12 Opening Lines: What’s the Book Title?

by @AnnieDaylon



If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:
read a lot and write a lot. ~ 
Stephen King

I do both.

What follows are some of my favorite opening lines.

Can you name the titles of the books?

(See answers below!)

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

  2. “Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”

  3. “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

  4. “As a boy, I dreamed of fishing before I went, and went fishing before I caught anything, and knew fishermen before I became one.”

  5. “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.”

  6. “Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.”

  7. “Riding up the winding road of St. Agnes Cemetery in the back of the rattling old truck, Francis Phelan became aware that the dead, even more than the living, settled down in neighborhoods.”

  8. “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was 14 when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

  9. “Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before.”

  10. “It happens that I am going through a period of great unhappiness and loss just now. All my life I’ve heard people speak of finding themselves in acute pain, bankrupt in spirit and body, but I’ve never understood what they meant.”

  11. “They’re all dead now.”

  12. “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.”


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  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
  2. Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler (2001)
  3. The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley (1953)
  4. Lines in the Water by David Adams Richards (1998)
  5. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005)
  6. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (2009)
  7. Ironweed by William Kennedy (1979)
  8. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002)
  9. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (2002)
  10. Unless by Carol Shields (2002)
  11. Fall On Your Knees by Anne-Marie McDonald (1996)
  12. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

If you have any favorite opening lines, please share. Would love to read them! Might even read the whole book!

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10 thoughts on “12 Opening Lines: What’s the Book Title?
  1. My favorite opening line has always been one that came from a Toni Morrison book. Don’t ask me the book title, I can’t remember. But I do remember the line and probably will the rest of my life:

    “They shot the white girl first”

    • I was intrigued, so I checked it out on Google. The book is called “Paradise” and it is now on my “To Read” list. 🙂

  2. This is a fun one Annie. I’m sorry to say I only got 3 of them so I guess I have some reading to do. My favorite first line comes from one of my favorite authors and one of my favorite books of all time, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

    Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

  3. Hi, Annie,
    Great blog topic. Regarding great beginnings, I used to do a unit with my students where they would take books from my enormous classroom library, find the best beginnings, and write them down. We’d share and discuss them, then they’d write their own. Finally, the students would choose a great beginning, either their own or from kid lit and write a story. After the lengthy old “Writing Process” we’d make a book called “Great Beginnings,” which would go into the class library. Fun stuff. And maybe they read some of the books they discovered in the process. This is turning into a blog. Thanks for doing yours. See you.


    • Hi, Garth,
      I taught for a long time but never came up with a unit like this. I hope other teachers see this so that they, and their students, can benefit from your great idea. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Hey Annie, you really sent me to my bookcases and I came up with some personal favourites.
    1. The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.
    I read this first when I was seven and of course I read on, and still love it. ( Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows) — What child and what adult could resist this one?
    2. The wild dogs roam the summer fields just outside of town. Their eyes flash, bright stars in the woods at night, and they weave like fire through the dry grass towards the edge of the city, looking for something to kill and eat.
    (Helen Humphreys, Wild Dogs)
    3. We slip out into the lamplight and evening opening around us. This felt moment. Our brief selves. Stars a white lace above the courtyard. (Helen Humphreys, The Lost garden)
    4. In 1983, when I was twenty-one, I took a day off from a summer job in the periodicals department of the Acadia University and unintentionally changed the rest of my life.(Russell Wangersky, Burning Down the House)
    What fun this was. As always, thanks for this opportunity, Annie.

    • So glad you enjoyed it!
      I think I am most intrigued by “The Lost Garden” opening. Will definitely add that to my reading list. Many thanks!

  5. The first few lines are the seller for me on whether I invest my time on turning the next page. I thank you, Annie, and your repliers for giving me some add ons to my bucket list.
    Two of my favourite openings are:
    “You don’t know what light feels like or how its thinking goes. You do know this is where it’s most at home. On the plains where you were born, there are no mountains to turn it back, no forest for it to shoulder through. A solitary tree marks its comings and goings like a pole sunk in the shore of the ocean to measure the tides.”
    Small beneath the sky by Lorna Crozier
    “Let me guess. You want to know why I tried to kill myself. You want to know how I survived.” For one more day by Mitch Albom

    I always look forward to your blog.

    • That Lorna Crozier opening is stunning. Will certainly have a look at “Small Beneath the Sky.” Thank you so much, Fran!

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