Favorite Opening Lines from Favorite Books

If a writer doesn’t capture the reader’s attention in the first few pages, the reader may never finish the book. If the reader doesn’t become engaged quickly, somethings else will seize his attention and the book will be put down, maybe forever.

Crafting those opening paragraphs so that readers are drawn into the story is a challenge. Some writers manage to hook the reader from the very first line. Here are some of my favorite opening lines from some of my favorite books, opening lines that make me laugh, make me think, and keep me reading on.

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

–from The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” by CS Lewis

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

–from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

There are drawbacks to group travel, it occurred to me as I sat trapped in the back of the van listening to a woman I had met only an hour before acquaint me in immodest detail with the vicissitudes of her husband’s lower colon.

–from Wish You Weren’t Here: The Black Cat Anthology of Travel Humor, edited by Cecil Kuhne

We were a very mixed lot, we forty schoolboys who were having a Geography lesson one hot afternoon in the Imperial Russian High School of Baku, Transcaucasia: thirty Mohammedans, four Armenians, two Poles, three Sectarians, and one Russian.

–from Ali and Nino by Kurban Said

My dear fellow Australians, Just a few lines to tell you that this story is all about myself–for no other purpose do I write it.

–from My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

–from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom.

–from Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers

What fascinates me about life is that now and then the past rises up and declares itself.

–from U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

And, of course, the shameless inclusion of the first line from my own book, Beyond the Rapids:

My parents didn’t allow my three brothers and me to play with the other children in the neighborhood.

What about you? What are some of your favorite opening lines?

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