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Beginnings – Booking Through Thursday

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question is:

Suggested by: Nithin

Here’s another idea about memorable first lines from books.

What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

When I first saw this question, I wasn’t going to participate. WHO CAN REMEMBER THE FIRST LINE OF A BOOK? Seriously?! Other than maybe Stephen King’s famous first line. You can’t use that as an answer.

But I thought, what the heck, I’ll go grab a couple of books and see if any first lines are particularly compelling. And wouldn’t you know it, I came up with one particularly good first line from Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True:

On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother Thomas entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut Public Library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable.


If you haven’t read the book, Thomas doesn’t kill anyone. I won’t tell you anymore except that this should be on your top list of books to read.

What are you still doing here? GO BUY THE BOOK!

The other questions asked about whether I liked a book specially because of its first sentence? No. That’s silly. Or a book that I didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line? No. That’s silly too.

I would love to get some answers to my question above, by the way. Because really? Remembering the first line of a book? ????

| Tags: , , , 28 comments »

28 Responses to “Beginnings – Booking Through Thursday”

  1. Devourer of Books

    I pretty much agreed with you. The only one I know off the top of my head is the beginning to “A Tale of Two Cities.”


  2. Daniel

    Tale of Two Cities is permanently etched in my mind. But so is, “Charlie live in a place…” A first sentence can really catch me but I’m willing to go deep into a book no matter what the beginning, so long as the characters are worthy. Thanks from us at


  3. Chris@bookarama

    I’ve remembered a few. Maybe not word for word but I do have a couple of favorites that have burrowed into my mind.


  4. softdrink

    I’m with you 100%. In fact, I don’t even know what the heck you’re talking about when you mention Stephen King’s first line.


  5. bkclubcare

    Just silliness. Actually, though I don’t recall the exact lines (nor the books!) I do recall the THINKING – ‘wow, great first sentence’ sometimes…


  6. Literary Feline

    I like your idea of grabbing a couple of books and basing your answer on those. I wasn’t planning on answering this one either, but you’ve given me an idea to think about . . . Unfortunately, I’m at work right now and the only books handy are (other than the one I’m reading durign my lunch break) not exactly the kind anyone would want to pick up and read for the heck of it.

    I’ve read a lot of great first lines but it’s not something that sticks with me once I finish a book.


  7. gautami tripathy

    First lines do not stick for me but the endings do!

    Here is my BTT post


  8. readerville

    Ooooh, I loved I Know This Much is True , and I’ve been surprised by how many negative responses I’ve seen to it on LT lately. Glad to know I’m not alone!


  9. C.B. James


    I can remember quite a few first lines. I don’t often remember lines from the middle of a book since I stopped highlighting passages years ago, but I can always turn back to page one.

    I use first lines to get my students interested in reading books I bring to class, which is probably part of the reason why I remember them.

    But I can think of many first lines from ‘adult’ books too: A Tale of Two Cities, Anna Karinina, Pride and Prejudice, David Copperfield, Metamorphosis.

    As for the kids, I like The Outsiders: “As I stepped out of the movie theatre into the sunlight, I had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” Or something close to that.


  10. Sally

    Intriguing quote!


  11. Confuzzled Books

    I starting reading that one when it first came out but I couldn’t get into it. Probably just me. I liked She’s Come Undone though.


  12. lisamm

    I do like and think about first lines, almost always deciding if the first line in a book is good, great, or sucky- however I’ve only memorized a couple.


  13. jill

    That’s so funny that you quoted the Wally Lamb book. When I was thinking about it this morning, I pulled several books from the shelf, and that was one of them…just opening that book made me want to re-read it. Thank goodness he has a new one coming out this fall (The Hour I First Believed). It’s been way too long!


  14. Alicia

    I can’t remeber any! But I am sure there are some good ones out there! I will haev to check out that book, I read his book Shes come undone and loved it!

    here from ICLW


  15. Meghan

    I don’t remember them on my own either, just recognize them when I hear them again! I’ve got I Know This Much Is True on my TBR pile, though, and now your post has made me want to go read it. =)


  16. Bluestocking

    I remember first lines if they are really good. I posted four I remebered. As the day went on I rembrred more. Hey it was 6 am when I posted.


  17. Sue

    Visiting from ICLW!

    Love your site!


  18. Kristen (bookclubclassics)

    I loooove first lines, but only remember really, really well-crafted ones — the problem is, to determine if a first sentence is truly “perfect,” we have to reread it after finishing the novel… and I think most of us book bloggers read too much to even think about rereading first sentences! But the first sentences of some of my favorite classics are permenently burned into my consciousness…


  19. M

    I can say that the first line of a book can truly draw me in, or completely shut me off.

    But, there’s not one that I truly remember simply for the first line of it.

    That one is definitely strong, though, and makes me want to look that book up!



  20. mellymel

    huh? yeah, i’m lucky if i can remember the basic characters and plot. but if i’m gonna grab a book, i’ll take the one i’m reading now –
    “When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, or course, the fact that he’d caused it.”
    from Savvy by Ingrid Law


  21. Thank You « Care’s Online Book Club

    […] Come Undone / Wally Lamb – I thought Trish rec’d but I think maybe I should have chosen I Know This Much Is […]

  22. hope2morrow

    Ooh, I love to read, although I surely don’t remember the first line of any of the books I read. The one I am currently reading is Promise Me, a mystery by Harlan Coben.Your first line of the book you mentioned sounds wonderful too!

    Here from ICLW.


  23. liddy

    Interesting thought. I usually remember the last line of a book but not the first.

    A visitor from ICLW.


  24. lisamm

    ICLW.. what is that??

    Just being nosy.


  25. herschelian

    Apart from Tale of Two Cities I remember the first lines of two other books:

    ‘Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.’
    which is the first line of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


    “‘Take my camel, dear,’ said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.’
    which is the first line of The Towers of Trebisond by Rose Macaulay. I think it is the funniest first line I ever read.


  26. Sassy

    The first few lines of ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ by Peter Goldsworthy had me. That was it. My favourite story ever.


  27. Natalie

    The only first line I remember is from Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson.

    “There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus…”

    I love that sentence. Anyone from the south knows this to be true.


  28. Endings - Booking Through Thursday « Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

    […] thought last week’s question was kinda weird…this one is definitely so! Remember the last line from a book? […]

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