Prepare to read the most fascinating article of your life.

The first sentence of any piece of writing is arguably the most important – both in terms of hooking the reader in and of doing justice to the body of work that it is introducing. The attempt, here, is perhaps a little on-the-nose and definitely overestimates the quality of the copy that follows but, hey, it caught your attention and demonstrated the point.

Probably the hardest part about writing a book is how to start a story in the first place. Though there are many advises from professional editors and famous writers themselves, it is still the most crucial part where your literary genius must shine. It’s often said that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, but what about its opening lines? The beginning of it carries the daunting task of hooking the prospective reader in and has a very brief window of time to do so. And with so many books to read, the competition between them is vast. When it comes to long form fiction, the stakes are vertiginous. Think of all that goes into writing a novel, from conception to final edit and beyond; then picture a prospective reader, besieged by competing demands from rival books, never mind films and binge-worthy boxsets. Imagine next that reader miraculously reaching for our author’s work, scanning its jacket blurb, opening the cover. There’s a feeling that choosing a book by its opening line is somehow more respectable than judging it by its cover.  Connections don’t come much more intimate than that between an author and their reader, and the first sentence is the writer’s chance to woo. Make it enticing enough – pack in sufficient intrigue, atmosphere and character, and do so in a voice that’s compelling enough – and the reader will read on. After all, the chief function of a first sentence is to make you read on. It’s no wonder Stephen King still spends months, sometimes years, getting his opening salvo exactly right. Having that in mind, we’ve rounded up the first lines of some of the world’s most famous books, and they stand as excellent examples of how a short sentence or two can set the tone for an entire story – and define its legacy for decades to come. Sometimes I want an opening to slap me in the face; other times I’d rather it come on like a creepy hand across my shoulder.

Here are 10 openings that satisfied me enough to be memorable. As usual, the list is unranked and inherently incomplete. These waste no time in opening the book with the right feeling – a mix of regret and menace and mystery.

«Pride and Prejudice», Jane Austen (1813)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.


«Moby-Dick», Herman Melville (1851)

Call me Ishmael.

One of literature’s most famous openers that is just three words long, so startling – and, yes, impressive.


«A Tale of Two Cities», Charles Dickens (1859)

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 near-ideal opener A Tale of Two Cities. Parodied, imitated, enduringly familiar even to those who’ve never read the novel, the line beginning «It was the best of times, it was the worst of times» is a belter.

Charles Dickens around 1867 and 1868, Photography by Jeremiah Gurney


«The Great Gatsby», F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticising any one, he told me just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

Great opening and I can think of a few people right now who would do well to remember the same.

Scott F. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, 1921


«Catch 22», Joseph Heller (1961)

It was love at first sight.

It began so well. Funny. Heart breaking. Frightening. Thought provoking.

Josephy Heller, 1986


The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded sun.

A true must read :-) and the start leaves you wanting more. Specially if you want to know the answer to life, universe and everything.

Douglas Adams


«1984», George Orwell

It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking 13.

An example of an anomaly that can be especially alluring when paired with the humdrum.

George Orwell, 1940


«Anna Karenina», Leo Tolstoy

All families are alike each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

His prepares you for a tide into the Russian dark side.

Leo Tolstoy, 1897


«The Princess Bride», William Goldman

This is my favourite book in the world though I’ve never read it.

Imagine reading this aloud, then you may see why it is the inspiration for one of the best movie of all time.

William Goldmann, 1976


«The Bell Jar», by Sylvia Plath

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

This locates its narrative in time, place and, most powerfully, mood: Its eerie aimlessness is made still more affecting for having been published less than a month before Plath’s suicide.

Sylvia Plath, date unknown

Simon Carroll at VHS

Simon Carrollby Simon Carroll

Simon is originally from Manchester England

A graduate of Durham University BA (Hons) English Literature & History and Manchester University MA in English Language (Linguistic Approach Also hold DELTA qualification)

More about Simon Carroll

Previous employment included Senior Managerial Experience and project management for a huge UK Company (Royal Mail) did meet The Queen and Former PM Tony Blair, however work rather took over.

So a lucky escape led Simon to Teaching English overseas and he has never looked back and has a vast English teaching experience gained on three continents including the following countries Sudan, Egypt, India, Singapore, Maldives, Spain and Switzerland which is now my home and have spent the last 10 years here in the very heart of Europe

Work wise multi-task as an English Teacher, Trainer, Cambridge Speaking Examiner and Writer and Contributor for Pearson English Language books.
Free time: like to live and believe less is more.

Published writer «Don Simon» and «The Temp is it?»