Book Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines

10k votes 212k views 110 items Embed

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.

Soure: American Book Review
Collection Photo: user uploaded image
List Photo: user uploaded image
A Tale of Two Cities is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: user uploaded image
1
+ - 377 59

8 people just voted on 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.

More About

Author: Charles Dickens

First Published: 1859

Also Ranked

#13 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#24 on Novels with the Best Love Stories

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

#263 on Books That Changed My Life

see more on A Tale of Two Cities
Nineteen Eighty-Four is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: user uploaded image
2
+ - 304 85

3 people just voted on Nineteen Eighty-Four


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

More About

Author: George Orwell

First Published: 1949-06-08

Also Ranked

#4 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#1 on The Greatest Dystopian Novels

#7 on Books Like The Hunger Games

#2 on The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time

see more on Nineteen Eighty-Four
Fahrenheit 451 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: user uploaded image
3
+ - 261 83

41 people just voted on Fahrenheit 451


It was a pleasure to burn.

More About

Author: Ray Bradbury

First Published: 1953

Also Ranked

#28 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#2 on The Greatest Dystopian Novels

#9 on Books Like The Hunger Games

#7 on The Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time

see more on Fahrenheit 451
Anna Karenina is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: user uploaded image
4
+ - 239 74

39 people just voted on Anna Karenina


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

More About

Author: Leo Tolstoy

First Published: 1877

Also Ranked

#156 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#38 on Novels with the Best Love Stories

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

#65 on Books That Changed My Life

see more on Anna Karenina
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: user uploaded image
5
+ - 249 87

3 people just voted on Moby-Dick; or, The Whale


Call me Ishmael.

More About

Author: Herman Melville

First Published: 1851-10-18

Also Ranked

#15 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#6 on The Greatest American Novels

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

#80 on Books That Changed My Life

see more on Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Pride and Prejudice is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: user uploaded image
6
+ - 247 88

38 people just voted on 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.

More About

Author: Jane Austen

First Published: 1813-01-28

Also Ranked

#11 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#1 on Novels with the Best Love Stories

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

#54 on Books That Changed My Life

see more on Pride and Prejudice
Slaughterhouse-Five is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: user uploaded image
7
+ - 223 80

8 people just voted on Slaughterhouse-Five


All this happened, more or less.

More About

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

#21 on The Greatest American Novels

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

see more on Slaughterhouse-Five
The Hobbit is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Novels with the Catchiest First Lines
Photo: Freebase/Public domain
8
+ - 148 50

42 people just voted on The Hobbit


In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  

More About

Author: J. R. R. Tolkien

First Published: 1937-09-21

Also Ranked

#12 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#3 on The Best Books for Teens

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

#10 on Books That Changed My Life

see more on The Hobbit