THE BLOG
08/28/2015 06:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

11 Unforgettable First Lines in Literature

By Sarah Jane Abbott | Off the Shelf

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the first line is the window to the book. A first line can drag you in, shock you, confuse you, or touch you. A first line is what makes you read on. Here are some of our favorite first lines that set the tone for some incredible books.

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Post Office by Charles Bukowski
"It began as a mistake."

 

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Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
"I was not sorry when my brother died."

 

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A Heart So White by Javiar Marías
"I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn't a girl anymore and hadn't long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father's gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests."

 

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
"The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl."

 

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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
"All children, except one, grow up."

 

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
"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."

 

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
"Marley was dead: to begin with."

 

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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
"Life changes fast."

 

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."

 

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If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
"You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler."

 

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Famous Last Words: Parting Lines From Our Favorite Characters

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