100 Best First Lines from Novels

American Book Review posted what it considers to be the 100 best first lines from novels - see if you agree:

1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

4. 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. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

10. I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

I, for one, am glad that the best first line ever, "It was a dark and stormy night," which was so good it inspired the epitome of excellent writing contest, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, is included.

TYWKIWDBI has the Top 16 | Full List at American Book Review

Previously on Neatorama: 100 Best Last Lines From Novels | 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest Winners


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Here's my favorite first line. I think it is the only line that ever made me exclaim, "Wow". I no longer vocalize upon reading it, but I still think it's the greatest. Anyway, here it is.

"As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream."
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I guess it's about who is your favorite writer and book. I like Naipaul's A Bend in the River

“The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”
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