This post was originally published on June 12, 2015 on The Biblio-Files.
I want to begin a segment on this blog called Fridays on Five, which will consist of a post each Friday focusing on five things from one particular subcategory, whether that could be five books with green covers, five authors I have been enjoying recently, or, as is the topic of today’s post, five of my favorite first lines in literature.
The first line of a book is crucial not only in drawing readers into the story, but also for setting the tone for the rest of the novel. I personally love opening a random book to the first page and rereading the first line, as it reminds why I love that particular book so much in the first place, or, if I haven’t yet read the book, why I am going to love it. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some wonderfully witty opening lines.
“He was dead. However, his nose throbbed painfully, which he thought odd in the circumstances.”
-Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Diana Gabaldon is incredibly short, sweet, and to the point in the opening lines of Voyager, the third book in her Outlander series (one of my personal favorite series). I won’t say too much about these opening lines, as I don’t want any spoilers for people who haven’t read the first book in this series yet. If you don’t already know the premise of this series, Outlander follows a woman named Claire Randall who is on her second honeymoon with her husband Frank Randall in Scotland in 1945, not long after the end of the Second World War. The couple is hoping to reconnect after a long time apart, however in a mystical turn of events Claire is transported back to 1743 where she meets Jamie Fraser, a gorgeous Scottish warrior, and an entire cast of entertaining 18th century Scots. I could talk about this book for days and days and days, and if you haven’t read it yet you should absolutely go read it. Like now. What are you doing still sitting here?!
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I think pretty much everyone in the history of humanity knows the first line of Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice, however this is one of my all-time favorite first lines, as well as my favorite book of all time, so I couldn’t possibly leave it off of this list.
“I like hard work and I don’t like pretending things are perfect.”
-Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please, is just as delightful and witty as she is, as conveyed by this first sentence. I loved loved loved loved Amy Poehler on Saturday Night Live as well as Parks and Recreation, and this book has quickly become one of my favorites. Amy is not only funny and entertaining, she is incredibly relatable and gives incredibly down-to-earth advice wrapped up in witty one-liners. I love this quote, I love Amy Poehler, and I love this book. ’nuff said.
“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.”
-Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Ah, what can I even say about Catcher in the Rye and its lovely-to-hate protagonist, Holden Caulfield? Holden is such a moody, stereotypical teenager and his attitude throughout this novel is perfectly summed up in the book’s first sentence. J.D. Salinger is a master of words and almost every line in this book is quotable (and I do frequently quote them), and I recommend you read this book just for the prose, although the story line is also impeccable.
“The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.”
-Paper Towns by John Green
Before anyone says anything, yes I know that this is a whole paragraph and not just the first line of Paper Towns, but the whole opening paragraph of this book is so fantastic that I couldn’t not include the whole thing. Paper Towns is by no means my favorite John Green novel (that award probably goes to Looking for Alaska), but it does, in my opinion, have the best beginning. The way John Green crafts sentences is pure magic. I swear that man could write a telephone book and I would eat it up like chocolate! His novels so perfectly sum up the feeling of being a young adult in today’s contemporary world, as does this opening paragraph. Gah, I love it. You should definitely go check out some John Green novels if you haven’t already.
So that about sums it up for this Fridays on Five edition. Comment some of your favorite first lines down below, as I would love to know what opening lines stand out to all of you. I hope you liked this first post, and I hope you keep reading Reflections of a Reader! 🙂