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Top Twenty List Of Best First Lines In Novels

I find these lists interesting and fun, whether or not I agree or disagree. And I always engage in some one-upmanship, as I generally think of other examples to augment any category.

This time it is - surprise - from Kafka.

"One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin." - The Metamorphosis.

C'mon - try to beat that! [DE]

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First Sentences of Great Books


Thumbs up or thumbs down on these first sentences?

In most issues of Poets & Writers you’ll find a fun section called “Page One” where they print the first line or sentence from new and notable books.

I thought it’d be fun to look at first sentences from 20 books that have already become classics (plus some semi-recent hits and a few more-obscure favorites) in order to see if the magic was happening right from the start, or if it took the author a little while to get cooking.

You be the judge and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

First sentences from popular books:

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.

— from The Road, by Cormac McCarthy


Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton.

— from The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway


It was a dark and stormy night.

— from A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle


Mother died today — or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.

— from The Stranger, by Albert Camus





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First Paragraph

I find this to be an interesting topic but if I may add, the opening line is very important, obviously, but I feel that the first paragraph or even the first page can be even more striking in some books such as Dickens's Bleak House with a description of the fog.