Favorite First Lines

In a previous issue of my newsletter, Story Lines, I asked readers to submit their favorite opening line from a novel. Here are the wide-ranging results. And if you have a favorite line to add to the list, please message me by clicking the Connect tab above or commenting on my Facebook Author Page.  The line submitted most often is hardly a surprise. 

Five readers chose . . .

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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . ." 
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens










Four Readers submitted . . . 

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"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

"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 feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger


three readers chose . . . 





"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that all men of good fortune are in want of a wife."  Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen






Two Readers selected . . . 

  1. "You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,' but that ain't no matter."  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
  2. "I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man." Notes From Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky
  3. "Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again." Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
  4. "It was a pleasure to burn." Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

READERS Also CHOSE THESE (listed in no particular order) . . .

  1. "When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her." Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
  2. "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck." Feed – M.T. Anderson
  3. "We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall." Tracks – Louise Erdrich
  4. "All this happened, more or less." Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  5. "In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together." The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
  1. "In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini." The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
  2. "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." One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  3. "On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother Thomas entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut Public Library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable." I Know This Much is True – Wally Lamb
  4. "First the colors. Then the humans. That's usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try." The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  5. "George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died." Tinkers – Paul Harding,
  1. "At night, I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin." The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
  2. "Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick." The Shining – Stephen King
  3. "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy flowers herself." Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
  4. "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
  5. "Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were." Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  1. "The war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes." Girl at War – Sara Novic
  2. "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
  3. "Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on." Flowers for Algernon –  Daniel Keyes
  4. I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Harbine's father over the top of a Standard Oil sign. I'm not lying. He got stuck up there." 
    The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver
  5. "I struggle to my feet, straighten my back, lift my chin, then he hits me again." If the Creek Don’t Rise – Leah Weiss
  1. "Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board." Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  2. "Will imagined silence. The silence of snowfall in a forest. The silence at the top of a crag." The In-Between Hour – Barbara Claypole White
  3. "It's a common mistake to assume that emotional baggage will disappear if one changes geographies. There are many who think that a change in weather is all that is needed to set everything that is wrong with a person right." The Copenhagen Affair – Amulya Malladi
  4. "On our wedding day, my fiancé, James, arrived at the church in a casket." Everything We Keep – Kerry Lonsdale
  5. "This isn’t my story. It's Patricia and Terry's."- Breaking and Holding – Judy Fogarty  (Thank you, Elizabeth Rakis!) 
  1. "In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since." The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. "'Godspeed, Mr. Adsley, until we meet again.'" Starving Hearts – Janine Mendenhall
  4. "What a perfect day!" Hardwired – Meredith Wild
  5. "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton


  1. "You better not never tell nobody but God." The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  2. "'Run!' Rose hissed as the deafening bang of the explosion fired behind them." Hearts of Resistance – Soraya M. Lane
  3. "My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me: 1. I’m in a coma. 2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore. 3. Sometimes I lie." Sometimes I Lie – Alice Feeney
  4. "It was a Wednesday, the second week in April, and Santa Teresa was making a wanton display of herself." Q is for Quarry – Sue Grafton
  5. "His fingers slithered like a snake to find hers." The Good Widow – Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
  1. "It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance." Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
  2. "They called him Moishe the Beadle, as if his entire life he had never had a surname." Night – Elie Wiesel
  3. "'What you looking at me for? I didn't come to stay. . .'" I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  4. "It’s still my favorite book in all the world." The Princess Bride – William Goldman
  5. "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  1. "I glanced at the grandfather clock." The Secret to Hummingbird Cake – Celeste Fletcher McHale
  2. "The South killed Lucy Bondurant Chastain Venable on the day she was born." Peachtree Road – Anne Rivers Siddons
  3. "The first thought I had after I died was: How will my dog cope with this?" Now That You Mention It – Kristan Higgins
  4. "I’m pregnant." Tidings of Great Joy – Sandra Brown
  5. "'Miss Kawasaki?' Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon." The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell
  1. "The first light of morning revealed a heavy sky over Manhattan, dappled clouds that promised snow." Christmastime 1940 – Linda Mahkovec
  2. "A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: 'Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!'" The Awakening – Kate Chopin
  3. "Arthur Forrester squared his shoulders, took a deep breath, and opened the door of sparkling glass in front of him." Need to Know – Fern Michaels
  4. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The Holy Bible – God
  5. "It was the end of my girlhood, though I didn’t know it yet." Song of a Captive Bird – Jasmin Darznik


  1. "My dear wife, let me tell you about this pen." Cocoa Beach – Beatriz Williams
  2. "'Guilty.' I watched the foreman of the jury as he gave the verdicts." Silks – Dick Francis and Felix Francis
  3. "My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call." The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy
  4. "'Where's Papa going with that axe?'said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast." Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
  5. "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." The Last Good Kiss – James Crumley