5 best openings in literature

Back in September, I shared my top five book endings. I suppose it's only logical to follow that up with my favourite book openings, so I'm not entirely sure why it took me 5 months to think of it! As with before, these are the top opening lines based on the books I've actually read so don't get all offended because A Tale of Two Cities isn't on here.
Best openings in literature

"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much"

What a great opening sentence! It tells you so much about the Dursleys- how prim and proper they are, how much they fear anything out of the ordinary, how desperate they are to keep up appearances- without actually telling you anything about them outright. I also love that the entire Harry Potter series starts, not with Harry himself, but with his guardians.

Buy Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone here 
(Although you probably already have a copy tbf)


"Lolita. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."

It's like poetry. The way Nabokov manages to package up and describe a sound in such a physical form is astounding. What I find really interesting about this opening is how romantic it is. It sounds like the beginning of the most beautiful love story which makes it all the more unsettling when you realise how dark the relationship really is.

Full review here // Buy Lolita here


"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book"

When teaching, the books in A Series of Unfortunate Events are some of my favourites to read for precisely this reason- they're not happy, patronising stories. They're dark, twisted and gory, exactly what children love. This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the series and it draws children in immediately.

Unfortunately I don't have my own copies so wasn't able to include them in the photograph.

Buy A Series of Unfortunate Events here


"Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that"

I love how blunt this introduction is. Without any unnecessary fluff or description, POW!, here's what you need to know. It's funny actually because Dickens's writing is notoriously rambling. These sentences hint that all is not as it seems. 

Full review here // Buy A Christmas Carol here


"If you listen, you can hear it.
The city, it sings"

This is a beautifully written book that I adored in my mid-teens. It's been a while since I've read it but I always remember those opening lines. It's so true- if you close your eyes and listen, really listen to the world around you, it's amazing what you can hear. As the title suggests, it's all about finding the beauty in those incredible moments that we take for granted every day.

Buy If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things here

Which openings really stand out to you? I always love to hear new recommendations! 

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  1. Ah I keep re-starting Lolita again and again but never quite stuck to it. Need to make more of an effort..
    A Story of a Girl

  2. YES! A Christmas Carol is one of my all time favourite openings, as is the first Harry Potter. I also love the opening of 1984 :)

    hellomissjordan.com xx

    1. 1984 nearly made the list! I had about 8 at first and that was one of them.

  3. Surely one of them has to be Rebecca "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again".

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough

  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events I agree has a brilliant opening!

  5. I've been meaning to read Lolita for ages but always forget about it! Definitely going to have to go and buy it soon, have heard lots of good reviews about it and I like how the writing style is different to the books I usually read

    Emily x

  6. These are amazing indeed! I had never thought how important the beginning sentence can be... Thanks for sharing!

  7. I read "light of my life, fire of my loins" in Lana Del Rey's voice, I never realised it wasn't just lyrics!

  8. This is a wonderful idea, Becky!
    I've actually only read one of these books: Lolita. But I completely agree with you: it has one of the best openings in the world of literature. Another book with a similar type of opening I would recommend—just in case you haven't read it yet—is The Virgin Suicides ;)

    Alive as Always

    1. Funnily enough, I read The Virgin Suicides straight after I read Lolita! Though I can't remember what the opening is, unfortunately

  9. I loved "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" when I read it for the first time a few years ago. Lolita is one of my favourite books, I remember being allowed to take it out of the over-16's part of our school library when I was just 15 because I'd read everything else the library had to offer! I actually still have that copy, because it somehow never made it's way back to the library...Nabakov's writing is so poetic, so emotive. It almost hides the true dark nature of the story. x www.aimeeraindropwrites.co.uk x

    1. I've never met anybody else who has read "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things"!

  10. I love that you've read Lolita. I've never met anybody before that's read it and it's one of my favourite books! Think there are a lot of presumptions about the book due to its topic nature.


  11. I absolutely LOVE A Series Of Unfortunate Events for the exact reason you do. They are dark and twisted and I love them!

  12. Oh, you've really made me think about what my favourites would be. I do love Lolita though, it's one of those books that stands the test of time for me.

  13. Great choices!
    Lolita is a top contender for my favorite book. Humbert is so pitiful but his narration is so beautiful.

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