I am a sucker for a good first line in a novel. It’s really easy to fail to write a good one. And the pressure! No one wants to have another “It was a dark and stormy night.” I’ve only read a few of these first lines in context but I don’t plan on leaving it that way. Makes sense that good books would have good first sentence, doesn’t it?
I am an invisible man. – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
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. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – George Orwell, 1984
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 Finnegans Wake
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Leo Tolstoy (trans. Constance Garnett), Anna Karenina
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
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 (trans. Gregory Rabassa), One Hundred Years of Solitude
A screaming comes across the sky. – Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
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, Pride and Prejudice
Call me Ishmael.– Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
From 100 Best First Lines of Novels – As chosen by the editors of American Book Review and Ian Stewart, too sleepy to be amusing. Wait, does that count?