The best books have powerful opening lines that capture the readers' attention right from the start.
We’ve gathered some of the best opening lines of famous books, each showing how a few words can pique the readers’ interest and hook them into reading the whole book. Check them out and see if they help spark some opening ideas for your own book.
20 Best Opening Lines of Famous Books
1. Call me Ishmael.
- Moby-Dick, Herman Melville (1851)
2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)
3. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.
- The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford, (1915)
4. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
- Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (1877)
5. I am an invisible man.
- Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (1952)
6. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
- The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (1952)
7. 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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
- A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (1859)
8. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith (1948)
9. The boy’s name was Santiago.
- The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho (1988)
10. If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.
- The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah (2015)
11. 124 was spiteful.
- Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
12. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.
- The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1929)
13. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis (1952)
14. 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, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
15. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
- Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier (1938)
16. 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.
- The Catcher In The Rye, J. D. Salinger (1951)
17. As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
- The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka (1915)
18. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (1949)
19. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
- The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley (1953)
20. Where now? Who now? When now?
- The Unnamable, Samuel Beckett (1953)
Let us know which one is your favorite in the comments section below.
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