Novels 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

 

list ordered by

1
586 101
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
467 122
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
432 114
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
372 111
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
382 123
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
397 138
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
339 112
Slaughterhouse-Five is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Kurt Vonnegut All this happened, more or less.

8
307 98
The Hobbit is listed (or ranked) 8 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.  

9
278 101
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
208 77
David Copperfield is listed (or ranked) 10 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.

11
250 101
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
155 48
Harry Potter and the Philosoph... is listed (or ranked) 12 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.

13
165 55
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
192 75
One Hundred Years of Solitude is listed (or ranked) 14 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.

15
258 114
The Catcher in the Rye is listed (or ranked) 15 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.

16
210 90
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is listed (or ranked) 16 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.

17
163 62
The Bell Jar is listed (or ranked) 17 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.

18
192 80
Don Quixote is listed (or ranked) 18 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.

19
168 67
Middle Passage is listed (or ranked) 19 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.

20
148 55
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
147 57
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 21 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.

22
179 80
The Crow Road is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Iain Banks It was the day my grandmother exploded.

23
139 56
The Color Purple is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Alice Walker You better not never tell nobody but God.

24
128 50
Paradise is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Toni Morrison They shoot the white girl first.

25
122 44
Gone with the Wind is listed (or ranked) 25 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.

26
114 44
Middlesex is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Jeffrey Eugenides I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

27
212 113
Lolita is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

28
118 50
Scaramouche: A Romance of the ... is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Rafael Sabatini He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.

29
113 50
A Frolic of His Own is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
William Gaddis Justice? You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.

30
123 58
Notes from Underground is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Fyodor Dostoyevsky I am a sick man... I am a spiteful man.

31
125 62
Neuromancer is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
William Gibson The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

32
106 47
Chromos is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Felipe Alfau The moment one learns English, complications set in.

33
86 33
The Trial is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Franz Kafka Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.

34
98 44
Back When We Were Grownups is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Anne Tyler Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

35
118 60
Their Eyes Were Watching God is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Zora Neale Hurston Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.

36
139 76
Invisible Man is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Ralph Ellison I am an invisible man.

37
96 45
Tracks is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Robyn Davidson We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.

38
118 61
The Stranger is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Albert Camus Mother died today.

39
152 92
Catch-22 is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Joseph Heller It was love at first sight.

40
89 43
The End of the Affair is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Graham Greene A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.

41
94 48
The Red Badge of Courage is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Stephen Crane The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.

42
105 56
The Old Man and the Sea is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Ernest Hemingway He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

43
70 32
The Dark Tower VII: The Dark T... is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
DanieleMonterisi added Stephen King The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.

44
61 25
A Clockwork Orange is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
kingbee63 added Anthony Burgess There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim and we sat in the Korova milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening.

45
83 45
I Capture the Castle is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Dodie Smith I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

46
85 46
Gravity's Rainbow is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Thomas Pynchon A screaming comes across the sky.

47
80 43
Ethan Frome is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Edith Wharton I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

48
74 39
City of Glass is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Douglas Coupland It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.

49
69 36
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
G. K. Chesterton The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.

50
79 46
Murphy is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Famous Novels With The Catchiest First Lines
Samuel Beckett The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.