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Favorite First Lines

I love good opening lines. It’s almost funny to look back on an old favorite and see what the first sentence actually was. Sometimes it feels fitting that that was how the book began, or it shows some lofty purpose the book was intended for. Either way, here are a few I love to spark some inspiration. 


Does such a thing as “the fatal flaw,” that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside of literature? I used to think it didn’t.

– The Secret History by Donna Tartt 

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 child 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.

– The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 

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 by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

From a little after two oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that – a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.

– Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. 

 We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Sometimes even now I think I see him in the street or standing in a window or bent over a book in a coffee shop. And in that instant, before I understand that it’s someone else, my lungs tighten and I lose my breath.

The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt

When it began, it began as an opera would begin, in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger who, you discover, has your fate in his hands.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee 

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