Sometimes what we love about books is intangible or indescribable. It's not the genre; it's not the plot, setting, or narrative voice. It's not whether it won the Pulitzer or Booker or whether the movie adaptation won an Oscar. Sometimes it's just the words on the page - the particular skill of the author to capture us with each word choice, each sentence. I have delighted in a few such books in the past months, but I find I have trouble recommending them to anyone on any grounds other than that. "It doesn't even matter what it's about," I have to say, "it's just the writing."
Fortunately for me, the great Nancy Pearl (the only librarian with her own action figure) compiled a list of "Lines that Linger; Sentences that Stick" in her 2005 edition of Book Lust. These wonderful readers' tools suggest book titles by theme rather than genre, or as she puts it, "for every mood, moment, and reason." Her "Lines that Linger" list enumerates several books with arresting opening lines. Check some of these out - and come in to take a look at Book Lust, too!
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany."
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to recall that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
- The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall
"If I could tell you one thing about my life, it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head."
- The Last Good Kiss by Jason Crumley
"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."