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More Best Opening Lines in Literature

There are so many fantastic opening lines out there, dear readers. Writers know that the first sentence in any story is one of if not the most important sentence, because the first sentence is the one that gets you curious and makes you want to know what happens in the rest of the book. And so they slave away at them to make them as close to perfect as they possibly can, and we the readers get to reap the rewards of their hard labor.

A few weeks back, I made up a list of twenty of the very best opening lines in literature, but as I was working on it I realized that there were *far* more than twenty great opening lines out there, and that it would just be plain wrong to stop there. This is why I’ve put together not one but *two* follow-up lists of twenty great opening lines for you, dear readers, because I want to make sure that you get to read these awesome first sentences.

Here is the first one, and I will posting the second in the upcoming weeks. Enjoy, and as always, if your favorite first sentence didn’t make this list, write me and let me know so I can make sure it’s on the next one.

Pride and Prejudice~Jane Austen

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

The Catcher in the Rye~J. D. Salinger

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.

David Copperfield~Charles Dickens

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy~Douglas Adams

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.

Another Roadside Attraction~Tom Robbins

The magician’s underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami.

If on a winter’s night a traveler~Italo Calvino

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.

Gravity’s Rainbow~Thomas Pynchon

A screaming comes across the sky.

Mrs. Dalloway~Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas~Hunter S. Thompson

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

Lunar Park~Bret Easton Ellis

“You do an awfully good impression of yourself.”

This is the first line of Lunar Park and in its brevity and simplicity it was supposed to be a return to form, an echo, of the opening line from my debut novel, Less Than Zero.

Choke~Chuck Palahniuk

If you’re going to read this, don’t bother.

Gilead~Marilynne Robinson

I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.

Fahrenheit 451~Ray Bradbury

It was a pleasure to burn.

The White Tiger~Aravind Adiga

Mr. Premier,


Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English.

Disgrace~J. M. Coetzee

For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.

Peter Pan~J. M. Barrie

All children, except one, grow up.

Jesus’ Son~Denis Johnson

A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping…A Cherokee filled with bourbon…A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student…

     And a family from Marshalltown whom headonned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri…

     …I rose up sopping wet from sleeping under the pouring rain, and something less than conscious, thanks to the first three of the people I’ve already named—the salesman and the Indian and the student—all of whom had given me drugs.

A Bend in the River~V. S. Naipaul

The world is what it is; men who have nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.

The Corrections~Jonathan Franzen

The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen.

Bridget Jones’s Diary~Helen Fielding

I Will Not

Drink more than fourteen alcohol units a week.


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