|Call me Ishmael.
Moby Dick (1851), Herman Melville
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream
and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
The Old Man and the Sea (1952), Ernest Hemingway
When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly
be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special
magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.
The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), J.R.R. Tolkien
(John Ronald Reuel Tolkien)
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll
probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy
childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all
before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap,
but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the
The Catcher in the Rye (1951), J. D. Salinger
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane Austen
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano
Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father
took him to discover ice.
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory
Rabassa), Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps
down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
Lolita (1955), Vladimir Nabokov
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy
in its own way.
Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett),
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back
to Howth Castle and Environs.
Finnegans Wake (1939), James Joyce
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking
1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four) (1949), George Orwell
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was
the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the
epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the
season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring
of hope, it was the winter of despair.
A Tale of Two Cities (1859) Charles Dickens
There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills.
These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely
beyond any singing of it.
Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) Alan Paton
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly
broken at the elbow.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Harper Lee
I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted
Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms.
I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids
-- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible,
understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Invisible Man (1952), Ralph Ellison
The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you
in trouble? - Do-you-need-advice? - Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you)
sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard.
Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), Nathanael West
You don't know about me without you have read a book by the
name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), Mark Twain
All children, except one, grow up.
Peter Pan (1911), J.M. Barrie
Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without
having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.
The Trial (1925; trans. Breon Mitchell), Franz
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If
on a winter's night a traveler.
If on a winter's night a traveler (1979; trans.
William Weaver), Italo Calvino,
The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
Murphy (1938), Samuel Beckett
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow
coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down
along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916),
This is the saddest story I have ever heard.
The Good Soldier (1915), Ford Madox Ford
A screaming comes across the sky.
Gravity's Rainbow (1973), Thomas Pynchon
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
David Copperfield (1850), Charles Dickens
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing
a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
Ulysses (1922), James Joyce
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 house-tops, and fiercely
agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against
Paul Clifford (1830), Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware
party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue
to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed
executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California
real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his
spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough
to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary.
The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Thomas Pynchon
It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing
three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other
end asking for someone he was not.
City of Glass (1985), Paul Auster
Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could
see them hitting.
The Sound and the Fury (1929), William Faulkner
124 was spiteful.
Beloved (1987), Toni Morrison
Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care
to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who
has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny
nag and a greyhound for racing.
Don Quixote (1605; trans. Edith Grossman), Miguel
Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure. The
telegram from the Home says: Your mother passed away. Funeral
tomorrow. Deep sympathy. Which leaves the matter doubtful;
it could have been yesterday.
The Stranger, or The Outsider (1942;
trans. Stuart Gilbert), Albert Camus
Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his
Waiting (1999), Ha Jin
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to
a dead channel.
Neuromancer (1984), William Gibson
I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.
Notes from Underground (1864; trans. Michael R.
Katz), Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Where now? Who now? When now?
The Unnamable (1953; trans. Patrick Bowles), Samuel
Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through
his own orchard. "Stop!" cried the groaning old man
at last, "Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree."
The Making of Americans (1925), Gertrude Stein
In a sense, I am Jacob Horner.
The End of the Road (1958), John Barth
It was like so, but wasn't.
Galatea 2.2 (1995), Richard Powers
- Money . . . in a voice that rustled.
J R (1975), William Gaddis
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Virginia Woolf
All this happened, more or less.
Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Kurt Vonnegut
They shoot the white girl first.
Paradise (1998), Toni Morrison
Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.
The Debut (1981), Anita Brookner
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
Pale Fire (1962), Vladimir Nabokov
Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Zora Neale
I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally
happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
Ethan Frome (1911), Edith Wharton
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.
Alphabetical Africa (1974), Walter Abish
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), C. S. Lewis
It was the day my grandmother exploded.
The Crow Road (1992), Iain M. Banks
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
Middlesex (2002), Jeffrey Eugenides