The Best First Lines of Books: Chosen by Early Bird Books Followers!

We asked our Early Bird Books followers to tell us their favorite first lines.

best first lines

The first line of a book can be arguably one of the most important, as it sets the tone for the rest of a story. We turned to our readers on Facebook to ask an important question: what are the best opening lines? See if your favorite made the list!

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

best first lines

The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens, who lives in a graveyard. Bod is raised by ghosts and other supernatural creatures after his family is murdered. Follow Bod as he grows up, makes some unlikely friends, and eventually learns that the land of the living may be more dangerous than the land of the dead.

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

best first lines

A classic about teenage angst and rebellion, Salinger introduces the reader to Holden Caulfield, a sixteen-year-old boy from New York. Holden abandons his prep school in Pennsylvania to go back to New York for three days, where the reader can experience his complex and confused thoughts.

Related: The 20 Most Famous Characters in Books

"’Take my camel dear,’ said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."

Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

best first lines

Laurie narrates the story of her Aunt Dot and Father Chantry-Pigg, her aunt’s camel, as they travel from Istanbul to Trebizond. On their journey the encounter sorcerers, police, and Billy Graham accompanied by a bus of evangelists. It is a story of humor, heartbreak, and religion.

“The man in black fled into the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

best first lines

Follow Roland of Gilead, the Gunslinger, as he tracks the Man in Black, making new friends along the way. The lone man takes a journey of good and evil on his way to the Dark Tower in an eerie parallel universe to our own.

“It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.”

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

best first lines

Claire Beauchamp Randall, a British combat nurse, returns to Scotland and reunites with her husband. As she walks through the ancient circles of the British Isles, she feels like an “outlander” in her home country, as it’s pulled apart by war. She finds safety in Jamie Fraser, a warrior, and suddenly she is torn between two different men and two different lives.

Related: 9 Books Like Outlander That'll Give You All the Feels

"The circus arrives without warning."

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

best first lines

Le Cirque des Rêves, sitting with its black and white striped tents, enclose a fierce competition. Two magicians, Celia and Marco, compete for the sole position in the show. However, love gets in the way, and consequences arise for both them and their fellow performers.

"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well."

best first lines

Karou, a young art student in Prague, finds herself drawing supernatural creatures and monsters that may or may not be real. Her bright blue hair grabs the attention of Akiva, and they become tangled in a star-crossed love, as otherworldly secrets come out and blood is shed.

Related: The Best Young Adult Books for Adult Readers

“Scarlet O’Hara was not beautiful but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

best first lines

A Pulitzer Prize winner, Mitchell takes the reader to the times of the Civil War. Scarlett and Rhett are the main characters in a story of difficult circumstances, survival, and one of the most famous love stories in literary history. 

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Too many stories have started with this one!

best first lines

One of the most famous first lines in literature, this opening sentence has been used by everyone from Snoopy to Washington Irving to Madeleine L'Engle.