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

“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.