First Sentences

“Exactly what befell the President of the United States has never been fully understood.” Jethro K. Lieberman, Everything is Jake.

“New York’s Grand Opera-house was in the midst of a triumphant four-week run of performances by Edwin Booth, the greatest Hamlet of his generation, that Saturday in 1879 when twenty-six-year-old William R. Davis Jr. and his companion approached the huge doors of the heavily marbled theater.” Peter S. Canellos, The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America’s Judicial Hero.

“A fourteen-year-old girl sits cross-legged on the floor of a circular vault” Anthony Doer, Cloud Cuckoo Land.

 “When you reach your fifties, it gets easier to notice the big ways in which the world has or hasn’t changed since you were young, both the look and feel of things and people’s understanding of how society works.” Kurt Andersen, Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America, A Recent History.

“Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.” Matt Haig, The Midnight Library.

“Insecurity combined with arrogance is good DNA for a comedian.” David Steinberg, Inside Comedy: The Soul, Wit, and Bite of Comedy and Comedians of the Last Five Decades.

“Many times since the Earth was young, the place had lain under the sea.” Edward Rutherford, London.

“Just as the first rays of dawn swept the eastern wall of the small castle, a detachment of soldiers landed on the beach below.” John Prevas, Hannibal’s Oath: The Life and Wars of Rome’s Greatest Enemy.

“Captain Kidd laid out the Boston Morning Journal on the lectern and began to read from the article on the Fifteenth Amendment.” Paulette Jiles, News of the World.

“In October 1846 the poet William Cullen Bryant visited the Delaware Water Gap, the spot where the Delaware River cuts through the Kittatinny (or Blue) Mountains.” Lawrence Squeri, Better in the Poconos: The Story of Pennsylvania’s Vacationland.

“Major Picquart to see the Minister of War. . . .” Robert Harris, An Officer and a Spy.

“My father had a little joke that made light of our legacy as a family that had once owned slaves.” Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family.

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.