Top Thirteen Best First Sentences In Literature

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The sawed-off shotgun of literary pulp.

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  • Maura 01.18.2012

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak *A book for my 9th graders*
    First the colors.
    Then the humans.
    That’s usually how I see things.
    Or at least, how I try.
    Here’s a small fact: You are going to die.

    One of my faves… A River Runs Through It, Norman MacLean
    First sentence: In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.
    Last sentence: I am haunted by waters.

    And of course, James Joyce always has some winners!

    Finally, Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 “It was a pleasure to burn”

  • I like those. Thank you, Maura.

    And thank you for dropping by.

  • 124 was spiteful. (Tony Morrison, Beloved)

    A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. (John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces)

    In the spring of that year an epidemic of rabies broke out in Ether County, Georgia. (Pete Dexter, Paris Trout)

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice)

    P.S. I actually would have chosen “Jasper Maskelyne was drinking a glass of razor blades when the war began.” had that been an option.

  • Hi Cindy! Thank you. I forgot about Confederacy of Dunces. I didn’t love the book, but I like that opening.

    Thank you for dropping by.

  • Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.

    (Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

  • “It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself.” -the opening line to “It’s kind of a funny story” which was one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. It ended up being more about healing than suicide but it was all in all life changing; especially with such an interesting first sentence.

  • Thank you, Maddy. I admit I’m not familiar with that — neither the sentence nor the story — but I like it, in a melancholy sort of way.

    It’s nice to meet you.

  • Yes, but none tops:

    Andra moi ennepe Mousa polutropon

  • Okay, okay. Now you’re talking my language.

  • I have not read the book (cheating the spirit of the question), but came across below recently after Maya passed, which was on a list of best first sentences …

    “When I was three and Bailey four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed – ‘To Whom It May Concern’ – that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson.”

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

    Creative Thought Process: Casually inform the reader that these children might not be in the best hands. Start by Fed-Ex-ing them 1,600 miles.

    Maddy’s choice for first sentence is from the teen novel “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” – the author, Ned Vizzini, threw himself of a building in Brooklyn where his parents live last December at the age of 32 leaving behind and wife and son.

  • “Maddy’s choice for first sentence is from the teen novel “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” – the author, Ned Vizzini, threw himself of a building in Brooklyn where his parents live last December at the age of 32 leaving behind and wife and son.”

    Jesus, that’s bleak.

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