Many have pondered this question. I haven't, really, and I don't know the answer, but what I can do is a do a little blog post dedicated to opening lines--or openings in general--of books I have read. That's really it.
If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling's whole life would have been entirely different.~LM Montgomery, The Blue Castle
As much as I love Anne of Green Gables series and its protagonist, it's The Blue Castle that is my most favourite LMM book. It's the only truly adult one, it's heroine being 29 years old at the beginning of the book. Valancy is unmarried and lives with abusive family; a theme that is well known to LMM's readers (those that believe Anne With An E is too dark have not been paying attention) and to top that off, she gets some devastating news. The Blue Castle gives me some serious feels, more than any other work by this Canadian author.
It was a dark and stormy night.~Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle In Time
I love this! Dark, stormy and night, can it get any better?
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.~George Orwell, 1984
You may have heard of this one even if you've not read the book. At first it seems quite insignificant, until you get to that last word. But even if the last word was not what it is, I still like the structure of the sentence, it's the type that always works for me.
His name was Gaal Dornick and he was just a country boy who had never seen Trantor before.~Isaac Asimov, Foundation
Another one that works for me. A name and a place, tell me more about this Gaal guy and what is this place called Trantor?
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
This one immediately made me feel hot. It's interesting that she mentions electrocution--Sylvia Plath suffered from depression all her life and was treated with electroconvulsive therapy.
Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.~JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
It's funny now that Harry Potter actually starts with the Dursleys, yet how else could it have started? It would never have been as good if we had started in the wizarding world, instead of our normal, muggle world.
~JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit
A variation of "once upon a time". Nothing more needs to be added.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
A classic! At first you're like, what the hell, then you're like, is she joking? Perfection!
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.~Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Simple and clear, takes us straight to the character, time and place.
~Stephen Chbosky, Perks of Being a Wallflower
I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.
I have always liked diary entries and letters in fiction and this sounds like it was written by someone who might be socially awkward--instant like!
All this happened, more or less.~Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
This is pure perfection. I wish I could form sentences like that.
There is one mirror in my house.~Veronica Roth, Divergent
My favourite YA dystopian series. Out of two I have read. And it's an unpopular opinion too. What can you do. Characters looking into mirrors and describing their appearance is very cliche, but we soon find out why it is this way. Btw, the other YA dystopian series begins with the character waking up in the morning and that's overdone too.
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.~Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
One of the best known and most beloved books in the world. And with good reason. This book starts and ends with the same thing, Jem's broken arm, as the main character, Scout, reflects on the events. The opening line also mentions a brother and good siblings are one of my favourite things in fiction.
~Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
This is the one I normally cite as my favourite opening line--that is, if I ever do cite a book's opening line, because who actually does that... I don't know what it is about that line. But of course, Rebecca belongs to my all time favourite books. Gothic romance, but also a thriller.
"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"
~Agatha Christie, Appointment With Death
Of course I couldn't end this post without mentioning my all time favourite author. Most likely everyone knows what to expect from an Agatha Christie book and one can't say her opening lines are very remarkable. That is, until you pick Appointment With Death. The line of dialogue is overheard by Hercule Poirot while he's staying at a hotel in Jerusalem. He thinks he's going crazy--too much work as a detective--but of course, turns out that he isn't and the "she" of the opening line does get killed. Not one of the most famous cases by the Queen of Crime, but definitely worth checking out if you haven't done so! (Just please, for the love of all things holy, ignore that awful adaptation with David Suchet...)
So that's it, those are some cool opening lines of books I like. What are yours? Tell me in the comments!