Top Ten Tuesday (#10) – opening lines

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, where the writers, like me, are particularly fond of lists.   

This week’s topic is…top 10 favourite beginnings or endings in books. You’re free to talk about books that started or ended just perfectly or with a bang, but I’m going to go mainly for opening lines. I’ve been thinking about opening lines a lot this week, so this is a good topic, but it’s also a really difficult one. I’ve realised, in compiling this list, that many of my favourite first lines are from childhood, but I guess that’s the power of a good line – it stays with you.

1. “Once upon a time…”
-traditional, various.

2. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

3. “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.”
Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter.

4. “This is how the story begins. On a dark, dark hill, there was a dark, dark town.”
Funny Bones, Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

5.  “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J. K. Rowling.

6. “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers.”
Matilda, Roald Dahl.

7. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” 
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.

8. “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.

9. “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith.

And one powerful ending…

10. “But in the meantime, there is a second bedroom in my serviceable apartment. The bedspread is plain. A copy of Robin Hood lies on the bookshelf. And the sheets are clean.”
We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver.

If you need some inspiration, Stylist has compiled lists of the 100 best first lines from children’s books and just generally, and The Telegraph has a list of 30 great opening lines here.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. I totally agree with the openings from Charles Dickens & Leo Tolstoy; very iconic opening sentences. Heh, and that's my favourite opening from Jane Austen, I also chose it for my top 10 this week 🙂 Great list!

    My TTT

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  2. Thanks – they're classics for a reason I guess.

    Sarah

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  3. chrissireads says:

    Yes! I have Matilda and Harry Potter on my list this week too. Great list.

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  4. alyssa zech says:

    Peter Rabbit!! Yes! Made my day!

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  5. They are great openers, and I've just noticed they're both about not-so-very nice adults!

    Sarah

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  6. Glad I could make you smile.

    Sarah

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  7. I love all of these opening lines. The ones for HP and P&P make me especially happy as both of those books are favorites. I haven't read We Need to Talk About Kevin (and I haven't seen the movie either). I don't know if I can do it.

    I can't imagine reading My Sister's Keeper on an airplane. LOL. I finished reading it at home alone, but my husband came in right after and was like: What's the matter?–because I was sitting alone in the living room bawling–seriously bawling–my eyes out and he thought I was hurt or somebody (real) had died.

    Great list!

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  8. I tell everyone I know to read We Need to Talk About Kevin. I thought I wouldn't like it, but it just had me gripped from start to finish, and I was a bit stunned when I put it down, from the quality of the writing and the strength of the story.

    And I didn't realise quite how sad My Sister's Keeper would be, otherwise I wouldn't have read it in public!

    Sarah

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  9. Nice selection. I think Once upon a time is a good one; a little cliche but always promising 🙂

    Happy reading 😀

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  10. Who of us didn't feel a little thrill when we were younger and heard that line at the beginning of a story?!

    Sarah

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  11. Leah Woods says:

    Awww so many truly great choices here! 🙂 I adore so many of these books.

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  12. Many of them are classics for good reason…

    Sarah

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  13. Sandy Farmer says:

    2, 3, 5, and 7! I love how you focused on the beginning lines! Great take on this top ten list!

    Thanks for stopping by earlier!
    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

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  14. Thanks. Once I got going it was much easier than I thought it was going to be to compile.

    Sarah

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  15. Kazhy says:

    Great list! I've had A Tale of Two Cities, P&P, and Anna Karenina in my TBR list for forever XD

    Thanks for dropping by my TTT post! 😀

    – Kazhy @ My Library in the Making

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  16. They are great reads, I hope you get round to them soon.

    Sarah

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  17. Ashling F says:

    Love I Capture the Castle! And I have such great childhood memories of Beatrix Potter.

    Great list! Thanks for stopping by my TTT! 🙂

    Ashling @ Reading, Writing, & Anything but Arithmetic

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  18. Thanks. Beatrix Potter's books were a favourite from my childhood as well.

    Sarah

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  19. Amanda says:

    I debated adding Harry Potter, A Tale of Two Cities, and I Capture the Castle. There are so many great beginnings out there! And I actually used those same links to help me think of inspiration!

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  20. I found this a difficult topic initially, then once I looked at my bookshelf and started searching for inspiration, there were so many books I wanted to put on this list!

    Sarah

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