11 Unforgettable First Lines in Literature

April 2 2015
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If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the first line is the window to the book. A first line can drag you in, shock you, confuse you, or touch you. A first line is what makes you read on. Here are some of our favorite first lines that set the tone for some incredible books.

Post Office
Charles Bukowski

“It began as a mistake.”

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Beloved
Toni Morrison

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Filled with bitter poetry, Beloved is a towering achievement.

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Nervous Conditions
by Tsitsi Dangarembga

“I was not sorry when my brother died.”

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Nervous Conditions
Tsitsi Dangarembga

“I was not sorry when my brother died.”

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A Heart So White
by Javiar Marías

“I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests.”

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A Heart So White
Javiar Marías

“I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests.”

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The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

“The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl.”

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The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern

“The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl.”

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

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Close
Peter Pan
by J.M. Barrie

“All children, except one, grow up.”

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Peter Pan
J.M. Barrie

“All children, except one, grow up.”

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One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

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One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

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A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion

“Life changes fast.”

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Love in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel García Márquez

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

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Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez

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

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

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By Kelly Dasta | September 17, 2021

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By Alice Martin | September 13, 2021

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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
by Italo Calvino

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.”

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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Italo Calvino

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.”

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

My 8 Favorite Audiobook Listens of 2021 (So Far)

By Kelly Dasta | September 17, 2021

My Book Haul: 9 Shiny New Additions to My Shelf

By Sharon Van Meter | September 16, 2021

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By Off the Shelf Staff | September 15, 2021

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By Karen Bellovich | September 14, 2021

New in Paperback: 9 September Releases We Need ASAP

By Alice Martin | September 13, 2021

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By Holly Claytor | September 10, 2021

Close

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