The first line of a book always stays with me. I like to devour books, somehow imagining that I can climb into the book, become a part of the story as the ink on the page seeps into my skin. And no matter how fantastic the book was, or how terrible, I am always depressed when it comes to an end. Often I will go back and re-read the first line of the story when I am finished. As a kind of salve to the wound that finishing a story can leave. And so the first line of a book becomes magical, the beginning of a journey and with each opening line I never know where the story is going to take me.
Below are some of my favorite first lines. Hopefully they will inspire you to pick up the book if you haven’t already read it, or remind you of the journey you took when you did read it. What are some of your favorite first lines? Which ones inspired you? Made you want to go back and read the book again or recommend it to a friend?
–What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask. (Play it as it Lays, Joan Didion)
–In the end she went out to the yard, almost enveloped in flames, leaned against the tamarind tree that no longer flowered, and began to cry in such a way that the tears seemed never to have begun, but to have been there always, flooding her eyes, producing that creaking noise, like the noise of the house at the moment when the flames made the strongest pots totter and the flashing frame came down in an enormous crackling that pierced the night like a volley of fireworks. (Old Rosa, Reynaldo Arenas)
–Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car. (Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor)
–They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz)
–The village of Holcolm stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.” (In Cold Blood, Truman Capote)
–The first time he saw heaven came exactly six hours and fifty seven minutes after the very moment an entire generation fell in love with him. (Heavier than Heaven, Charles R. Cross)
–The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, JK Rowling)
–In accordance with the law the death sentence was announced to Cincinnatus C. in a whisper. (Invitation to a Beheading, Vladimir Nabokov)
–A few months after my twenty-first birthday, a stranger called to give me the news. (Dreams of my Father, Barack Obama)
–First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. (The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien)
-It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. (The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath)