15 of the Most Memorable First Sentences In Literature

 First Sentence

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By Johanna Dickson, digital publicist

The best opening book lines stay with you long after you’ve finished. They immediately draw you into the story. You re-read them, write them down, or repeat them to others. The great ones make an impact on you beyond closing the book. Some opening lines have even become so memorable that they have earned a coveted spot in pop culture and literary circles alike.

Here are fifteen of the most memorable openers in literature:

Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick


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


Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984


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 childhood 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. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye


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


Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield


All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five


In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.—Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea


It was a pleasure to burn. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


“To be born again,” sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.” —Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses


“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”  —Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis


“All children, except one, grow up.  —J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Related: 15 Fascinating Facts About Your Favorite Children’s Books


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