100 Best First Lines from Novels

From the moment I picked up my first Enid Blyton book as a young girl I have been obsessed with reading.  I love books and have often been known to read through the night for that special book.  The satisfaction of coming across a great book that you just can’t put down is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  That will sound incredibly dull to many but I know there are many lovers of literature out there who feel the same as me.

That’s why I wanted to share this list of the 100 best first opening lines from Novels which was published by the American Book Rewiew in September 2010, although I only stumbled upon it today.

There are so many great books on this list including my favourite at number 65.

“You better not never tell nobody but God” – Alice Walker, The Colour Purple

I also realised from this list that there are so many books that I have not yet read and it has inspired me to head to the library tomorrow.  I wonder if I can manage to read all of the books on the list?

The top ten in the list are:

1. Call me Ishmael.  —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. 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 (1813)

3. A screaming comes across  the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

4. Many years later, as he  faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant  afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García  Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

5. Lolita, light of my  life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all  alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy,  Anna Karenina (1877;  trans. Constance Garnett)

7. riverrun, past Eve and  Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of  recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans  Wake (1939)

8. It was a bright cold day  in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

9. 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 (1859)

10. I am an invisible man.  —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

To read the full list go to http://americanbookreview.org/100BestLines.asp

Is your favourite there?  Do you agree with their results and why are there only 2 entries in the last decade?  Surely there must be some recent books that merit a mention?  I think I may start my own list and ask friends and colleagues to participate.  Please feel free to add your own nomination in the comments below.

This article was written by our guest blogger, Kirsty McHugh who is PA to Margaret Carmichael at www.kipmcgrath.co.uk/scotland

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7 comments on “100 Best First Lines from Novels

  1. ‎”In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” I have to confess that I first read this book when I was 33 – who says adults can’t read children’s literature?!

  2. I love this list and I too have realised that there are so many great books that I am yet to read. You have inspired me to make a list, leave the television off and find more time to read!

  3. “I can still recall the day when I told my class in school that we were going to start a new wonderful new novel and, for the first time ever, I read them only the opening sentence of Henry Treece’s Horned Helmet – ‘Beorn was only a boy when his father jumped off Ness Rock into the sea and was swept away like a piece of black driftwood’. I can yet recall the gasps, the following silence and wild eyes and the pleas to read on – and the rush into school the next morning to request that we might start the day with the novel! They were hooked!”

  4. Pingback: 100 Best First Lines from Novels (via Kip McGrath Tutors Scotland Blog) | Kipmcgrathlisburn's Blog

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