Booking Through Thursday - Beginnings

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by: Nithin

Here’s an idea about memorable first lines from books.

What are your favorite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

The first sentence of a novel has about as much importance as the actual plot. It's the same idea as a person trying to make a good first impression. Whether we realize it or not, that first glimpse, first word, first thought is going to colour our opinions. Some authors have a flair for sparking your interest with unusual openers, that make you want to keep reading in order to unravel their mysteriousness. Other writers unwind magnificent, flowing and lyrical beginnings that show the power of their writing. And sometimes you find that first sentence that just stinks, but what can you do but keep reading, because surely it must get better.

Here are some of my favorite beginnings:

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. City of Glass by Paul Auster

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?' Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

"When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing." Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

While enthusiasts and detractors will continue to empty entire dictionaries attempting to describe or deride it, "authenticity" still remains the word most likely to stir a debate. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A.M. Homes and Chuck Palahniuk are authors I've read that have first sentences that have stuck in my memory for no apparent reason. They seem very blah, but I find myself returning to these openings to see if I can decipher a hidden message of sorts.

Elaine takes the boys to Florida and drops them off like they're dry cleaning. Safety Of Objects - AM Homes

He stands at the glass looking out. This Book Will Save Your Life - AM Homes

It is after midnight on one of those Friday nights when the guests have all gone home and the host and hostess are left in their drunkenness to try and put things right again. Music For Torching - AM Homes

And so here is my confession. Survivor - Chuck Palahniuk

If you're going to read this, don't bother. Choke - Chuck Palahniuk

The problem with every story is you tell it after the fact. Lullaby - Chuck Palahniuk

Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die. Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk

And here is the clunker for me. I really can't express the hatred I had towards this first sentence. I think I was about 5 years old when I opened this book up, read the first page, closed the book, criticized (to my teddy bear, mind you) the unimaginative moron who must have written this muck, and placed it on the very bottom shelf of my bookcase. About 2 years later I opened it again and realized that first sentences don't necessarily define an entire work. Anyways this was the sentence that infuriated a 5 year old bibliophile:

It was a dark and stormy night. Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Bluestocking said...

I loved the opening to A Wrinkle in Time!

Smilingsal said...

Ah, a critic at age five!

Chris said...

LOL! That's pretty funny.

Confuzzled Books said...

You have some good ones. :-)

Alix said...

Very funny of course it should really be "It was a dark and stormy night and somewhere a dog howled"

Liked your quotes especially this one
"The problem with every story is you tell it after the fact"

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Julie said...

Funny, I posted about Geek Love today, and plan to post about City of Glass within the next few days.

Samantha said...


I just wanted to let you know that I answered the questions you asked about Selling Sickness for Weekly Geeks. You can read the answers here:


Michelle said...

Erg, just dropping by to tell you I finally answered your question to my WG#12 post. You can find them here:

Thanks for asking, I had a lot of fun trying to come up with intelligent answers! :p