First Sentences

“When he was old and allowed himself a reverie, he remembered the soil and the way it felt as it caressed his feet.” Jonathan Alter, His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life.

“They were firing from the bell-tower with machine-gun bursts or careful rifle shots, according to our movements.” Leonardo Sciascia, Antimony.

“On January 16, 1934, a Nazi customs official arrived at the door of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Cell Physiology with a stack of papers.” Sam Apple, Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection.

“This was the day that Daniel vaulted the wall.” Louis de Bernières, The Dust That Falls from Dreams.

“The hillside on which the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho were about to make such a grisly fool of Lieutenant Colonel William J. Fetterman was dun-colored and bare, with no cover save for broken rocks that looked as if they had been thrown down by a short-tempered God.” Sally Jenkins, The Real All Americans: The Team that Changed a Game, a People, a Nation.

“Gramercy Park is the most wistful and the gentlest of the New York squares, and the Players Club is one of the handsomest buildings in it.” David Stacton, The Judges of the Secret Court: A Novel about John Wilkes Booth.

“’Remember the year 1763,’ the celebrated stage actor David Garrick told James Boswell.” Colin G. Calloway, The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America. (History group.)

“Bill Rankin sat motionless before his typewriter, grimly seeking a lead for the interview he was about to write.” Earl Derr Biggers, Behind That Curtain.

“More than a decade later, racial antagonism still burned in Jones County, a south Mississippi setting with a complex history.” Curtis Wilkie, When Evil Lived in Laurel: The “White Knights” and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer.

“For a long time, my mother wasn’t dead yet.” Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn.

“Law is the intersection of language and power.” Fred R. Shapiro, The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations.

“I am lucky: I know what people say about me.” Lauren Belfer, City of Light.

“Why should we begin with biblical, Greek, and Roman wives?” Marilyn Yalom, A History of the Wife.

“The two suspects sat on mismatched furniture in the white and almost featureless lounge, waiting for something to happen.” Alex Pavesi, The Eighth Detective.

First Sentences

“In a first-class stateroom on a cruise ship bound for New York from Alexandria, Egypt, a frail, middle-aged writer and educator named Sayyid Qutb experienced a crisis of faith.” Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

“Miss Minerva Winterslip was a Bostonian in good standing, and long past the romantic stage.” Earl Derr Biggers, The House Without a Key.

“Moscow. Autumn. Cold.” Teffi, Memories from Moscow to the Black Sea.

“Gwenda was eight years old, but she was not afraid of the dark.” Ken Follett, World Without End.

“At the start of the twentieth century, language in America—it had not yet become the ‘American language’—still showed the influence of its largely prescriptive Victorian past.” William and Mary Morris, Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage.

“The decision to bomb the office of the radical Jew lawyer was reached with relative ease.” John Grisham, The Chamber.

“In the late spring of 1875, the ancient seaport town of St. Augustine, Florida, witnessed the beginnings of an educational campaign that would have an impact on every Indian nation in the United States.” Jacqueline Fear-Segal, White Man’s Club: Schools, Race, and the Struggle of Indian Acculturation.

“I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.” John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps

“The game, like the country in which it was invented, was a rough, bastardized thing that jumped out of the mud.”Sally Jenkins, The Real All Americans: The Team that Changed a Game, a People, a Nation.

“In a dream at daybreak, on 18 April 1948, Calogero Schiro saw Stalin.” Leonardo Sciascia, The Death of Stalin.

“Faced with working-class life in towns such as Winchester, I see only one solution: beer.” Joe Baegeant, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War.

“—Something a little strange, that’s what you notice, that she’s not a woman like all the others.” Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman.

“Vic Smith, a hunter, lifted his head above a rise on the plains floor, peering down at seven hundred buffalo in the valley of the Redwater River.” Michael Punke, Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West.

“I’m a priest, for Christ’s sake—how can this be happening to me?” John Banville, Snow.

First Sentences

“He could see it now: they were a little mad, the Booths, though each in a different way.” David Stacton, The Judges of the Secret Court: A Novel about John Wilkes Booth.

“When Elizabeth Blackwell decided to become the first woman doctor, in many ways she wasn’t actually the first.” Olivia Campbell, Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine.

“Lexa McCaskill ran both hands through her coppery hair, adding up appetites.” Ivan Doig, Mountain Time.

“The adventure that changed the course of George Bird Grinnell’s life began with a train, and the path of the train, as it crossed the plains in the summer of 1870, was blocked by buffalo.” Michael Punke, Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West.

“One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds.” Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita.

“Her sister’s drawing room was already crowded when Marie-Madeline Fourcade arrived.” Lynne Olson, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler.

“In early spring, everything had been so different.” Serena Kent, Death in Provence.

“At seventy-three, with his wartime career as president of the Naval Consulting Board behind him, Edison tried to make sense of a new intellectual order that challenged everything he had learned of Newtonian theory.” Edmund Morris, Edison.

“Some years ago, on a sunny Friday in early May, still vivid to crime buffs, a bold new age commenced, or the visible part of it anyway, when Romo Malbonum, the Deckled Don, talked himself into a life sentence to be served in a maximum-security federal prison.” Jethro K. Lieberman, Everything is Jake.

“For sixty-five days, the Mayflower had blundered her way through storms and headwinds, her bottom a shaggy pelt of seaweed and barnacles, her leaky decks spewing salt water onto her passengers’ devoted heads.” Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea.

“The Pacific is the loneliest of oceans, and travelers across that rolling desert begin to feel that their ship is lost in an eternity of sky.” Earl Derr Biggers, The Black Camel.

“At the slow beat of approaching rotor blades, black birds rose into the sky, scattering over the frozen meadows and the pearly knots of creeks and ponds facing the Pripyat Basin.” Adam Higginbotham, Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster.