The Best 100 Opening Lines From Books – human readable form

Due to the fact that I wholeheartedly despise websites that in order for you to complete reading a sentence force you to click a ‘more’ link just to find out, that what you were missing was a three-letter word, I decided to write down the best 100 opening lines from books and present in in a normal, human readable form.

writing how to begin a story

The Catcher in the Rye“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.”

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

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

A Tale of Two Cities“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.”

Mrs Dalloway “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

Back When We Were Grownups“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”

The Great Gatsby“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

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

Moby-Dick“Call me Ishmael.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to…“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

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

Harry Potter and the Philos…“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

The Curious Incident of the…“It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed.”

The Time Travellers Wife“Clare: It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.”

The Lord of the Rings: The …“When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyifirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

The Color Purple“You better not never tell nobody but God.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

Bridget Jones’s Diary“I will not drink more than fourteen alcohol units a week.”

A Room of One’s Own“But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction.”

The Secret Life of Bees“At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.”

The Divine Secrets of the Y…“Tap-dancing child abuser. That’s what The Sunday New York Times from March 8, 1993, had called Vivi.”

Eat Pray Love“I wish Giovanni would kiss me.”

A Certain Slant of Light“Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead.”

Emma“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.”

Frankenstein“You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”

Revolutionary Road“The final dying sounds of their dress rehearsal left the Laurel Players with nothing to do but stand there, silent and helpless, blinking out over the footlights of an empty auditorium.”

Love in the Time of Cholera“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

Wuthering Heights“1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Trea…“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Vanity Fair“As the Manager of the Performance sits before the curtain on the boards, and, looks into the Fair, a feeling of profound melancholy comes over him in his survey of the bustling place.”

Alice’s Adventures in Won…“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.”

Little Women“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”

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

The Picture of Dorian Gray“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.”

Charlotte’s Web“Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

A Clockwork Orange“’What’s it going to be then, eh?’”

Matilda“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

Atonement“The play – for Which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper – was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.”

Where the Heart Is“Novalee Nation, seventeen, seven months pregnant, thirty-seven pounds overweight – and superstitious about sevens – shifted uncomfortably in the seat of the old Plymouth and ran her hands down the curve of her belly.”

The Princess Bride“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.”

Peter Pan and Wendy“All children, except one, grow up.”

A Series of Unfortunate Events“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”

Breakfast of Champions “This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.”

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

The Crow Road“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Dete…“This time there would be no witnesses.”

The Godfather“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.”

Gone With The Wind“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

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

The Invisible Man“The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand.”

Ishmael: An Adventure of th…“The first time I read the ad, I choked and cursed and spat and threw the paper to the floor.”

Thank You for Smoking: A Novel“Nick Naylor had been called many things since becoming the chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, but until now no one had actually compared him to Satan.”

Gravity’s Rainbow“A screaming comes across the sky.”

Scaramouche“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

2001 – A Space Odyssey“Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.”

Northanger Abbey“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.”

Middlemarch“Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.”

Cat’s Eye“Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space”

Catch-22“It was love at first sight.”

Herzog“If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me thought Moses Herzog.”

The Big Sleep“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.”

All The Pretty Horses“The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door.”

Old Man’s War“I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.”.

American Psycho“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.”

The War Of The Worlds“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

The True Confessions of Cha…“Not every 13-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty.”

This Side Of Paradise“Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.”

The Thief of Always“The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”

Room“Today I’m five.”

The Exorcist“Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men’s eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all.”

The Grapes of Wrath“To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”

Farhenheit 451“It was a pleasure to burn.”

I Am Legend“On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.”

Swann’s Way“For a long time, I went to bed early.”

The Bible“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Jane Eyre“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day”

The Road To Wellville“Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the cornflake and peanut butter, not to mention caramel-cereal coffee, Bromose, Nuttolene and some seventy-five other gastronomically correct foods, paused to level his gaze on the heavyset women in front of him.”

Life of Pi“My suffering left me sad and gloomy.”

Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal …“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.”

Slaughterhouse-Five“All this happened, more or less.”

Smilla’s Sense Of Snow“It’s freezing – an extraordinary 0 Fahrenfeit – and its snowing, and in the language that is no longer mine, the snow is qanik – big, almost weightless crystals falling in clumps and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost.”

Watership Down“The primroses were over.”

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin“Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.”

Twelfth Night“If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

Desert Of The Heart“Conventions, like clichés, have a way of surviving their own usefulness.”

Enduring Love“The beginning is simple to mark.”

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

A Christmas Carol“Marley was dead, to begin with.”

The Dain Curse“It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the the blue brick wall.”

The Clown“It was dark by the time I reached Bonn, and I forced myself not to succumb to the series of mechanical actions which had taken hold of me in five years of traveling back and forth: down the station steps, up the station steps, put down my suitcase, take my ticket out of my coat pocket, pick up my suitcase, hand in my ticket, cross over to the newstand, buy the evening newspaper, go outside and signal for a taxi.”

The Blind Assassin“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.”

The Austere Academy“If you were going to give a gold medal to the least delightful person on Earth, you would have to give that medal to a person named Carmelita Spats, and if you didn’t give it to her, Carmelita Spats was the sort of person who would snatch it from your hands anyway.”

Bastard Our Of Carolina“I’ve been called Bone all my life, but my name’s Ruth Anne.”

Lady Chatterley’s Lover“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.”

The Sound And The Fury“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.”

The Satanic Verses“’To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.”

The Tell-Tale Heart“True! – nervous – very, very nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

Bridge Of Birds“I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world.”

To be fair, the source is here but in all honesty – fuck them plenty.


Some additional suggestions:

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Nocturnal primate - dumb as I am now it used to be worse.

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Posted in activism, DIY, writing
2 comments on “The Best 100 Opening Lines From Books – human readable form
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