Posts Tagged opening lines

Best Opening Lines in Literature

7 April 2013

“You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?”

Though you may be told not to judge a book by its cover, you can certainly learn a lot from its opening line. The line above, uttered by an exasperated Raymond Boynton in Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death, is my favorite opening phrase in literature. Here are other outstanding first lines from classic works — See which ones would inspire you to keep reading.


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

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

George Orwell, 1984


“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


“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, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


“It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.”

Paul Auster, City of Glass


“Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.”

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote


“All this happened, more or less.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five


“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God


“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader


“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.”

G.K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill


“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle


“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley.”

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca


“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Genesis 1:1, The Bible (King James Version)

And, of course, that classic line …


“It was a dark and stormy night …” Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford