A Celebration of
Great Opening Lines
in World Literature

Launched: January 1, 2022

This website is dedicated to the memory of John O. Huston (1945-2022)

Welcome

An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know more about this.

Welcome to GreatOpeningLines.com, history’s first website devoted exclusively to the celebration of great opening lines in world literature. Even though the site is still in its infancy (it was officially “launched” on Jan. 1, 2022), it is already the world's largest online database of literary history’s greatest opening words, with 1595 current entries.

If you’re a writer or aspiring writer, an avid reader, a teacher of creative writing, a reference librarian, an editor, or simply a First Words junkie, think of this as your "Go-To" site on the subject. In addition to learning more than you now know about your current personal favorites, this site will introduce you to thousands of future favorites you might never have known about in any other way.

Be careful, though, as you begin to peruse the twenty-five “genres” below. Robert McCrum, the legendary British editor of four separate Nobel Prize laureates has warned that this "brilliant and fascinating literary site...will soon become every freelance writer's guilty pleasure."

Novels

"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

Short Stories

"Early one June morning in 1872 I murdered my father—an act which made a deep impression on me at the time." Ambrose Bierce

Non-Fiction

"The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women." Betty Friedan

Memoirs & Autobiographies

"I didn’t realize I was black until third grade." Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Biographies

"The black eyepatch dominated Moshe Dayan’s appearance, like some dark, spidery animal wrapped around his face." Robert Slater

Essays, Articles, & Columns

"These are the times that try men's souls." Thomas Paine

Children's Literature

"All children, except one, grow up." J. M. Barrie

Young Adult (YA) Fiction

"I'd never given much thought to how I would die — though I'd had reason enough in the last few months — but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this." Stephenie Meyer

Science-Fiction

"It was a dazzling four-sun afternoon." Isaac Asimov

Speculative Fiction

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect." Franz Kafka

Wit, Humor, Parody, & Satire

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." C. Northcote Parkinson

War/Combat & Espionage/Spies

"A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which, to look ahead." Graham Greene

Cowboy/Western Tales

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning." Louis L'Amour

Crime/Detective & Suspense/Thrillers

"When the guy with asthma finally came in from the fire escape, Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away." Richard Stark

History & Historical Fiction

"Jazz came to America three hundred years ago in chains." Paul Whiteman

Politics & Government

"A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests." Barbara Tuchman

Philosophy & Religion

"Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains." Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Words/Language & Writers/Books

"Writers will happen in the best of families. No one is quite sure why." Rita Mae Brown

Medicine & Health

"You know more than you think you do." Dr. Benjamin Spock

Sports, Fitness, & Recreation

"I was born to be a point guard, but not a very good one." Pat Conroy

Psychology & Self-Help

"How do you make contact with the mind of another person?" Mortimer J. Adler

Sex, Love, Marriage, & Family

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." Neil Postman

Travel, Food & Drink

"An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life." M.K.F. Fisher

Science & Technology

"It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw." Michael Crichton

Race, Gender, & Ethnicity

"I have rape-colored skin." Caroline Randall Williams

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About This Site

Welcome to history’s first website devoted exclusively to the celebration of great opening lines in world literature. My goal is to make this the world's largest online database of Great Opening Lines in both Fiction and Non-Fiction. If you’re a writer or aspiring writer, an avid reader, a teacher of writing, a reference librarian, an editor, or simply a First Words junkie, think of this as your "Go-To" site on the subject. In addition to learning more than you now know about your current personal favorites, this site will introduce you to thousands of future favorites you might never know about in any other way.

 

Dr. Mardy Grothe

Dr. Mardy Grothe

Dr. Mardy Grothe is a retired psychologist, a lifelong bibliophile, and an ardent fan of great opening lines in world literature. He lived and practiced in New England for more than thirty years before moving to North Carolina in 2005. He is the author of eight "word and language" books, including: Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You (1999); Oxymoronica (2004); Viva la Repartee (2005); I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like (2008); and Metaphors Be With You (2016). He is also the creator of Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations (DMDMQ), the world's largest online database of metaphorical quotations.


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