First Lines

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

<<Все счастливиые семьи похожи друг на друга, каждая несчастливая семья несчастливиа по-своему.>>—Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“(1989) Please, she whispers, how may I help you?”—Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn

“On the first day of freshman writing class, the instructor told us that good writing was all about emotions—portraying them, eliciting them, unraveling them, being true to them.”—Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation Into Civilization’s End by Lawrence E. Joseph

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

“124 WAS SPITEFUL.”—Beloved by Toni Morrison

“One winter morning in the long-ago, four-year-old days of my life I found myself standing before a fireplace, warming my hands over a mound of glowing coals, listening to the wind whistle past the house outside.”—Black Boy by Richard Wright

“The expression ‘Breakfast of Champions’ is a registered trademark of General Mills, Inc., for use on a breakfast cereal product.”—Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“Call me Jonah.”—Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“…So I found myself without work.”—The Compromise by Sergei Dovlatov

“On an especially hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. Bridge.”—Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“First, a stone landed a meter from Viktor’s foot.”—Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

“‘Stop here,’ said Anatoly Pavlovich Sukhanov from the backseat, addressing the pair of suede gloves on the steering wheel.”—The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin

“I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.”—Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

“In the morning, the old general spent a considerable time in the wine cellars with his winegrower inspecting two casks of wine that had begun to ferment.”—Embers by Sandor Marai

“Nature, we believe, takes forever.”—The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

“Unmindful of the proud world’s pleasure, But friendship’s claim alone in view, I wish I could have brought a treasure far worthier to pledge to you…”—Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

“It was a pleasure to burn.”—Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“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

“Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.”—Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

“In the desert, deep inside the spiny center of the cactus, nests a bird no bigger than my finger.”—The Flower in the Skull by Kathleen Alcalá

“This is what happened in our neighborhood: Marusya Tatarovich couldn’t help herself and fell in love with a Latin American named Rafael.”—A Foreign Woman by Sergei Dovlatov

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

“Funny as it may seem, Martin’s grandfather Edelweiss was a Swiss—a robust Swiss with a fluffy mustache, who in the 1860’s had been tutor to the children of a St. Petersburg landowner named Indrikov, and had married his youngest daughter.”—Glory by Vladimir Nabokov

“A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.”—God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month.”—The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

“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 Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”—Year 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

“Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive.”—Year 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

“Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways.”—Year 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

“The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it ‘the Riddle House,’ even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.”—Year 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

“The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.”—Year 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

“It was near midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.”—Year 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

“The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”—Year 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J. K. Rowling

“You see, I had this space suit.”—Have Spacesuit Will Travel by Robert Heinlein

“The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest.”—Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

“When they write my obituary.”—The History of Love by Nichole Krauss

“”What you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay…”—I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

“Seeking respite from the intensity of medicine, I trained my eye on the world without.”—In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta A. Ahmed, MD

“Long ago, in the dense forests that once encircled the holy city of Benares, there was ample work for woodcutters.”—Life After Death: The Burden of Proof by Deepak Chopra

“Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that ‘people cannot stand too much reality.'”—The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler

“Although it was winter, the nearest ocean four hundred miles away, and the Tribal Weatherman asleep because of boredom, a hurricane dropped from the sky in 1976 and fell so hard on the Spokane Indian Reservation that it knocked Victor from bed and his latest nightmare.”—The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

“On a rainy day in May 1945, a Western Union messenger made his rounds through the quiet village of Owego, in upstate New York.”—Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

“I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelves miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland.”—Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

“Call me Ishmael.” Moby Dick by Herman Melville

“There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever.”—One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

“My great-grandfather Moses was a peasant from the village of Sukhovo.”—Ours by Sergei Dovlatov

“A recently divorced woman writes in a journal about her confused sexual feelings.”—The New Diary by Tristine Rainer

“Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun.”—A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

“My parents’ paths first crossed in a museum on 23rd Street in New York.”—Personal History by Katharine Graham

“There once was a highly respected and prosperous farmer, who had one of the best dairy herds in the country, and to whom other farmers came from all over the southern half of the continent for advice.” —Prisons We Choose to Live Inside by Doris Lessing

“Excuse me sir, but may I be of assistance?”—The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

“The sea which lies before me as I write glows rather than sparkles in the bland May sunshine.”—The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

“A little consideration of what takes place around us every day would show us that a higher law than that of our will regulates events; that our painful labors are very unnecessary and altogether fruitless; that only in our easy, simple, spontaneous action are we strong, and by contenting ourselves with obedience we become divine.”—Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.”—Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

“So this bitch at Ovir says to me, ‘Everyone who leaves is allowed three suitcases.'”—The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov

“Maman died today.”—The Stranger by Albert Camus

“Truly, ‘thoughts are things,’ and powerful things at that, when mixed with purpose, persistence and a burning desire for their translation into riches or other material objects.”—Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.”—The Trial by Franz Kafka

“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”—To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“It’s quiet here.”—Twenty Letters to a Friend by Svetlana Alliluyeva

“In 1981, when I was in my midtwenties, I climbed Mt. Albert Edward, one of the highest peaks on the verdant island of New Guinea.”—The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

“There’s a wise saying that goes like this: A real gentleman never discusses women he’s broken up with or how much tax he’s paid.”—What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

“Those tiny feet weren’t Ralph’s feet at the end of Ralph’s bed.”—Where River Turns to Sky by Gregg Kleiner

“Dear Igor Markovich! I’ll take the risk of presenting you with a delicate proposition.”—The Zone by Sergei Dovlatov

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7 thoughts on “First Lines

      1. that’s a good point. when I was younger, I’d read the last line of every book before I started it– I definitely ruined more than a few of them!

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    1. Hi Mary! Thanks for visiting my blog. Congratulations on your book. Thanks for adding to my first line page. Did you struggle to decide on a first line for your book? Or did it just come to you as the right first line?

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