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 DickensIt 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.
First Published: 1859
- 2George OrwellIt was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
First Published: 1949-06-08
- 3Ray BradburyIt was a pleasure to burn.
First Published: 1953
- 4Leo TolstoyHappy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
First Published: 1877
- 5Jane AustenIt is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
First Published: 1813-01-28
- 6Herman MelvilleCall me Ishmael.
First Published: 1851-10-18
- 7J. R. R. TolkienIn a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
First Published: 1937-09-21
- 8Kurt VonnegutAll this happened, more or less.
First Published: 1969
- 9J. K. Rowling
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were very normal, thank you very much.
First Published: 1997-06-26
- 10Franz Kafka
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
First Published: 1915
- 11Charles DickensWhether 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.
First Published: 1850
- 12C. S. LewisThere was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
First Published: 1952-09-15
- 13J. D. SalingerIf 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.
First Published: 1951-07-16
- 14F. Scott FitzgeraldIn my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
First Published: 1925-04-10
- 15Alice WalkerYou better not never tell nobody but God.
First Published: 1982
- 16Sylvia PlathIt was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
First Published: 1963
- 17Mark TwainYou 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.
First Published: 1884-12
- 18Gabriel García MárquezMany 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.
First Published: 1967
- 19L. P. HartleyThe past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
First Published: 1953
- 20Vladimir Vladimirovich NabokovLolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
First Published: 1955
- 21Harper LeeWhen he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
First Published: 1960-07-11
- 22Iain BanksIt was the day my grandmother exploded.
First Published: 1992
- 23Miguel de CervantesSomewhere 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.
First Published: 1605
- 24Charles R. JohnsonOf all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.
First Published: 1990
- 25Margaret MitchellScarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.
First Published: 1936-06-30