Here is a personal collection of some of the greatest opening words to some of the greatest books. You'll recognize some, want to read others, and be amazed by nearly all, I bet.
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant day when his father took him to discover ice.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
- A Tale of Two Cities
Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure
- The Stranger
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
I am in invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen 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.
- Invisible Man
The night Max wore his wolf suit and mad mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him "Wild Thing!"
- Where the Wild Things Are
Call me Ishmael.
- Moby Dick
Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin. My soul. The tip of the tongue takes a trip of three steps down the palate to tap at three on the teeth. Lo. Li. Ta.
- Lolita (I skipped a few words before these)
Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
- The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care
Gregor Samsa awoke one morning after unsettling dreams to discover himself transformed into a monstrous vermin.
The way that can be named is not the true way.
- Tao Te Ching
Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures.
- The Iliad
When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.
- The Odyssey
Do you like green eggs and ham?
- Green Eggs and Ham
Leaving there and proceeding for three days toward the east, you reach Diomira, a city with sixty silver domes, bronze statues of all the gods, streets paved with lead, a crystal theater, a golden cock that crows each morning on a tower
- Invisible Cities
I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world.
- The Little Prince
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!" Raise your voice-they won't hear you otherwise-"I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone.
- If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
It was inevitable. The scent of bitter almonds always reminded Dr. Juvenal Urbino of the fate of unrequited love.
- Love in the Time of Cholera
I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe -- 'That government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
- Civil Disobedience
This book is an attack on current city planning and rebuilding.
- The Death and Life of Great American Cities
War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.
- The Art of War
I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be able to be a source of great comfort and support.
- Diary of Anne Frank
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
- In Defense of Food
I am a sick man... I am a spiteful man. An unattractive man. I think that my liver hurts.
- Notes From Underground
And so began my voyage of discovery in a place as strange as Brooklyn.
- Sophie's Choice, whose closing line also means a lot to me:
This was not judgment day. Only morning. Morning: Excellent and fair.
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
- Finnegan's Wake
Did I miss any great ones? I haven't finished reading all the books in the world yet so I'm sure I did.