The Best Book Openings of All Time
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
The Bell Jar
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.
I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
My desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups, in chronological order…
The Phantom Tollbooth
There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always. When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in.
MOTHER died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday.
This Side of Paradise
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.
All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names.
One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets. And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open.
The Lives of the Monster Dogs
The past is obscure. It is blurred by dust and scratch marks, hidden by wide pieces of brown tape, soot, and mold stains. I am sifting through old documents that are oxidizing and crumbling as I touch them; things that have been burning, slowly, for a hundred years, throwing clouds of tiny particles into the air.
In a hole in the
The Secret History
The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we understood the gravity of our situation.
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Boy, Snow, Bird
Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believe them to be trustworthy.
The Catcher in the Rye
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me. Once, when she specifically lumped me with those musical types, I asked her what the order was, and she replied, smiling, “Alphabetical.”
After the Quake
Five straight days she spent in front of the television, staring at crumbled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways. She never said a word.
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.
100 Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father too him to discover ice.
We called him Old Yeller. The name had a sort of double meaning. One part meant that his short hair was a dingy yellow, a color that we called “yeller” in those days. The other meant that when he opened his head, the sound he let out came closer to being a yell than a bark.
The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
Written on the Body
Why is the measure of love loss? It hasn’t rained for three months. The trees are prospecting underground, sending reserves of roots into the dry ground, roots like razors to open any artery water-fat.
Jack Torrance though: Officious little prick. Ullman stood five-five, and when he moved, it was with the prissy speed that seems to be the exclusive domain of all small plump men.
A Tale of Two Cities
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period…
Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy. Many were the men whose cities he saw and whose mind he learned, aye, and many the woes he suffered in his hear upon the sea, seeking to win his own life and the return of his comrades.
It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly
The Old Man and the Sea
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty
Call me Ishmael. Some year ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the water part of the world.
On the Road
I first met Dean
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Orson Scott Card
I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.
Tao Te Ching
The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real.
“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
The House of the Spirits
Barabas came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy. She was already in the habit of writing down important matters, and afterward, when she was mute, she also recorded trivialities, never suspecting that fifty years later I would use her notebooks to reclaim the past and overcome terrors of my own.
A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.