First Sentences

“In the corner of the small living room of the small country house at the end of the dirt road beneath the blue Carolina sky, the dark-skinned five-year old boy sat with his knees pulled to his chest and his small, dark arms wrapped around his legs and it took all that he had to contain the laughter inside the thrumming cage of his chest.” Jason Mott, Hell of a Book.

“We all want to know how it was in the beginning.”Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea.

“Well, the sun was shining.” Rumaan Alam, Leave the World Behind.

“The silence was excruciating, the minutes ticking by thick and heavy, time itself gorging on the tension in the humid air.” Ben Mezrich, Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder.

“Mayya, forever immersed in her Singer sewing machine, seemed lost to the outside world.” Jokha Alharthi, Celestial Bodies.

“English rule of Ireland was achieved by force, maintained by force.” Wayne G. Broehl, Jr., The Molly Maguires.

“I was born to be a wanderer.” Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle.

“On the third day of October 1901, Abram S. Hewitt was a happy man.” Clifton Hood, 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York.

“Still hours of dark to go when I left home that morning.” Emma Donoghue, The Pull of the Stars.

“Senior Lieutenant Alexander Logachev loved radiation the way other men loved their wives.” Adam Higginbothan, Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster.

“Simon the Fiddler had managed to evade the Confederate conscription men because he looked much younger than he was and he did everything he could to further that impression.” Paulette Jiles, Simon the Fiddler.

“Texas, perhaps more than any other state in the Union, lives in the public imagination as a place of extremes.” Annette Gordon-Reed, On Juneteenth.

“On Saint Patrick’s Day, Daniel Coleman, an agent in the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation handling foreign intelligence cases, drove down to Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, to report for a new posting.” Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

“The day was flat.” Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain.

“On October 5, 1936, thousands of people packed the unpaved roads of Van Meter, Iowa.” Luke Epplin, Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball.

First Sentences

“To my surprise some years back, I began to hear people outside of my home state, Texas, talk about, and actually celebrate the holiday ‘Juneteenth.’” Annette Gordon-Reed, On Juneteenth.

“When we were new, Rosa and I were mid-store, on the magazines table side, and could see through more than half of the windows.” Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun.

“There are silences in American history.” Peter S. Canellos, The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America’s Judicial Hero.

“An entire day had passed since George Walker had spoken to his wife.” Nathan Harris, The Sweetness of Water.

“By any traditional measure, James Buchanan was one of the best qualified men ever to hold the presidency.” Fergus M. Bordewich, Congress at War: How Republican Reformers Fought the Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, and Remade America (2020).

“Wanda Batton-Smythe, head of the Women’s Institute of Nether Monkslip, liked to say she was not one to mince words.” G.M. Malliet, Wicked Autumn.

“I’ve referred to America as Fantasyland, but it was always also Tomorrowland.” Kurt Andersen, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America, A Recent History.

“In the wings, behind a metal rack crowded with bundles of cable and silk flower garlands and the stringless lutes from Act 1, two black dachshunds lie in a basket.” Maggie Shipstead, Astonish Me.

“There had seemingly never been a better night for baseball in Cleveland than on August 20, 1948.” Luke Epplin, Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball.

“Something was wrong.” Jo Nesbo, The Bat.

“It was the middle of the night.” Lynne Olson, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler.

“Penelope Kite stood at the door of her dream home and wiped her brow with the back of her hand.” Serena Kent, Death in Provence.

“Toward the end, as at the beginning, he lived only on milk.” Edmund Morris, Edison.

“’If there’s one thing wrong with people,’ Paul always said, ‘it’s that no one remembers the shit that they should, and everyone remembers the shit that doesn’t matter for shit.’” Gabriel Bump, Everywhere You Don’t Belong.

“I am a copy editor.” Benjamin Dreyer, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.