Favorite First Lines

Some novels (and usually my favorites) grab you from sentence one. You itch to know more before you've barely started the book. There are plenty of famous first lines and everyone has their favorite first lines of books, including me. Here are eight of my favorites:

Miriam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.
-Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

It was a pleasure to burn.
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I used the word vulva as a child the way some kids said butt or penis or puke.
-Chris Bohjalian, Midwives

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
-Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups

There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it was happening in a faraway and different land.
-Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

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.
-Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Do you have a favorite first line of a book? What is it?

If you have reviewed a book I have reviewed, please leave me a message or comment and I will add your link to my post.


  1. My favourite opening lines are ""Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again"(Rebecca) and "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink" (I Capture the Castle).

  2. You keep such good records! I should really keep a notebook to record such things! But one that comes to mind is Dickens:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, 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. - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

  3. Great choices! I am also not very good at remembering first lines. I had to google for mine; I remembered that I liked it but not the exact phrase. The first line of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina:

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

  4. here are two of my favorite first lines

    "A screaming comes across the sky"-Gravity's Rainbow

    "Call me Ishmael"-Moby Dick

  5. My absolutely favorite first line is from a book by Peter Esterhazy: "We can't find words." Starting a book with this line is really absurd.


  6. Great first lines! Thank you for sharing!

  7. 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?'
    - Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    This is a fun share! Happy reading!

  8. My fav first lines are from The Bell Jar, Catch-22, and Uglies, but I don't have them memorized. :)

  9. GREAT post topic!!

    I am in agreement with Rhapsody: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....." As appropriate in Dickens time period as it is today.

  10. I've read most of the books you quoted, and I love these first lines! My memory is not so great, but Charlotte's Web has a good one ... Where's Papa going with that axe? Now THAT'S got to grab your attention. :-)

  11. here is one from a book I am reading now

    "Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature".

    A Start in Life

  12. Probably the one from Pride & Prejudice is my favorite. :) I've only been grabbed by a first line in a book maybe one or two times.

  13. Fountainhead : Howard Roark laughed.

    A Tale Of Two Cities : It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

    Catcher In The Rye : 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.

    Great post - brings back some fun memories =)

  14. One of my favorites -
    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

  15. I never remember quotes or lines exactly - more the overall impact of them. I totally agree with your Glass Castle selection - I loved that book and the opening scene (and sentence) grabbed me and wouldn't let me go.

  16. I was going to use the kitchen sink line from I Capture the Castle, but someone beat me to it. :-D

  17. I'm impressed that you were able to come up with so many great opening lines for this post! I know that many (and many more!) exist, but I don't have any committed to memory; maybe I should start writing them down.

  18. Excellent choices! I just have a terrible memory ... I loved Glass Castle but forgot the first line was so awesome ... same with Midwives. Great post.


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