First Lines from the Best Books of the Year

Posted by Hayley on December 14, 2017
We try to not judge books by their covers, but first lines? Well, that's a different story. In a world of so many books (and so little time!), we have to be selective…and a great opening can make the difference between "want to read" eventually and "want to read" now.

Check out how the winners of this year's Goodreads Choice Awards hooked readers below. Which first lines make you want to read more?


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"Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down."


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BEST MYSTERY & THRILLER
Into the Water
by Paula Hawkins
"There was something you wanted to tell me, wasn't there?"


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BEST HISTORICAL FICTION
Before We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate
"My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon."


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"Dougal—you settle down now, please."


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"I have an impressive collection of trophies that I did not win."


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BEST SCIENCE FICTION
Artemis
by Andy Weir
"I bounded over the gray, dusty terrain toward the huge dome of Conrad Bubble."


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"If you'd asked me back at the beginning of my career to guess which character I was most likely to return to, fifteen years after I'd played her for the first time, there would have been only one answer."


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"Regardless of how you got here, I'm so glad you did."


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BEST MEMOIR & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
What Happened
by Hillary Rodham Clinton
"This is my story of what happened."


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BEST MEMOIR & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore
"The scientist had forgotten all about the radium."


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"In recent years, no more than a week goes by without news of a cosmic discovery worthy of banner headlines."


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BEST FOOD & TECHNOLOGY
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
by Ree Drummond
"When I was in my early twenties, I thought I was busy."


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BEST YOUNG ADULT FICTION
BEST DEBUT GOODREADS AUTHOR
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
"I shouldn't have come to this party."


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BEST YOUNG ADULT FANTASY
A Court of Wings and Ruin
by Sarah J. Maas
"The buzzing flies and screaming survivors had long since replaced the beating war-drums."


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BEST MIDDLE GRADE & CHILDREN'S
The Ship of the Dead
by Rick Riordan
"'Try it again,' Percy told me. 'This time with less dying.'"


What's your favorite first sentence of 2017? Share it with us in the comments!

Check out more recent blogs:
See Your Year in Books!
Books that Celebrate the Spirit
Book Look: A Tribute to Typewriters

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)

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message 1: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay "Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore."

-The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne!!
(Everyone, they hype is real: read this book..)


message 2: by Mensud (new)

Mensud Omerović Into the water better than Two kinds of truth (Michael Connelly)??? LOOOL


message 3: by Lucy (new)

Lucy of House Rojas The "Try again, this time with less dying" got me shook...


message 4: by Joan (new)

Joan "'Try it again', Percy told me. 'This time with less dying.'" This just grabs you and makes you have to find out about repetitive dying! Besides, I like the sarcasm in it as well!


message 5: by Sleet (new)

Sleet The Ship of the Dead's first lines are certainly the most intriguing


message 6: by Red (new)

Red Lace Reviews A Court of Wings and Ruin honestly piqued my curiosity the most. I can't help but wonder about the obvious battle that took place.


Fluffy Unicorns Rick Riordan just always pulls you in with the randomest first lines where you stop reading for a second and go "what?" and then you just read it over again to make sure your eyes aren't wrong.

I will always remember "the end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car"


message 8: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Lindsay wrote: ""Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star..."

Yes, yes, yes! Brilliant choice and stunningly great book!


message 9: by Maureen (new)

Maureen "When I was young, I collected postcards" American War by Omar El Akkad.


Latanya (Crafty Scribbles) I just dnf'd Into the Water. I'm pretty sure another novel should have won for best fiction.


message 11: by Laurie (new)

Laurie Red wrote: "A Court of Wings and Ruin honestly piqued my curiosity the most. I can't help but wonder about the obvious battle that took place."
Third book in the series. The series is fantastic if you haven't read it.


message 12: by Laurie (new)

Laurie Latanya (CraftyScribbles) wrote: "I just dnf'd Into the Water. I'm pretty sure another novel should have won for best fiction." Paula Hawkins completely over- rated. Doubtful I will ever waste my time with another of her books. Ugh.


message 13: by Keri (new)

Keri Sparks The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan was the only one that actually made me click the Want To Read button. And yes, the first line was what had done it . . . and then the cover picture.


message 14: by E.L. (last edited Dec 21, 2017 09:13AM) (new)

E.L. Drayton Looks like the first line for the Horror winner is missing, yet you used their image in your email ad (one of the reasons why I clicked on the ad to begin with)...hmmm...clever marketing or an accident?

Also, you list "Humor" twice when How to Be a Bawse
by Lilly Singh won for Nonfiction. Another error.

And, The Radium Girls won for History & Biography, not Autobiography. That was Hillary's book.

