Best Opening Sentences

1984 by George Orwell: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow: I am an American, Chicago born - Chicago, that somber city - and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy: 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.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe: When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I had done on Mrs. Nugent.

"The Circular Ruins" by Jorge Luis Borges: No one saw him disembark in the unanimous night, no one saw the bamboo canoe sinking into the sacred mud, but within a few days no one was unaware that the silent man came from the South and that his home was one of the infinite villages upstream, on the violent mountainside, where the Zend tongue is not contaminated with Greek and where leprosy is infrequent.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje: She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels: Time is a blind guide.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

The Information by Martin Amis: Cities at night, I feel, contain men who cry in their sleep and then say Nothing.

“The Lady of the House of Love” by Angela Carter: At last the revenants became so troublesome the peasants abandoned the village and it fell solely into the possession of subtle and vindictive inhabitants who manifest their presences by shadows that fall almost imperceptibly awry, too many shadows, even at midday, shadows that have no source in anything visible; by the sound, sometimes, of sobbing in a derelict bedroom where a cracked mirror suspended from a wall does not reflect a presence; by a sense of unease that will afflict the traveler unwise enough to pause to drink from the fountain in the square that still gushes spring water from a faucet stuck in a stone lion’s mouth.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

Middlemarch by George Eliot: Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville: Call me Ishmael.

Neuromancer by William Gibson: The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen: I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

“Poltarnees, Beholder of Ocean” by Lord Dunsany: Toldees, Mondath, Arizim, these are the Inner Lands, the lands whose sentinels upon their borders do not behold the sea.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce: Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo . . .

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

Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust: For a long time I used to go to bed early.

The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald: In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work.

“A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean: In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth: Either forswear fucking others or the affair is over.

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov: The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: 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.

Underworld by Don DeLillo: He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas: I dreamt of falling trees in a wild storm.