books Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines

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List Rules Novels that have often quoted first lines or opening sentences that are otherwise in the cultural zeitgeist. Vote up the most memorable.

The opening lines of a novel can prove crucial, and many authors spend an inordinate amount of time considering how their books will begin. From Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities to Melville's Moby Dick, often the opening sentence or two of a book will become the most frequently quoted and iconic passage from the entire novel. This list has the best novels with great first lines, bound to make the best impression on readers. 

These books of fiction are well known for their opening lines. The authors know that books don't just need a great story, there also needs to be something that draws in the reader. The opening line is that hook and the books on this list all have intriguing, interesting, and unique opening sentences.

This is a list of the greatest novels with the best introductory text, including world literature (with an emphasis on English literature), from throughout history, with the most memorable and significant beginnings. Vote up the most memorable first lines from fiction below.

Source: American Book Review

A Tale of Two Cities is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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A Tale of Two Cities


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.

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Author: Charles Dickens

First Published: 1859

Also Ranked

#13 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#56 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#24 on Novels with the Best Love Stories

#7 on The Best Free eBooks

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Nineteen Eighty-Four is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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Nineteen Eighty-Four


It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

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Author: George Orwell

First Published: 1949-06-08

Also Ranked

#4 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#2 on The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time

#1 on The Greatest Dystopian Novels

#7 on Books Like The Hunger Games

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Anna Karenina is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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Anna Karenina


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

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Author: Leo Tolstoy

First Published: 1877

Also Ranked

#42 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#38 on Novels with the Best Love Stories

#65 on Books That Changed My Life

#4 on The Best Russian Novels

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Fahrenheit 451 is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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8 people just voted on Fahrenheit 451


It was a pleasure to burn.

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Author: Ray Bradbury

First Published: 1953

Also Ranked

#28 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#7 on The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time

#2 on The Greatest Dystopian Novels

#9 on Books Like The Hunger Games

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Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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Call me Ishmael.

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Author: Herman Melville

First Published: 1851-10-18

Also Ranked

#16 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#61 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#6 on The Greatest American Novels

#79 on Books That Changed My Life

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Pride and Prejudice is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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Pride and Prejudice


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

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Author: Jane Austen

First Published: 1813-01-28

Also Ranked

#11 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#22 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#1 on Novels with the Best Love Stories

#55 on Books That Changed My Life

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Slaughterhouse-Five is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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Slaughterhouse-Five


All this happened, more or less.

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Author: Kurt Vonnegut

First Published: 1969

Also Ranked

#30 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#21 on The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time

#41 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#21 on The Greatest American Novels

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The Hobbit is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
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The Hobbit


In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  

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Author: J. R. R. Tolkien

First Published: 1937-09-21

Also Ranked

#12 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#16 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#11 on Books That Changed My Life

#3 on The Best Books for Teens

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