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)

About Great Opening Lines

When I first envisioned this site in early 2021, my dream was to create the world's largest online database of Great Opening Lines in World literature. At the time, I was pursuing what business writer Jim Collins called a BHAG (pronounced "BEE-hag”), his acronym for a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” As you read these words today, I'm pleased to report that the dream has become a reality.

Right now, the site contains 1986 entries, and all the classic lines are included:

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times.

Happy families are all alike;
every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

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

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man
in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Passages like these are so familiar that the authors—and the books in which they appeared—need not be explicitly identified. For those who might need a little help, though, these legendary openers come from: Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities (1859); Leo Tolstoy, in Anna Karenina (1877); Franz Kafka, in The Metamorphosis (1915); and Jane Austen, in Pride and Prejudice (1813).

When most people think about the topic of Great Opening Lines, they tend to focus only on works of fiction. But spectacular opening sentences also come from the world of non-fiction, as you see with these famous examples.

These are the times that try men’s souls.

Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Like the fiction examples mentioned earlier, these non-fiction openers are embedded in the consciousness of almost all bibliophiles. They come from Thomas Paine, in “The American Crisis” (Dec. 19, 1776); Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in The Social Contract (1762); and, of course, C. Northcote Parkinson, in Parkinson’s Law (1957)