Books With Bird: Brilliant Opening Lines

August 20, 2014

I’ve been obsessed with the opening line of novels for as long as I can remember. They invite you in, pique your curiosity, tease the plot, maybe foretell the action — but only if they’re done right. As a reader, I’d argue it’s one of the most important elements a book needs to deliver – after the plot, of course. To me, the opening line is the author’s chance to make a good first impression. Now you can decide: Do you want to see where this relationship could go or are you having second thoughts?

Since the 8th grade, I’ve had a book by my bedside where I write down the first lines to those books I’ve never written. There are so many — I could write a book about my opening lines. I’m also that chick in the bookstore reading the jacket and opening it to the first page so I can determine if it’s a worthwhile purchase. Those bent pages on your new book? That’s me. The opening line even plays a role in my everyday writing at work and personally. Sometimes I sit for hours contemplating how to frame up that first sentence — and once I do, the words just flow.

Here are some of my favorite opening lines I pulled from my bookshelf. Do you recognize any of them? If so, leave your answers below. You’re not going to see the obviously known, “Call me Ishmael.” Or “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” but I hope you have a little fun guessing which books they belong to. No Googling!

I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

All he could see in every direction was water.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

We should start back, Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

The date was April 14, 1912, a sinister day in the maritime history, but of course the man in suite 63-65, shelter deck C did not yet know it.

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have know that trouble was brewing, not alone of himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair from Puget Sound to San Diego.