Your Reading Life

The Best First Lines of All Time

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . . .”

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

“A screaming comes across the sky.”

We judge a book by its first line. (But maybe we shouldn’t.)

We all have our favorites. We want to hear yours. Share your favorite in a comment! We’ll collect the most popular for our countdown of the best first lines of all time.

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  • Kate_at_RIF

    “We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing about the world.” — A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

  • Jilly Dean

    Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again…..Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier

  • pat

    “Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.”

    • Kate_at_RIF

      Where is that opening line from? It’s terrific!

    • Kira, editor @ Read It Forward

      I had to look it up! It’s Anita Brookner, A Start In Life

  • Broadbelle

    My mother died today; or was it yesterday? I can’t be sure.
    Camus. The Stranger

  • Julie B

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen, P&P

  • AubLibDir

    It was a dark and stormy night…….. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)

  • Danielle

    The man in black fed across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

    • Danielle

      I type-od!This should read: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

  • Kristin

    “Papa, where are you going with that ax?” E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

  • Rosa

    People are afraid to merge on the freeways in Los Angeles (Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero)

  • shabana ansari

    In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.

  • Lynn

    Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

  • Dawn

    There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever. Janet Evanovich, One for the Money

  • goldensanti

    – I –

    Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

    –_Introibo ad altare Dei_.
    —– Ulysses, by James Joyce

  • goldensanti

    “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”
    —The Great Gatsby

    • goldensanti

      “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
      —The Great Gatsby

  • AmyJ

    ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ (I Capture the Castle)

  • Betty-Anne

    “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” The Gunslinger – Stephen King.