So many errors so little time...


message 15: by Evelyn (new)

Evelyn Morgan Laurie wrote: "Latanya (CraftyScribbles) wrote: "I just dnf'd Into the Water. I'm pretty sure another novel should have won for best fiction." Paula Hawkins completely over- rated. Doubtful I will ever waste my t..."

I agree. I read "Girl on the Train" when it came out. It was okay, but didn't stand out to me as anything special. I wasn't even intrigued enough to see the movie, even with Emily Blount.


message 16: by Jenn (new)

Jenn I'm in the middle of reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

It was definitely reading the first line that had me hooked. Then, as I finished the first chapter while standing in the aisle blocking the path to the toiletries, I knew I had to own this book. No choice.


message 17: by Caz (new)

Caz Eleanor Olophant is completely Fine. The title got me and I was hooked from the first line...though I can't remember what it was. Bittersweet.


message 18: by Linzhe (new)

Linzhe Wang "I'm pretty much fucked."

-The Martian by Andy Weir


message 19: by Mark (new)

Mark Weaver One of my favorite first lines..."That was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry."

A Clockwork Orange


message 20: by Rachael (new)

Rachael “Here is something I learned when I was eleven years old: Pain has a flavor.“

Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner


message 21: by Debbie (new)

Debbie I liked this one, the beginning of the first story in the short story collection The Liars' Asylum:

“Aunt Jill had been courting Mitch W. at the Citarella fish counter for eight relentless months, stockpiling our freezer with pompano filets and hand-sliced sable, when the giraffe painter swept her off her swollen feet.”


message 22: by Marla (new)

Marla “Everyone loves Venice except at low tide.”


message 23: by Kalin (new)

Kalin I'd like to edit some of these first lines. Trim them, smooth them, streamline them.

Any of their authors looking for an editor? ;)


message 24: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Kalin wrote: "I'd like to edit some of these first lines. Trim them, smooth them, streamline them.

Any of their authors looking for an editor? ;)"


The whole point is that these lines are perfect. You may want them streamlined, but the writers and readers don’t. I’m an editor too. They are beautiful the way they are. The categories that GR puts them in are a little messed up, as one commenter says. You could ask for a job with them.


message 25: by Kalin (last edited Dec 22, 2017 03:04AM) (new)

Kalin Debbie wrote: "The whole point is that these lines are perfect."

This one included?

If you'd asked me back at the beginning of my career to guess which character I was most likely to return to, fifteen years after I'd played her for the first time, there would have been only one answer.


message 26: by Nancy (new)

Nancy She was the rest of my life in a long white dress.


message 27: by Arlene (new)

Arlene Latanya (CraftyScribbles) wrote: "I just dnf'd Into the Water. I'm pretty sure another novel should have won for best fiction."

Totally agree!


message 28: by Von (new)

Von "Young adult" classification should be changed to "middle aged women".


message 29: by Gary (new)

Gary Guinn Evelyn wrote: "Laurie wrote: "Latanya (CraftyScribbles) wrote: "I just dnf'd Into the Water. I'm pretty sure another novel should have won for best fiction." Paula Hawkins completely over- rated. Doubtful I will ..."

Yep, I thought the book was highly over-rated.


message 30: by Tatnay (new)

Tatnay Th Magnus Chase one by Rick Riordan. Just reading that first sentence makes me want to start reading the book!


message 31: by Mark (new)

Mark Weaver Debbie wrote: "Kalin wrote: "I'd like to edit some of these first lines. Trim them, smooth them, streamline them.

Any of their authors looking for an editor? ;)"

The whole point is that these lines are perfect...."

I'm not looking for a Twitter version......



message 32: by Jen (new)

Jen Hawkyard Fluffy Unicorns wrote: "Rick Riordan just always pulls you in with the randomest first lines where you stop reading for a second and go "what?" and then you just read it over again to make sure your eyes aren't wrong.

I ..."


What book is this? Sounds like my kind of read? And exactly the kind of first line I love!


message 33: by Patti (new)

Patti Moore Not a 2017 book, but hands down, my favorite first line is from Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth: "The small boys came early to the hanging."
Hooked me right then and there. Still have to say one of the best books I ever read.


message 34: by Friedrick (new)

Friedrick Suppose truth were a woman. What then?


message 35: by Rain (new)

Rain Rick Riordan writes the best opening lines 👏


message 36: by Lydia (new)

Lydia Koussawo "There was something you wanted to tell me, wasn't there?" totally got my attention


message 37: by Ulla (new)

Ulla I've read more than 170 stories in 2017. This is my favourite first sentence:
"Tsolde threw an apple over her shoulder."
Book of Never: Volumes 4-5 by Ashley Capes


message 38: by Justine (new)

Justine "There's a monster in the forest"

Barefoot on the wind


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