Top 10 Opening Sentences of Novels

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A novel’s first sentence is so important that Poets & Writers magazine devotes a section to the first lines of notable new books. In the same vein, I rounded up 10 of my favorite opening sentences. Each one is powerful, and the rest of the book delivers what the first sentence promises. 

As Poets & Writers explains in its “Page One” section, a great first sentence offers a glimpse into a fictional world. The books on this list certainly do that and then some. They are listed in alphabetical order based on the author’s last name.

“Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Austen

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”

 “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

“When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.”

 “A Reliable Wife” by Robert Goolrick

It was bitter cold, the air electric with all that had not happened yet.”

“Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tartleton twins were.

“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”

“1984” by George Orwell

‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

 “A Sport and a Pastime” by James Salter

“September. It seems these luminous days will never end.”

“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold

“My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered.”

“Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Read other Top 10 lists:

Top 10 Places in Literature that Will Trigger Your Wanderlust

Top 10 California Novels

Top 10 British Novels

Top 10 Villains in Literature

Top 10 Male Characters in Literature

Top 10 Jobs in Literature: Characters with the Most Memorable Careers