Famous Last (and First) Words

This just in, courtesy of StumbleUpon.

The Best 100 Opening Lines From Books
The Best 100 Closing Lines From Books

About half the books on each list are on my to-read list. The other half are about evenly distributed: those I’ve read and would read again, those I’ve read and wouldn’t touch again with a bargepole, and those I haven’t read and don’t plan to.

Judging a book by its opening line is more reliable than by the cover – lines don’t get affected by editions – but still a crapshoot anyway.

13 thoughts on “Famous Last (and First) Words”

  1. I have read 36 of the Opening Lines books, but I was devastated not to see, this:
    “I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.” from Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess. Surely one of the best opening lines in English literature.

    Many of the books, I have never heard of. Others, I have but have no particular desire to read, or certainly they are low on my list. I am not sure that the opening lines are in every case anything special. I think the title should read “The Opening Lines of 100 of my favourite books”. Incidentally, I am about the only person I know who has not read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

    Now onto the closing lines.

  2. I haven’t read Captain Corelli either. I plan to, but it’s not high in my priorities.

    I’ve thought a lot on Virginia Woolf’s books included there. I read ‘Mrs Dalloway’ in college; it was painful, as was most of Woolf’s fiction. Her nonfiction, on the other hand, is brilliant. Ironic.

  3. I confess that I have never read Ms Woolf. I rather disliked the whole idea of the Bloomsbury set. I think I saw it as pretentious that a group of writers could define themselves, or allow themselves to be defined in that way. Also, she never struck me as being remotely appealing as a person. But if the truth be known, I was and probably still am intellectually intimidated by the prospect of reading any of her books.

    Sad not to see Brothers Karamazov on either list.
    “ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place.”
    Not quite A Tale of Two Cities, but a lot better than this:
    ““When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyifirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

  4. Hi Feeg, I have never got into Pratchett. I was given a book once for Christmas, The Colour of Magic, but it did not appeal sufficiently for me to want to read another.

    As for the Children’s books listed elsewhere on the site, there are dozens that are missing, in my view. But then there are millions of books out there and it is difficult to please everybody.

  5. Hi Sipu: The Night Watch series of stories are the best, in my opinion. Mr Pratchett is just so inventive and also a superb and cynical observer. Rings my bell everytime.

  6. How about just famous lines? Jane Eyre’s reverberating: ‘Reader I married him.’…?
    Or perhaps:… ‘The horror, the horror… …’

  7. That’s Mistress Weatherwax to you and me, bravo. I discovered that I had read many more of the “last line” books than the “first line” collection. My children always accuse me of reading the last page of a book first.

  8. I’m sure the Mistress prefers me calling her Granny rather than Esmerelda! *snickers*

    The ‘Colour of Magic/Light Fantastic’ diptych is pretty rank, but hey – first works. From ‘Equal Rites’ onwards, it all takes off. My all time favourite is ‘Soul Music’. Death and Susan centre stage? Win.

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