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
- 1Charles Dickens
First Published: 1859It 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.
- 2George Orwell
First Published: 1949-06-08It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
- 3Ray Bradbury
First Published: 1953It was a pleasure to burn.
- 4Leo Tolstoy
First Published: 1877Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
- 5Jane Austen
First Published: 1813-01-28It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
- 6Herman Melville
First Published: 1851-10-18Call me Ishmael.
- 7J. R. R. Tolkien
First Published: 1937-09-21In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
- 8Kurt Vonnegut
First Published: 1969All this happened, more or less.
- 9J. K. Rowling
First Published: 1997-06-26
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were very normal, thank you very much.
- 10Franz Kafka
First Published: 1915
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
- 11Charles Dickens
First Published: 1850Whether 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.
- 12C. S. Lewis
First Published: 1952-09-15There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
- 13J. D. Salinger
First Published: 1951-07-16If 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.
- 14F. Scott Fitzgerald
First Published: 1925-04-10In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
- 15Alice Walker
First Published: 1982You better not never tell nobody but God.
- 16Sylvia Plath
First Published: 1963It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
- 17Mark Twain
First Published: 1884-12You 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.
- 18Gabriel García Márquez
First Published: 1967Many 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.
- 19L. P. Hartley
First Published: 1953The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
- 20Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov
First Published: 1955Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
- 21Iain Banks
First Published: 1992It was the day my grandmother exploded.
- 22Harper Lee
First Published: 1960-07-11When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
- 23Miguel de Cervantes
First Published: 1605Somewhere 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.
- 24Charles R. Johnson
First Published: 1990Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.
- 25Rafael Sabatini
First Published: 1921He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.