First Sentences

“I sometimes think of the Supreme Court oral arguments in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt on March 2, 2016, as the last truly great day for women and the legal system in America.” Dahlia Lithwick, Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America.

“I hear the crack of his skull before the spattering of blood reaches me.” Colleen Hoover, Verity.

“No one knows where America’s Northern Border begins.” Porter Fox, Northland: A 4,000 Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border.

“The coastal steamer attends faithfully to its course, slipping down the middle of the fjord between the mountains, taking its bearings from the stars and peaks and arriving on schedule at Óseyri in Axlarfjörður, its horn blasting through the blowing snow. In the first-class smokers’ lounge, two smartly dressed travelers from Reykjavík are discussing the village’s faint gleams of light.” Halldór Laxness, Salka Valka.

“In this soundless film, it is winter in Arkansas.” Sridhar Pappu, The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age.

“Mrs Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January.” Elizabeth Taylor, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.

“In the weeks following the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a group of Chinese executives traveled to Los Angeles for a crash course in influence.” Erich Schwartzell, Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy.

“When Cal comes out of the house, the rooks have got hold of something.” Tana French, The Searcher.

“As a little boy, lying in his bed, my father would hear the planes overhead.” Malcolm Gladwell, The Bomber Mafia.

“It was an unmarked car, just some nondescript American sedan a few years old, but the blackwall tires and the three men inside gave it away for what it was.” Stephen King, The Outsider.

“The results of Wisconsin’s 2018 election had to be seen to be believed.” Nick Seabrook, One Person, One Vote: A Surprising History of Gerrymandering in America.

“Brown Dog drifted away thinking of the village in the forest where the red-haired girl lived.” Jim Harrison, Brown Dog Redux.

“The sun that rose for the rest of the world that morning was not the one that rose for Lanah Sawyer.” John Wood Sweet, The Sewing Girl’s Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America.

First Sentences

“Ever since my mom died, I cry in H Mart.” Michelle Zauner, Crying in H Mart.

“Thomas Wazhashk removed his thermos from his armpit and set it on the steel desk alongside his scuffed briefcase.” Louise Erdrich, The Night Watchman.

“The dead would be moved for Disneyland.” Erich Schwartzell, Red Carpet: Hollywood, China, and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy.

“She can feel hope, like the Christmas lights on fade in Pound Saver.” Susie Steiner, Missing, Presumed.

“On 18 December 1912 Arthur Smith Woodward and Charles Dawson announced to a great and expectant scientific audience the epoch-making discovery of a remote ancestral form of man—The Dawn Man of Piltdown.” J.S. Weiner, The Piltdown Forgery.

“Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?” E.C. Bentley, Trent’s Last Case.

“When you imagine the founder of home economics, who do you see?” Danielle Dreilinger, The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live.

“Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage. . . .” Jane Austen, Persuasion.

“As a young woman with modest means and few prospects, Ruth Middleton transformed her life by moving north.” Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake.

“On a Tuesday I came home from school to an empty house, watched the evening news, and then took two Equanil caplets lifted from my mother.” Rosalie Knecht, Who is Vera Kelly? (A Vera Kelly Story).

“Louis Bean spent eighteen months in Vietnam.” Kathleen Belew, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.

“She was born peculiar, or so she thought.” Jim Harrison, The Farmer’s Daughter.

“For ten thousand years, a cave on the northern tip of Prince of Wales Island in Alaska served a resting place for the remains of an ancient man.” Jennifer Raff, Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas.

“I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William.” Elizabeth Strout, Oh William!

“Right now, in a classroom somewhere in the world, a student is mouthing off to her math teacher.” Jordan Ellenberg, How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking.