Friday Favorites: First Lines of Books

So I stumbled across this list of 100 Best First Lines of Novels awhile back, and it got me to thinking about some of the best first lines of books that I’ve come across. So I decided to do a little review of my own favorite first lines (though I fudged just a bit, and have included some first lines of chapters/sections, rather than first lines of whole books – but it’s my list, so who cares?). I’m not going to include any that were on the other list linked to above, as that would be repetitive. The result is likely to be a list that goes heavy on the science fiction and fantasy, as that’s definitely the largest chunk of my reading repertoire. Lines are chosen because they were surprising/random, really funny, intriguing, or beautiful (poetically or philosophically). Or any other adjective that means it caught my attention.

  1. “No shit, there I was.” – Dragon by Steven Brust, first line. This line persuaded me to buy this book, and hence got me hooked on the Vlad Taltos series in particular, and Steven Brust’s writing in general. Good stuff.
     
  2. The funniest thing about time is when it doesn’t. I’ll leave that hanging there for the moment, and let you age while the shadows don’t lengthen, if you see what I mean.” – Yendi by Steven Brust – ok, I cheated a bit on this one. It’s mid-chapter 10, but it is the first line(s) after a little section break. I just really like it.
     
  3. “On my seventh birthday, my father swore, for the first of many times, that I would die face down in a cesspool.” – Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg, first line.
     
  4. “Life sucks and then you die. Yeah, I should be so lucky.” – Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer, first line(s) of Jacob’s section.
     
  5. “Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.” – Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, first line.
     
  6. “It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.” – Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, first line.
     
  7. “My father had a face that could stop a clock.” – The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, first line.
     
  8. This is the worst story I know about hocuses. And it’s true.” – Melusine by Sarah Monette, first line(s).
     
  9. “When an incubus found sex boring, it was time to take a break – or think about another line of work.” – Sebastian by Anne Bishop – ok, cheated again a bit with this one. It’s not the first line, but it is on the first page, and it made me chuckle.
     
  10. “Once upon a time when the world was young there was a Martian named Smith.” – Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, first line.
     
  11. It ended with a dream.” – Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, first line. This one caught my attention, because usually things begin with dreams, rather than end.
     
  12. “Mother taught me to be polite to dragons.” – Talking to Dragons by Patricia Wrede, first line.
     
  13. “The worst thing about funerals was the smiles, Morna Provin thought.” – Eye of the Labyrinth by Jennifer Fallon, first line.
     
  14. “I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.” – The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, first line.
     
  15. “He came one late, wet spring, and brought the wide world back to my doorstep.” – Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb, first line.
     
  16. “He remembered the wind.” – The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn, first line.
     
  17. “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.” – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, first line.
     
  18. “Almost overnight, every civilization on this globe had died.” – The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt, first line.
     
  19. “This chapter is for those people who remember Earth.” – The Last Legends of Earth by A.A. Attanasio, first line.
     
  20. ” ‘On the planet O there has not been war for five thousand years’ she read, ‘and on Gethen there has never been a war.’ “ – Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula K. Le Guin, first line.
     
  21. “It is said, in Imardin, that the wind has a soul, and that it wails through the narrow city streets because it is grieved by what it finds there.” – The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan, first line.
     
  22. “Locke Lamora’s rule of thumb was this: a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim’s trust forever. This time around, he planned to spend those three seconds getting strangled.” – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, first line(s).
     
  23. “Mr Roebuck also begged to enter his protest against this ill-considered and crude piece of legislation, which he described as the result of a species of cant which was almost as dangerous as vice.” – Freedom & Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull, first line.
     
  24. “Monkey never dies.” – The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, first line.
     
  25. “He had been dead a long time.” – Druids by Morgan Llywelyn, first line.
     
  26. “The light had almost outdone me.” – Song of the Beast by Carol Berg, first line. 
     
  27. “The first time I read the ad, I choked and cursed and spat and threw the paper to the floor.” – Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, first line. 
     
  28. “You want to know what good is?” – The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust, first line. 
     
  29. “Flying into Australia, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is.” – In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, first line.
     
  30. “First, consider the river.” – Brokedown Palace by Steven Brust, first line.  

What are some of your favorite first lines?
 

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  1. We’ve read such great lines here! We are overwhelmed! We would like to invite you to our website to keep sharing your favlines. Learn more about our mission, and send us your feedback! Thank you in advance! Favline Team

  2. So I stumbled across this looking for that quote from yendi, and noticed you’re missing the single greatest first line of any book ever.

    “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

    1. That would be because I haven’t read that book (I had to Google it to even find out what book it was from). As the author of the above list, obviously I’m limited to books I’ve actually read. 😀

  3. I recommend reading it, even if you’re not a sci fi fan. I’m more a fantasy fiction, and Neuromancer is still amazing.