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19. I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me. —Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1759–1767)

Part of my 100 Best First Lines from Novels project.

First lines are powerful. It’s the author’s best chance to hook the reader. A great first line will pull you in, introduce you to the narrator, and set the tone for the entire book. Depending on what you’re reading, a great first line can be funny or meaningful or sad or somehow all of the above. Some great lines are flowery and beautiful, while others are direct and to the point.

But a great line should always pull you out of your world and straight into the world of the book. Here is my tribute to the 100 best opening lines in Western Literature that immediately draw you in.

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These are the first 33:

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