10 Great Opening Sentences of Books
If it takes more than 2 seconds for a webpage to load, the average person will click the 'X' on the top right and never look back. With the introduction of social media like TikTok and Instagram, we have been conditioned to require immediate satisfaction. The competition with which books are forced battle would be considered unethical to the IOC Ethics Commission.
The first line of a book is crucial if it wants even a chance to get to know its reader. It must be entertaining and present an unresolved issue without giving too much away.
Here are 10 books that have some of my favorite first lines.
1. The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald
"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
We are left wondering a few things: Is his father still alive? What type of relationship did he have with him? Was his father a good man? What advantages has he had? Who is is wanting to criticize? It also leaves us questioning our own intentions when it comes to judgement. We must read on!
2. The Princess Bride: William Goldman
"This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it. "
A contradiction right out of the gate leaves the reader confused, and most people don't like leaving confused, so we must read on!
3. The Bible:
"In the beginning God Created Heaven and Earth."
Whoa. Say what? We need to know more. We must read on!
4. Harry Potter: J.K. Rowling
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
The tone and perspective with which this opening sentence is written, along with the statement being made, is ironic and says a lot about the type of people Mr. and Mrs. Dursley really are. We need to know more about them. We must read on!
5. The Poisonwood Bible: Barbara Kingsolver
"Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened."
This sentence leaves us questioning the reality of what is about to happen, which will align with the characters' understanding of reality. We are already empathizing with the characters. We must read on!
6. Emma: Jane Austen
"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. "
What's her secret? What kinds of blessings did she unite? How can someone so young with seemingly little pain from life have such power? We must read on!
7. Alas, Babylon: Pat Frank
"In Fort Repose, a river town in Central Florida, it was said that sending a message by Western Union was the same as broadcasting it over the combined networks."
We've all been in an environment where gossip spreads like wildfire. What is the gossip? Who is spreading it? We must read on!
8. American Psycho: Bret Easton Ellis
"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. "
This long, run-on sentence begs us to ask if the author is out of his mind or if there is a reason he wrote this way. How can we understand that sentence so well when it lacks proper grammar? This guy is good...it's a persona. We must read on!
9. The Snows of Kilimanjaro: Ernest Hemingway
" 'THE MARVELLOUS thing is that it’s painless,' he said. That's how you know when it starts."
What is starting? What is painless? How is that marvellous? We must read on!
10. Gone With The Wind: Margaret Mitchell
“SCARLETT O'HARA was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm...”
Much is given away about this character right of the bat. Men were attracted to her, but why? She wasn't beautiful. What made her charming? We must read on!