Tuesday, August 23, 2011

15 Best Opening Lines In Books

Being a voracious writer makes me a voracious reader by default.  Reading and writing go hand in hand; to be an effective writer, one must read.  A lot. 

I have compiled a list of the top 15 lines from scores of books I've devoured in my brief time on the planet.  Each of these awakens something in me and, I imagine, any true lover of books.  In no particular order:

1. Call me Ishmael. - Herman Melville, Moby Dick

2. Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure. - Albert Camus, The Stranger

3. The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed. - Stephen King, The Gunslinger

4. You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. - Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

5. 124 was spiteful. - Toni Morrison, Beloved

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

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

8. All children, except one, grow up. - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

9. A screaming comes across the sky. - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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

11. Through the fence, between curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. - William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

12. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. - Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca

13. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. - Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

14. In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

15. You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

Honorable mentions:

To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black. - Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood

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

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Did I forget some?  Got your own?  Disagree?  Let me know.


  1. Two of my favorites:

    The movie goes on.
    Nobody in the audience has any idea.
    - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

    In the walls of my sex there was horror and blood, in the walls of hers there were windows.
    -Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

  2. I am a dork. Those aren't opening lines. This is what happens when you try to read half asleep...

  3. "I sent one boy to the gas chamber in Huntsville."
    -Cormac McCarthy, "No Country for Old Men"

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