General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What's your favorite opening sentence of a book?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) June 15th, 2012

And why?

My favorite opening sentence of any book is from The Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willet. It reads as follows:

“Lightning sought our mother out, when she was a young girl in Brown County, Indiana.”

I like this opening sentence more than others for many reasons. The first word is dangerous. Combine it with the second, and it is electricity on a mission. The next three words give continuity, providing survival. The closing clause provides a sense of time and place. All in all, the sentence introduces a book in which weather will play a significant part, as will searching for relationship between two twin sisters.

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27 Answers

funkdaddy's avatar

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed”

from The Gunslinger.

I think I like it because I remember it. It stood out the first time I read the book because of the proper nouns being used, it makes you wonder what The Man in Black’s momma calls him.

janbb's avatar

“The night Max made mischief of one kind or another, his mother called him “Wild thing” and Max said “I’ll eat you up” so he was sent to bed without any supper at all.”

Where the Wild Things Are

I like it because it reads aloud beautifully and because it is one of the most magical books to read to children.

elbanditoroso's avatar

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

iphigeneia's avatar

“In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York.”—Ragtime

I like saying this sentence over and over again in my best New York accent, though I can’t pinpoint why I find it so appealing.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe -but that was the worst of books. Tenth grade required reading. Yuch.

filmfann's avatar

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

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@elbanditoroso They weren’t asking about the book, just the opening lines. I can’t disagree with you though.

filmfann's avatar

My second favorite:

Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn unto his own day, had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese for his ship that was to return and bear him back to the isle of his birth.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

linguaphile's avatar

It was a dark and stormy night.
One reason I like this line is precisely because it’s overused.

Other than that… I love ”“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” from Back When We Were Grownups. This line stayed with me because that’s exactly how I felt one morning 2 years ago when I woke up and realized I was not who I wanted to be.

I used this web site or similar web sites when I taught creative writing.

Trillian's avatar

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
It sets the tone for one of my favorite stories ever. The gentle mockery is almost tongue in cheek, and promises a treasure trove of more such revelatory statements and insights.

Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

CWOTUS's avatar

This isn’t technically the “opening line” of the book, but it’s the second (and third) sentence of the second paragraph, and had me hooked on the rest of the book as soon as I read it:

“The world of finance is a mysterious world in which, incredible as the fact may appear, evaporation precedes liquidation. First, the capital evaporates, and then the company goes into liquidation.”

- Victory, by Joseph Conrad

gondwanalon's avatar

I have to go with: “Call me Ishmael.” from Moby-Dick. It’s the only one that I can think of so it has got to be good.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is a combination of two short sentences, that could have been combined into one.
Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.
The Stranger by Albert Camus

It has an unsettling affect that does a good job of introducing the narrator Meursault.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It was a pleasure to burn – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

linguaphile's avatar

I like this one too—
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” by Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God.

gailcalled's avatar

Catch 22: “it was love at first sight.”

(And the second sentence, which is what makes it memorable. “The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain, he fell madly in love with him.”

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

“It was the best of times, etc” from you-know-where.

Blackberry's avatar

“Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn’t easy, I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize.

To begin with, for you to be here now, trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once.”

I think it’s obvious why I like this.

flutherother's avatar

I liked this…

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

From The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath

fremen_warrior's avatar

“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct(...)
– from the ‘Manual of Muad’Dib’ by the Princess Irulan”

DUNE, book one;

by Frank Herbert

Only138's avatar

Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick. – The Shining by Stephen King. LOL

Adagio's avatar

I hope I’ll be forgiven for quoting the first two lines…

“I’m going shopping in the village,” George’s mother said to George on Saturday morning. “So be a good boy and don’t get into mischief.”

Georges Marvellous Medicine
Roald Dahl

zenvelo's avatar

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

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

It’s been about twenty years, and I can’t remember the actual opening sentence, but I do remember that the sentence and first few pages of Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard was hilarious.

Dv8or's avatar

In the pages that follow I shall bring forward proof that there is a psychological technique which makes it possible to interpret dreams, and that, if that procedure is employed, every dream reveals itself as a psychical structure which has a meaning and which can be inserted at an assignable point in the mental activities of waking life.

The Interpretation of Dreams by: Sigmund Freud

gailcalled's avatar

@Dv8or: ^^Perhaps it sounds better in German.

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