It remains, one of the most challenging aspects of writing a good book is that memorable opening line. And when we come across the best ones, they stay with us tickling our brain nerves for a long time. A good opening line does more to the soul than sipping soup. 

So what makes a good opener? I have no idea.

You can search for tips online but it almost feels like it’s the spontaneous combustion of luck, talent and a good editor.

One thing that sticks out for me though is that a great opening line encapsulates the tone of the whole book in just one line... as if you're not careful, reading it will give away the story. And that's exactly how I feel with my list below.


  1. Peter Pan by JM Barrie

"All children, except one, grow up."


  1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

“All this happened, more or less.”


  1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”


  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."


  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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


  1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

"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, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."


  1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."


  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin

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


  1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."


  1. Murphy by Samuel Beckett

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new."


  1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."


  1. 1984 by George Orwell

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


  1. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”


  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“It was a pleasure to burn.”


  1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

“You better not never tell nobody but God.”


  1. A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis

“Justice? – You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.”


  1. The Martian by Andy Weir

“I’m pretty much f*cked.”


  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”


  1. The Voyage of the Dawn Treder by C. S. Lewis

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”


  1. Paradise by Toni Morrison

“They shoot the white girl first.”


What are some of your favourite?