Best opening lines of famous books

The funniest, strangest, most romantic… best opening sentences of famous novels. Which one is your favorite?

Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen

“If you’re reading this on a screen, fuck off. I’ll only talk if I’m gripped with both hands.”

Sorry, we know you’re reading this list on a screen.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”


If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.”

Talk about breaking the fourth wall, eh?


Neuromancer by William Gibson

One of the most famous first lines from a science fiction classic:

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

The rest of the paragraph, so romantic, so lascivious, is also famous:

My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.


A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Probably one of the most memorable opening sentences in English literature:

“It 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.”

Back then, they used to be longer!


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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


Chromos by Felipe Alfau

“The moment one learns English, complications set in.”

Apparently, the author means everything changes when arriving in America. Still, a very funny sentence when read as a standalone phrase.


Murphy by Samuel Beckett

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”


Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Such a pretty phrase to open a children’s classic:

“All children, except one, grow up.”


One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

“The” classic of Latin American literature:

“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.”


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Everyone has read or heard Montag’s opening line at least once:

“It was a pleasure to burn.”


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

“All this happened, more or less.”


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

A funny opening line from the creator of Narnia to start the third book in the series:

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”


The Crow Road by Iain Banks

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

I bet you want to keep reading now!


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