The best opening lines in all of literature, if you ask me, are the ones penned by the astonishing Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files. My personal, all-time favorite comes from book six, Blood Rites:
"The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault."
From book four, Summer Knight:
"It rained toads the day the White Council came to town."
Book five is more of an introduction, multiple sentences, but it's too awesome to ignore. From Death Masks:
"Some things just aren't meant to go together. Things like oil and water. Orange juice and toothpaste.
"Wizards and television."
Book seven, Dead Beat:
"On the whole, we're a murderous race."
Book eight, Proven Guilty:
"Blood leaves no stain on a warden's grey cloak."
Book nine, White Night:
"Many things are not always as they seem: the worst things in life never are."
And finally, book ten, Small Favor:
"Winter came early that year: it should have been a tip-off. "
Of course, the rest of the books are even more provocative, funny and engaging. Seriously, if ever there was a series of books made for Nerdfighters, it's The Dresden Files.
Best opening line ever:
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984
And i've never read it, but his opening sentence makes me want to:
'Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa's antipodal ant annexation.' —Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa
This one is a bad first sentence: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)
It is so bad that people have created a contest to make the worst opening like for a book. last year's winner:
Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee.
if that strikes your fancy, check out all of last years runner ups
I notice most people enjoy the short, shocking first lines. I, for one, am a fan of a good first line that paints a beautiful picture. Take, for example:
"The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amid the trees of the garden there came through the opeen door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn."
The Picture of Dorian Gray