All-Time Favourite Opening Sentences

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These are the all-time favourite opening sentences as voted by viewers of To vote for your favourite or favourites, hit the "Vote" button on this page. If your favourite opening sentence is not already listed, please submit it here.

501 It was a short one-paragraph item in the morning edition.
A Wild Sheep Chase
Haruki Murakami, 1989 (tr. Alfred Birnbaum, 2002)
502 People plan their own passing for all sorts of reasons.
The Peaceful Pill Handbook
Philip Nitschke, 2006
503 George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.
Paul Harding, 2009
504 Max was still sleeping, neatly, as always, his head framed by the sunny white of his rectangular pillow, his eyelids smooth over the orbs of his eyes, his lips pale and soft, his bare shoulders square on the bed.
Ten Days in the Hills
Jame Smiley, 2007
505 They were sitting on old buckets, scaling fish beneath an almond tree, when someone pointed to the water and they all began to shout.
The Girl with the Golden Shoes
Colin Channer, 2007
506 Whether beautiful or terrible, the past is always a ruin.
The Kingdom of Ohio
Matthew Flaming, 2009
507 On a warm June day in 1944, Wink Dutton, known most recently to the U.S. Army as Staff Sergeant Winton S. Dutton, special correspondent and burgeoning cartoonist and illustrator, stepped out onto the streets of Chicago in his civvies.
Nothing But a Smile
Steve Amick, 2009
508 Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic ruled the world.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, 2009
509 First, the facts.
Bridge of Sighs
Richard Russo, 2007
510 Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women.
Middle Passage
Charles Johnson, 1990
511 I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.
The Adventures of Augie March
Saul Bellow, 1953
512 On the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura, there is a small international airport.
Strength in What Remains
Tracy Kidder, 2009
513 In the late winter of 2006, I returned to my home town and bought 612 acres of land on the far western edge of the county.
J Robert Lennon, 2009
514 In the years before our grandmother died, when my sister and I wore matching dresses, and the grown-ups, unburdened by conscience, drank gin and smoked; those years before planes made a mockery of distance, and physics a mockery of time; in the years before I knew what it was like to be regarded with hard, needy want, when my family still had its goodness, and I my innocence; in those years before Negroes were blacks, and soldiers went AWOL, and women were given their constrained, abridged liberties, we traveled to Michigan by train.
Good Family
Terry Gamble, 2005
515 It was early morning in June 1978, and the Ueno neighbourhood was just beginning to stir.
The Favourites
Mary Yukari Waters, 2009
516 I’m Homer, the blind brother. I didn't lose my sight all at once, it was like the movies, a slow fade-out.
Homer & Langley
EL Doctorow, 2009
517 I first met Perkus Tooth in an office.
Chronic City
Jonathan Lethem, 2009
518 In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise.
The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood, 2009
519 Sometimes you’re walking through the woods when a stick leaps into the air and strikes you across the back and shoulders several times, then flies away lost in the underbrush.
My Abandonment
Peter Rock, 2009
520 My mother liked to say Freud should have been strangled in his crib.
The Confessions of Edward Day
Valerie Martin, 2009
521 All good first sentences have a kind of energy, wrote Slater Brown in his yellow notebook as he was being pedaled erratically down Market Street.
Going to See the Elephant
Rodes Fishburne, 2009
522 A year ago this past August, on the outskirts of Hardin, Montana, riding along I-90 on the crest of a warm downslope summer wind, I picked up a hitchhiker wearing a $250 5X beaver Resistol cowboy hat and no shoes.
Robert Greer, 2009
523 The smell of burning rubber hung in the air as the thin black man surveyed the dimly lit room.
Bahama Burnout
Don Bruns, 2009
524 Behind you was a poster for the DQ Butterscotch Sundae, and next to you were the gleaming, shuddering machines that dispensed ice cream.
The Visibles
Sara Shepard, 2009
525 The phone call came late one August afternoon as my older sister Gracie and I sat out on the back porch shucking the sweet corn into the big tin buckets.
