First Sentences

“On a typical Thursday afternoon, before the crisis, before the collapse, before hyperinflation, before the bottom dropped out from under the price of oil, before the bolivar was worthless, before your whole monthly salary went to buy a chicken and then just half a chicken and then some chicken parts, before cash disappeared, before everyone left, before the refugees, before doctors and nurses and engineers and managers and workers with skills and time on the job started leaving the country, before the stampede to the exits, before all of that; simply put, before—on a typical Thursday afternoon there would have been three or four operators watching the computer screens in the central control in Caracas that monitored the electrical grid for all of Venezuela.” William Neumann, Things Are Never So Bad They Can’t Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela.

“It’s hard to know, ever, where a story begins.” Jennifer Haigh, Mercy Street.

“Seventeen seventy-six was a year of momentous events, not just in retrospect but in the eyes of those who lived through them.” Benjamin M. Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.

“In early times, say the Icelandic chronicles, men from the Western Islands came to live in this country, and when they departed, left behind them crosses, bells, and other objects used in the practice of sorcery.” Halldór Laxness, Independent People.

“In Iceland, it’s considered bad luck to start a new job on a Monday.” Eliza Reid, Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland’s Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World.

“She hears him long before she sees him.” Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, The Creak on the Stairs.

“Rose was in existential distress that fateful winter when her would-be earthly master, Robert Martin, passed away.” Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake.

“It is never easy to move to a new country, but in truth I was happy to be away from New York.” Katie Kitamura, Intimacies.

“In 1799, the year of the Rosetta Stone’s discovery, Egypt was a sweltering, impoverished back water.” Edward Dolnick, The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone.

“The red stain was like a scream in the silence.” Ragnar Jónasson, Snowblind. (translated by Quentin Bates.)

“John Kieran created the public Moe Berg.” Nicholas Dawidoff, The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg.

“There was a time, it says in books, that the Icelandic people had only one national treasure: a bell.” Halldór Laxness, Iceland’s Bell.

First Sentences

“The killer came by streetcar.” David Zucchino, Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy.

“From across the aisle Harry Bosch looked into his partner’s cubicle and watched him conduct his daily ritual of straightening the corners on his stacks of files, clearing the paperwork from the center of his desk and finally placed his rinsed-out coffee cup in a desk drawer.” Michael Connelly, Nine Dragons.

“Let’s look beneath the ice-chipped surface of a fish counter at a Whole Foods in New York City.” Benjamin Lorr, The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket.

“It all started one afternoon early in May when I came out of the House of Commons with Tommy Deloraine.” John Buchan, The Power-House.

“Imagine an archaeologist, thousands of years from now, whose trowel clangs against something solid.” Edward Dolnick, The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone.

“He no longer feels cold; instead, a curious heat is spreading through his veins.” Arnaldur Indridason, Strange Shores.

“The Headquarters Building at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia, is a grim maze of identical corridors flanked by blank, color-coded office doors that are always shut tight.” Nicholas Dawidoff, The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg.

“On the first Monday in March 1901, in the early evening when the sound of sleigh bells filled the air, a student unexpectedly knocked at my door.” Lauren Belfer, City of Light.

“These are the fisherman who stand sentry over the cod stocks off the headlands of North America, the fisherman who went to sea but forgot their pencil.” Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (1997).

“The last time I’d eaten at the Watergrill I sat across the table from a client who had coldly and calculatedly murdered his wife and her lover, shooting both of them in the face.” Michael Connelly, The Reversal.

“Years ago, as a medical student in Boston, I watched a senior surgeon operate on a woman.” Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Laws of Medicine: Field Notes From an Uncertain Science.

“I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

“The story of modern cancer research begins, improbably, with the sea urchin.” Sam Apple, Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection.