Literature Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines  

Info Lists
17.6k votes 2k voters 298.6k views 111 items

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

 

Ranker may collect a commission from links on this page. Prices & inventory are accurate as of publish date.
list ordered by

1
639 117
A Tale of Two Cities is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Charles Dickens
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.

2
504 139
Nineteen Eighty-Four is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
George Orwell
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

3
459 131
Fahrenheit 451 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Ray Bradbury
It was a pleasure to burn.

4
400 122
Anna Karenina is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Leo Tolstoy
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

5
402 134
Pride and Prejudice is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Jane Austen
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

6
431 148
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Herman Melville
Call me Ishmael.

7
340 107
The Hobbit is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
azzy_roth added J. R. R. Tolkien
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  

8
359 120
Slaughterhouse-Five is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Kurt Vonnegut
All this happened, more or less.

9
299 107
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
C. S. Lewis
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

10
193 54
Harry Potter and the Philosoph... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Avada added J. K. Rowling

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were very normal, thank you very much.

11
275 108
The Great Gatsby is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
F. Scott Fitzgerald
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

12
224 82
David Copperfield is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Charles Dickens
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

13
183 60
The Metamorphosis is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Franz Kafka

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

14
281 120
The Catcher in the Rye is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
J. D. Salinger
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.

15
205 82
One Hundred Years of Solitude is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Gabriel García Márquez
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.

16
175 67
The Bell Jar is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Sylvia Plath
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.

17
201 84
Don Quixote is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Miguel de Cervantes
Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.

18
175 70
Middle Passage is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Charles R. Johnson
Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.

19
221 99
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Mark Twain
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.

20
156 59
The Go-Between is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
L. P. Hartley
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

21
153 59
The Color Purple is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Alice Walker
You better not never tell nobody but God.

22
162 67
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
DeannaChurch added Harper Lee
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

23
188 84
The Crow Road is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Iain Banks
It was the day my grandmother exploded.

24
134 51
Gone with the Wind is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
DeannaChurch added Margaret Mitchell
Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

25
134 55
Paradise is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Toni Morrison
They shoot the white girl first.