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
Reif Larsen, 2009
526 When Tess’s water broke, she was staring into the long-forgotten aquarium, her eyes fixed on the bodies of the frogs floating like lost astronauts in oversize spacesuits, something clearly not of this world.
Jennifer McMahon, 2009
527 The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard.
Miss Lonelyhearts
Nathanael West, 1933
528 Alvin Pendergast stood outdoors behind the old Farrington auditorium in an Illinois breeze swollen with fresh crab-apple blossoms.
This Side of Jordan
Monte Schultz, 2009
529 On the Sunday before the terror began, Rebecca DeForde pointed the rental car into the sullen darkness of her distant past.
Jericho's Fall
Steven L Carter, 2009
530 The snow started to fall several hours before her labor began.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
Kim Edwards, 2005
531 Later, when Duncan teases apart the moments before the accident, splits the seconds with atomic precision, he’ll take some satisfaction in telling Lily that his instincts were good.
New World Monkeys
Nancy Mauro, 2009
532 Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.
Half Broke Horses
Jeannette Walls, 2009
533 The net curtains inside the window lifted and the night air that entered the room was scented with the smell of exhaust fumes, chips fried in old oil, warm sidewalks and, incongruously, the perfume of roses.
Keeper of Light and Dust
Natasha Mostert, 2009
534 There were omens from the beginning.
Angel Time
Anne Rice, 2009
535 It started as an accident.
The Piano Teacher
Janice Y.K. Lee, 2009
536 The china lightshade hanging from the centre of the ceiling was yellow with fly spots and grime; the electric light bulb in its ancient fittings was fairly new.
Came a Hot Friday
Ronald Hugh Morrieson, 1964
537 In the sixty-first year of his life, Liam Pennywell lost his job.
Noah’s Compass
Anne Tyler, 2009
538 Just after midnight, Vangelis—trusted neighborhood cab driver, friend of her uncle, and painter on the side—delivered Sophie and a few other girls to a party in Psychiko, a winding, lush neighbourhood filled with stately homes and embassies.
The Green Shore
Natalie Bakopoulos, 2012
539 A couple roustabouts had been asking about guns at the Tibbehah County Fair, but by the time word had gotten back to Donnie Varner, they’d long since packed up the Ferris wheel, corn dog stands and shit, and boogied on down the highway.
The Lost Ones
Ace Atkins, 2012
540 I still look up to the stars for some sort of meaning.
The House of Rumour
Jake Arnott, 2012
541 Nantucket: the name of the island brought to mind rolling surf, cobblestone streets, the brick mansions of whaling captains, a battered Jeep Wrangler with a surfboard strapped to the rollbars.
Elin Hilderbrand, 2012
542 We set our sights on each other almost from the beginning.
The Master’s Muse
Varley O’Connor, 2012
543 When they opened the door to his cell, the street noise that the stone walls had muffled came in along with the stream of light and a blast of wind, and Roger woke in alarm.
The Dream of the Celt
Mario Vargas Llosa, 2012 (tr. Edith Grossman, 2012)
544 When violence arrives it rarely knocks. It seldom taps you on the shoulder, suggests you get ready. It creates change with the most capable tools in the toolbox: confusion, humiliation, destruction. And its survivors are lucky to have coughed out a raspy I never saw it coming.
The Exceptions
David Cristofano, 2012
545 They were hanging white folks in Louisiana, and shooting black folks in Richmond.
The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln
Stephen L Carter, 2012
546 The russet bloom on the vineyards ahead, the yellow-leafed oaks, a hint of truffles fattening in moldy obscurity underfoot—none of it is truly familiar, because I first came here not only in a different season, but as a different man.
The Detour
Andromeda Romano-Lax, 2012
546 Nine months Landsman's been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon, 2007
547 Beyond the walls of the Vieux Carre where his mother sells her greens, beyond the deep fetid stink of Gallatin Street’s brothels and the crotches of its whores, its swindlers and inebriates and roving gangs of violent footpads, Elias Abrams fears for the first time that he might lose himself to the sky above.
