Famous Opening Lines of Great Books

Below, match the famous opening line with the book it comes from. Most of these are quite famous, and most of you should be able to get at least some of them. Have fun!

  1. “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of Number Four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
  2. “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”
  3. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
  4. “It was a pleasure to burn.”
  5. “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”
  6. “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
  7. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
  8. “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.”
  9. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
  10. “All children, except one, grow up.”
  11. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
  12. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
  13. “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.”
  14. “As Gregor Samsa awoke from a night of uneasy dreaming, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
  15. “He — for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it — was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.”
  16. “All this happened, more or less.”
  17. “Many 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.”
  18. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”
  19. “’To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.’”
  20. “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
  21. “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”
  22. “Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.”
  23. “Mother died today.”
  24. “Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”
  25. “I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.”
  26. “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
  27. “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”
  28. “Call me Ishmael.”
  29. “There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim and we sat in the Korova milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening.”
  30. “No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
  31. “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”
  32. “The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.”
  33. “’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.’”
  34. “Whether 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.”
  35. “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”
  36. “For a long time, I went to bed early.”
  37. “Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden.”
  38. “Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.”
  39. “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.”
  40. “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
  41. “I have never begun a novel with more misgiving.”
  42. “My lady and I are being shut up in a tower for seven years”
  43. “Somewhere 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.”
  44. “The moment one learns English, complications set in.”
  45. “Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.”
  46. “‘Barabbas came to us by sea’, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy.”
  47. “When I was three and Bailey was four, we had arrived in the musty little town, wearing tags on our wrists which instructed – ‘To Whom It May Concern’ – that we were Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr., from Long Beach, California, en route to Stamps, Arkansas, c/o Mrs. Annie Henderson.”
  48. “Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college and in after life, I can speak only with extreme terror.”
  49. “What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?”
  50. “Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.”

 

1984 by George Orwell

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Alphabetical Africa by Walter Abish

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Chromos by Felipe Alfau

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Herbert West: Reanimator and Other Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Gilbert Sorrentino

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Murphy by Samuel Beckett

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Crow Road by Iain Banks

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Debut by Anita Brookner

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Waiting by Ha Jin

 

2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Novel

2 responses to “Famous Opening Lines of Great Books

  1. Johnny

    Some good reads. Some pretty girls have nice feet if that’s your thing though!

  2. I only read the first 8 and I only recognised 8. The catcher in the rye. Never been a big reader of fiction.

    Currently reading ‘the genius of dogs’. Lots of interesting and insightful stuff about dogs, chimps and humans. I’d recommend it, especially for dog lovers, but also for anyone interested in human nature and evolution.

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