Unforgettable First Lines Personal Favorites (and new ones I found researching for this PowerPoint)
You can't judge a book by its cover, but librarian Nancy Pearl thinks the first line can tell you a lot. "I think when you read a good first line it's like falling in love with somebody," Pearl tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "Your heart starts pounding, it opens up all the possibilities." And while a good first line doesn’t always make a good book, Pearl says the chances are better with a strong opener.
The Joy Luck Clubby Amy Tan • “My daughter wanted to go to China for her second honeymoon, but now she is afraid.”
No One Thinks of Greenlandby John Griesemer: • "'You'll want to scratch,” said the nurse. “Don't,” said the orderly.
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mintby Brady Udall: • "If I could tell you one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head."
Ahab's Wifeby Sena Jeter Naslund: • "Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last."
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga: • "I was not sorry when my brother died."
The Joy Luck Clubby Amy Tan • “I used to believe everything my mother said.”
The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley: • "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston • "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men."
A Tale of Two Citiesby Charles Dickens • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
The StrangerAlbert Camus • “Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
My Ishmaelby Daniel Quinn • “I think it’s pretty lousy to wake up at age 16 and realize you’ve already been screwed.”
Life of Piby Yann Martel • “My suffering left me sad and gloomy.”
The Catcher in the Ryeby JD Salinger • “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 want to go into it, if you want to know the truth.”
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides • “I was born twice, first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”
Prozac Nationby Elizabeth Wurtzel • “I start to get the feeling that something is really wrong.”
The Color of Waterby James McBride • “I’m dead.”