Peter Charles Melman, 2007
548 Psychics can see the color of time it's blue.
Blown Away
Ronald Sukenick, 1986
549 To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
Mary Baker Eddy, 1875
550 “I’m not supposed to be here,” Detective Inspector John Rebus said. Not that anyone was listening.
Fleshmarket Close
Ian Rankin, 2004
551 “Wow, look at those two!” the young woman exclaimed—by “those two” she seemed to be referring to her own stiffening nipples, plainly visible beneath a pale shirt that showed her small breasts as clearly as if she had been naked.
When the Light Goes
Larry McMurtry, 2007
552 The world begins anew with every birth, my father used to say.
The Secret Scripture
Sebastian Barry, 2008
553 They met at the museum to end it.
You Don't Love Me Yet
Jonathan Lethem, 2007
554 The rain was falling in a sweet relentless fashion as it does in spring in London and it was all very peaceful and pleasant, if uncompromisingly wet.
Cargo of Eagles
Margery Allingham, 1968
555 Gustave Aschenbach -- or von Aschenbach, as he had been known officially since his fiftieth birthday -- had set out alone from his house in Prince Regent Street, Munich, for an extended walk.
Death in Venice
Thomas Mann, 1912
556 On a June evening some years after the middle of the last century Mrs Eileen Connulty passed through the town of Rathmoye: from Number 4 The Square to Magennis Street, into Hurley Lane, along Irish Street, across Cloughjordan Road to the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Love and Summer
William Trevor, 2009
557 It was when she started stripping that everyone realized something was wrong.
Sammy’s House
Kristin Gore, 2007
558 There's a divinity that shapes our ends.
The Man with Two Left Feet
PG Wodehouse, 1917
559 All writers have these moments—all people do—when Realization forms from air.
The Shadow Catcher
Marianne Wiggins, 2007
560 My name is Wilkie Collins, and my guess, since I plan to delay the publication of this document for at least a century and a quarter beyond the date of my demise, is that you do not recognise my name.
Dan Simmons, 2009
561 At home in Ballyroan, in the single-story cottage that stood beside the sea, in the bed she shared with her older sister, eight-year-old Greta Cahill woke before dawn to a sound that was not the ocean, was not the animals bawling into the wind, was not a slammed gate, a clanging cowbell, or the rain beating on the gable.
The Walking People
Mary Beth Keane, 2009
562 I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call'd me.
Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe, 1719
563First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey.
The Things They Carried
Tim O’Brien, 1990
564 On our debut night in Des Moines, Nicholas Parsons murdered a high school senior in the hotel room directly beneath us.
Weeping Underwater Looks a Lot Like Laughter
Michael J White, 2010
565 This all began at the precipice of forty, in a childless marriage, when I was left confronting the statistical fact that I had fewer years ahead of me than behind me.
Midnight in a Perfect Life
Michael Collins, 2010
566 Manuel Obrador knew that he was dead but understood he had not yet finished dying.
Fragile Beasts
Tawni O’Dell, 2010
567 On Friday 18 June 1996 I attended the scene of this incident on Fielding Avenue, Selly Oak, Birmingham, as part of my overall analysis.
Tim Pears, 2010
568 Obsessed, you could say I was, as each day passed so did my sense of reason.
Paddling with a Panther
Chris Dench, 2010
569 A Turkish heavyweight boxing champion sauntering down a Hamburg street with his mother on his arm can scarcely be blamed for failing to notice that he is being shadowed by a skinny boy in a black coat.
A Most Wanted Man
John le Carre, 2008
570 He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.
Raphael Sabatini, 1921
571 The cold came late that fall and the songbirds were caught off guard.
A Gate at the Stairs
Lorrie Moore, 2009
572 By the time of their April meeting in 1998, it was well known among the membership of the Hanover Street Fly Casters that Arthur Camden’s life had fallen apart.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living
Michael Dahlie, 2008
573 The trial was irretrievably over; everything that could be said had been said, but he had never doubted that he would lose.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson, 2005 (tr. Reg Keeland, 2008)
574 Midway through his son’s graduation from college, somewhere between the Ns and the Os, Roger Pomeroy decided that he owed it to himself to go back to school.
