Nothing gives a reader a shiver up the spine like a great opening line. To be able to tell from word one, line one, page one, that a book is going to be great is a wonderful thing. It makes me want to *book shimmy!*
Though to be perfectly honest, I remember very few first lines by heart. Scratch that – I only remember one. Pride and Prejudice. That shall not be on my Top Five Wednesday of favorite opening lines, because everybody and their dog already knows it and has it on t-shirts and mugs and fancy wall prints and the like. So now that I’ve opened up a couple dozen of my tomes to find the good ones, let the games…er, books, begin!
- “It’s harder to drive a polar bear into somebody’s living room than you’d think.”
–Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephen Pastis
Ah, yes. Timmy Failure, primo detective of the world, or so he thinks. Adorable illustrations with an adorably misguided leading man make this one fun all the way through!
- “It seems like there should be some sort of introduction to this.”
–Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Odds are, you’ve seen this image or one of the approximately 8 billion remakes of it floating around the Grand ‘Ol Interwebs. This is where it actually comes from! This blog turned book will have you laughing, crying, laughing while crying and every other combination thereof. Right alongside the sidesplittingly hilarious segments about moving with a high-strung dog or eating an entire cake are segments dealing with depression and personal identity that are wrenchingly honest in their bluntness. As a grammar nut, the post/chapter about “a lot vs. alot” is my personal favorite.
- “I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that’s the truth, the whole truth.”
–Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Max, who is physically intimidating, has always been told he’s lacking in the brains department. Freak is the exact opposite: minuscule body, leg braces, mind like Einstein. Together, they form Freak the Mighty and are an unstoppable team. This touching book hits notes similar to The Man Who Loved Clowns and the duo of George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Addressing issues like physical disabilities, learning difficulties and nontraditional families, Freak the Mighty shows readers that love and friendship can cross any boundary.
- “I was naked, lying on my side on a table in the NASA Flight Medicine Clinic bathroom, probing at my rear end with the nozzle of an enema.”
–Riding Rockets by astronaut Mike Mullane
Lol lol lol lol lol! If you’re searching for a dry scientific memoir, look elsewhere. This book is a no-holds-barred look at the intense life of a space shuttle astronaut, stripping away the glamour and cutting to the real truth. By turns outrageously hilarious and sobering in its honesty, Riding Rockets will remind you that the men and women of NASA are still people at the end of the day, with all the flaws and ingenuity that implies. Shout-out to the Dad Unit (who is a surgeon) for giving me a childhood that made me think lines like this are hilarious and appropriate for dinner conversation.
- “Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn’t get to live it very often.”
–The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley
Prepare your mind for bookception in this Toy Story meets Inkheart mashup. Sylvie is a fairy tale princess in the most literal sense: she lives inside a book (also titled The Great Good Thing), and acts and re-enacts her own story time and time again as Readers open and close her world. When Claire, the new Reader, falls asleep with the book open, Sylvie sees the edge of Claire’s dream on the border of her own world. Breaking every rule there is, Sylvie crosses over to meet Claire, and the line between fiction and reality begins to blur.
The way the world is written is unlike anything I’ve read: characters are aware of page numbers, arrive on the scene out of breath when readers suddenly skip ahead, and literally see the sky open when the cover lifts. I love this first installment; the second book (in which they encounter the internet) was a little hard to follow, and I just learned there is a third book that takes place in spaaaaaace! Either way, the first functions perfectly well as a standalone, and is a great presentation of a point of view you’ve probably never considered.
How about you all? What are your favorite first lines? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Harry Potter is one for a lot of people. Let me know in the comments, and feel free to drop a link to your own list!