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The Analogue Reader: Famous Opening Lines of Classic Novels

If there's anything that makes or breaks a reader's interest in a book, it's definitely the opening line. Whether a simple word, phrase, sentence, or full paragraph, the opening is every writer's chance to catch the reader's attention. Fellow bibliophiles, why don't we take a look at some of the first lines of some popular classic literature?

Photo by margotinlove

One of my usual habits when checking out books is reading the first few lines, and I think many fellow readers also enjoy doing this. If a book has an interesting opening, and I find it engrossing enough to continue flipping page after page, it lands a space in my bookshelf and bedside.

Interestingly, Listverse came up with a list featuring the top opening lines of some of the world’s most famous books, most of them classics. Reading through the list, I think the first lines actually have to do with the timeless status of these novels, commanding attention from readers of all generations.

Did the first lines of your favorite classic novel made the cut? Check out this quick list:

  • “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — 1984 by 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, 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.” — A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic vermin.” — Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  • “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book’, thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” — Inferno by Dante
  • “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
  • “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.” — War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

Do you have a favorite opening line from all the books that you read and love, classic or modern? Why don’t you share it with us (and tag your fellow analogue reader friends) in a comment below!

written by plasticpopsicle


  1. buckshot


    "It was the year when they finally immanentized the eschaton." First line of Book One of the Illuminatus trilogy http://en.wikipedia.(…)us!_Trilogy This line struck me so much by its bizarreness that it has stayed with me ever since reading the book 20 years ago.

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  2. samwise_camus


    "As he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months." High Rise, JG Ballard. As opening lines go, if that doesn't hook you nothing will!

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  3. paper_doll


    "On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide-it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese-the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope." The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides

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  4. plasticpopsicle


    Thanks for sharing your favorite first lines, @buckshot, @samwise_camus, and @paper_doll!

    What about yours, @jerisprudence, @janey_mcfly, @morty, and my other bibliophile lomo-friends? :D

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  5. mrmostarr


    "Ca à commencé comme ça" Voyage au bout de la nuit, Céline

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