The Hole We're In
Gabrielle Zevin, 2010
575 Later he would tell her that their story began at the Royal Hungarian Opera House, the night before he left for Paris on the Western Europe Express.
The Invisible Bridge
Julie Orringer, 2010
576 To put it as simply as possible: this is the story of a polygamist who has an affair.
The Lonely Polygamist
Brady Udall, 2010
577 The ground was the color of rust.
The Marrowbone Marble Company
Glenn Taylor, 2010
578 Lloyd shoves off the bedcovers and hurries to the front door in white underwear and black socks.
The Imperfectionists
Tom Rachman 2010
579 Tom the handyman is wading in the snow outside my window in boots a burglar might wear.
The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson
Jerome Charyn, 2010
580 Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother’s wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson, 2010
581 The band launched into an old swing tune and the other couples fell away, clearing the floor for Jake and Dinah Lasker, who were dancing with tremendous rhythm and style.
Cheat and Charmer
Elizabeth Frank, 2004
582 The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long.
Last Night in Twisted River
John Irving, 2009
583 Ten thousand bombs had landed, and I was waiting for George.
De Niro’s Game
Rawi Hage, 2006
584 It was a hospital bed, that much appeared certain, though certainty was coming and going.
Playing for Pizza
John Grisham, 2007
585 The way I see it you can go two ways with a name like Wilhelmina Beever.
Shark Girls
Jaimee Wriston Colbert, 2009
586 “Morgan did you say your name is? Funny things, names.”
Work Song
Ivan Doig, 2010
587 She was born peculiar, or so she thought. Her parents had put some ice in her soul, not a rare thing, and when things went well the ice seemed to melt a bit, and when things went poorly the ice enlarged.
The Farmer’s Daughter (from The Farmer’s Daughter)
Jim Harrison, 2010
588 We try, we husbands and fathers, we really do.
My Wife’s Affair
Nancy Woodruff, 2010
589 Mary Alice Brannigan sat on the roof of the Dreamland carousel at twenty minutes to midnight and considered her work in the light from the lamp on her yellow miner’s hat.
Wild Ride
Jennifer Crusie, Bob Mayer, 2010
590 Before she became the Girl from Nowhere—the One Who Walked In, the First and last and Only, who lived a thousand years—she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy.
The Passage
Justin Cronin, 2010
591 On January 29, 1951, David Lacks sat behind the wheel of his old Buick, watching the rain fall.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot, 2010
592 Jason Strunk was by all accounts an inconsequential fellow, a bland thirty-something, nearly invisible to his neighbors — and apparently inaudible as well, since none could recall a single specific thing he'd ever said.
Think of a Number
John Verdon, 2010
593 When half an hour had passed and there was still no sign of a white Renault, Yvonne began to fear she’d been scammed.
The Lovers
Vendela Vida, 2010
594 "I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference," she said. "You know, actually change something."
One Day
David Nicholls, 2009
595 The city teetered in a dream state. Helen walked down the deserted street. The quiet was eerie. Time running out.
The Lotus Eaters
Tatjana Soli, 2010
596 When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn’t kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God.
Mr. Peanut
Adam Ross, 2010
597 The story begins, of course, with real estate.
Dear Money
Martha McPhee, 2010
598 They had made a movie about us.
Imperial Bedrooms
Bret Easton Ellis, 2010
599 It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel. Sasha was adjusting her yellow eye shadow in the mirror when she noticed a bag on the floor beside the sink that must have belonged to the woman whose peeing she could faintly hear through the vaultlike door of a toilet stall.
A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan, 2010
600 Love. It's not for weaklings.
We Can Still Be Friends
Kelly Cherry, 2003

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