The Best Opening Lines in Literature

A book’s first line has to be inviting enough to ease you into the second one, yet intriguing enough to make you want to read the whole thing. Stylist complied 100 of the most memorable opening lines in literature, and here I have borrowed some selected favorites:

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

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson

“Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead.”

A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Whitcomb

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

Emma, Jane Austen

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

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath


“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book’, thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Caroll

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

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

Choke, Chuck Palahniuk

“ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Miserables on its side blocking his view, but Price who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-six doesn’t seem to care because he tells the driver he will give him five dollars to turn up the radio, ‘Be My Baby’ on WYNN, and the driver, black, not American, does so.”

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis


“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

The Crow Road, Iain Banks

“Amergo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her.”

The Godfather, Mario Puzo

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

1984, George Orwell

“Today I’m five.”

Room, Emma Donoghue


“A screaming comes across the sky.”

Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

“Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.”

2001 – A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke.

“Conventions, like clichés, have a way of surviving their own usefulness.”

Desert of the Heart, Jane Rule

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

“The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde


Read more opening lines here.

Oscar Raymundo
Author posts

Comments (2):

  • Requested Ebook – NOVEL [PDF] – Lolita BY Vladimir Nabokov | Free Ebooks And Science Journals Download

    […] The Best Opening Lines in Literature ( […]

  • Requested Ebook – NOVEL [PDF] – Lolita BY Vladimir Nabokov | Free Ebooks And Science Journals Download

    […] The Best Opening Lines in Literature ( […]

Leave a Reply