I am a bookworm.
There. I’ve made my confession.
If you are a fellow bookworm, I’m guessing your hobby is collecting books–books you may never read, but nonetheless feel a binding urgency to own. I grow stacks of books in my bedroom like some people grow gardens. I may never find the time to read them until I’m at least ninety. Although I use my library privileges often, I do not like borrowing books. No, I prefer owning books–the better to savor them without a crushing due date looming to return them.
To me, the best part of any book is the opening line. And every woman I know can quote one of the most famous first lines ever written:
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 (1813)
I remember when I first read Middlemarch, an 800-page book by George Eliot. I was employed as a summer desk worker at Pensacola Christian College. My job meant sitting at a desk for hours at a time with minimal responsibilities. I decided to use my time wisely and slowly plowed through the book in preparation for my fall British Novel literature class. Hence, I happened upon these first lines:
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
—George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)
I certainly do not possess Jane Austen’s sarcasm nor George Eliot’s wit, but I admire them all the same for what they accomplished in literature. As for myself, I sometimes feel like David Copperfield who said:
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
—Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
Well said, Davy. Well written, Mr. Dickens.
The first lines of books beckon us to take the first steps down an unknown path. They offer adventure, intrigue, or comfort. First lines fill us with delight. They shine a light on the path the story will take, and we eagerly follow that light. And yet an unnamed something lurks in the background as we wonder where the story will lead us.
Writing the first post for this blog–envisioning how the words will sound, tasting them inside–fills me with terror. As a new journey to an undisclosed location begins, anxiety sweeps in, fear lunges at me, doubt buffets me. I’ve often wondered where my own story is taking me, but I know this chapter starts with the first lines, the first post of this blog. My words are not clever or wise like Austen, Eliot, or Dickens. But I have decided to scorn fear.
And with that, I offer you my first lines.
Click here for more famous first lines.
I’d love to read your favorite first lines! Share them in the comments.