First Sentences

“Pa used to say that any piece of history might be made into a tale: it was only a question of deciding where the tale began, and where it ended.” Sarah Waters, Affinity.

“If you visit the lovely Alpine town of Bolsano you will often see long queues outside the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.” Margaret MacMillan, War: How Conflict Shaped Us.

“The morning one of the lost twins returned to Mallard, Lou LeBon ran to the diner to break the news, and even now, many years later, everyone remembers the shock of sweaty Lou pushing through the glass doors, chest heaving, neckline darkened with his own effort.” Britt Bennett, The Vanishing Half.

“On the morning of Good Friday, April 15, 1927, Seguine Allen, the chief engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board in Greenville, Mississippi woke up to the sound of running water.” John M. Barry, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America.

“Behold the man.” Ian McGuire, The North Sea.

“Once you start to see them, you’ll never understand how you hadn’t noticed them before.” Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt, The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design.

“The small boys came early to the hanging.” Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth.

“Once on a Wednesday excursion when I was a little girl, my father bought me a beaded wire ball that I loved.” Dava Sobel, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.

“Virginia court records for September 18, 1800, mention a certain Mr. Moseley Sheppard who came quietly to the witness stand in Richmond and produced testimony that caused half the States to shudder.” Arna Bontemps, Black Thunder.

“No one had any doubt that the bombers would come.” Erik Larson, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.

“A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.” Margaret O’Farrell, Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague.

“When I think about my time in the Senate, I see a broken man.” Adam Jentleson, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.

“My town sat on top of a small hill by the side of a river whose banks held only sand.” Phil Klay, Missionaries.

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.