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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


So, where is

"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses." ?

How about

"You see, I had this space suit." ?
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"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

But of course, they ain't gonna include anything by a horror author..
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A River Runs Through It, by Norman MacLean:

"n our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman."
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"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson, 1971
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Ugh... Lolita always makes me sick to my stomach.

I love "It was a pleasure to burn." from the beginning of F451 by Ray Bradbury. It ranks in the 30s on that list.
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"Call me Ishmael" does nothing for me. I do, however, like "A screaming comes across the sky," and Crichton's Travels' opener, "It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw."
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Lists... the vile ink-bait I always fall for. Anyway, where the hell is Trainspotting?

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday night. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?"
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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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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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