Best Opening Lines from Novels - Part 1

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Can you name the novels with the 100 best opening lines (1-50)?

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Opening LineNovel TitleAuthor
Call me Ishmael.Herman Melville
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
A screaming comes across the sky.Thomas Pynchon
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.Gabriel García Márquez (translated by Gregory Rabassa)
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.Vladimir Nabokov
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.Leo Tolstoy (translated by Constance Garnett)
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.James Joyce
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.George Orwell
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...Charles Dickens
I am an invisible man.Ralph Ellison
The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared...Nathanael West
You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.Mark Twain
Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.Franz Kafka
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler.Italo Calvino
The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.Samuel Beckett
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...J. D. Salinger
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy...James Joyce
This is the saddest story I have ever heard.Ford Madox Ford
I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me...Laurence Sterne
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.Charles Dickens
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.James Joyce
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...Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue...Thomas Pynchon
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.Paul Auster
Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.William Faulkner
Opening LineNovel TitleAuthor
124 was spiteful.Toni Morrison
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...Miguel de Cervantes (translated by Edith Grossman)
Mother died today.Albert Camus (translated by Stuart Gilbert)
Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.Ha Jin
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.William Gibson
I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Where now? Who now? When now?Samuel Beckett (translated by Patrick Bowles)
Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. 'Stop!' cried the groaning old man at last, 'Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.'Gertrude Stein
In a sense, I am Jacob Horner.John Barth
It was like so, but wasn't.Richard Powers
—Money . . . in a voice that rustled.William Gaddis
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.Virginia Woolf
All this happened, more or less.Kurt Vonnegut
They shoot the white girl first.Toni Morrison
For a long time, I went to bed early.Marcel Proust (translated by Lydia Davis)
The moment one learns English, complications set in.Felipe Alfau
Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.Anita Brookner
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure in the windowpane;Vladimir Nabokov
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.Zora Neale Hurston
I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.Edith Wharton
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...Walter Abish
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.C. S. Lewis
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.Ernest Hemingway
It was the day my grandmother exploded.Iain M. Banks
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan...Jeffrey Eugenides

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Created Mar 22, 2010Curator's PickSourceReportNominate
Tags:author, novel, 100