First Sentences

“There was a time when the world’s largest airport sat in the middle of western Pacific, around 1,500 miles from the coast of Japan, on one of a cluster of small tropical islands known as the Marianas.” Malcolm Gladwell, The Bomber Mafia.

“In those days, I was the one who came down from Nazareth to be baptized by John in the River Jordan.” Norman Mailer, The Gospel According to the Son.

“In the U.S. elections of 1834, the balance of power in Congress was up for grabs, and the tide was turning against President Andrew Jackson.” Mark Clague, O Say Can You Hear? A Cultural Biography of The Star-Spangled Banner.

“Have you ever seen a town fall?” Fredrik Backman, Us Against You.

“To understand a civilization, consider its heroes.” David Gelles, The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy.

“Otto Burke, the Wizard of Schmoose, raised his game another level.” Harlan Coben, Deal Breaker.

“Of the many times John C.Frémont visited St. Louis, the most auspicious came in 1845.” Steve Inskeep, Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War.

“Money, Mississippi, looks exactly like it sounds.” Percival Everett, The Trees.

“Throughout the spring morning of April 14, 1876, a huge crowd, largely African American began to assemble in the vicinity of Seventh and K Streets in Washington, D.C.” David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

“Mike always teased me about my memory, about how I could go back years and years to what people were wearing on a given occasion, right down to their jewelry or shoes.” Ann Packer, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier.

“In the winter of 1921, Knud Rasmussen invited about one hundred of Copenhagen’s eminent citizens—politicians, artists, journalists and business leaders—to join him at the city’s prestigious Palace hotel for a special dinner.” Stephen R. Brown, White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen’s Fearless Journey into the Heart of Arctic.

“Like a beast, the net came steaming up the ramp and into the sodium lamps of the trawl deck.” Martin Cruz Smith, Polar Star.

“The first thing I need to do is convince you something has changed.” Ezra Klein, Why We’re Polarized.

“That winter was the warmest in a hundred years.” Robert Stone, Outerbridge Reach.

“Legend tells us that the gerrymander originated in early nineteenth-century Massachusetts.” Nick Seabrook, One Person, One Vote: A Surprising History of Gerrymandering in America.

First Sentences

“That Dodge City was the gateway to the Great American Desert probably does not seem to be much of a recommendation for it.” Tom Clavin, Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West.

“The day before Mrs. Starch vanished, her third-period biology students trudged silently, as always, into the classroom.” Carl Hiaasen, Scat.

“It was a foul autumn morning in Jaffa when the pilgrims came out of the church.” Dan Jones: The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors.

“The Government still pays my wages but I no longer think of myself as a bureaucrat.” Gita Mehta, A River Sutra.

“Chief Tecumseh had every right to be vengeful.” Jared Cohen, Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America.

“They are watching me, thought Rupert Stonebird, as he saw the two women walking rather too slowly down the road.” Barbara Pym, An Unsuitable Attachment.

“Enough water, like enough time, can make anything disappear.” Casey Cep, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and Last Trial of Harper Lee.

“Peter Crowther’s book on the election was already in the shops.” Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty.

“The Great War had brought Paul Lewis into the navy in 1918 as a lieutenant commander, but he never seemed quite at ease when in his uniform.” John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

“The ugliest truth, a friend once told Myron, is still better than the prettiest of lies.” Harlan Coben, Live Wire.

“When Michael Joyce of Los Angeles serves, when he tosses the ball and his face rises to track it, it looks like he’s smiling, but he’s not really smiling—his face’s circumoral muscles are straining with the rest of his body to reach the ball at the top of the toss’s rise.” David Foster Wallace, “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Limitation, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness,” in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments.

“I was never so frightened.” Sarah Waters, Affinity.

“In 1957 legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite—lauded as the most trusted man in America—stared into the camera and told viewers that the ‘greatest engineering feat of our time’ was under way.” Dan Egan, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.