Best Opening Passage

RocketBoysI thought I would invite some reader participation.

My favorite opening paragraph to a book is from Homer Hickam, Jr.’s Rocket Boys, the source of the film October Sky:

Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn’t know my hometown was at war with itself over its children and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives. I didn’t know that if a girl broke your heart, another girl, virtuous at least in spirit, could mend it on the same night. And I didn’t know that the enthalpy decrease in a converging passage could be transformed into jet kinetic energy if a divergent passage was added. The other boys discovered their own truths when we built our rockets, but those were mine.”

Please add your own favorite opening lines or paragraphs below.


  1. Durl

    From “Bit Literacy” by Mark Hurst:

    “Bits are heavy. Though they have no physical weight, bits — the electronic data that flow in and out of our e-mail inboxes, cell phones, Web browsers, and so on — place a weight on anyone who uses them. A laptop computer weighs the same few pounds whether it holds one e-mail or a thousand, but to the person who has to deal with all those e-mails, there is a big difference. Appearing in large numbers as they often do, bits weigh people down, mentally and emotionally,with incessant calls for attention and engagement.”

    This book was a game changer for me. It provided me with the tools to manage the large number of bits that were entering my life. After applying the techniques introduced by the book, I was able to leave work every day with an empty email in-box, despite receiving well over 200 emails per day. I’ve recommended this book to friends and work colleagues, most of whom never bothered to try it out, but also who continually complained about having hundreds of UNREAD emails in their inbox!

    • Bookscrounger

      I’m going to get a copy of that. I would guess that it has application beyond eMail…

  2. Shasta

    “On the 24th of February, 1815, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.

    As usual, a pilot put off immediately, and rounding the Chateau d’If, got on board the vessel between Cape Morgion and Rion island.

    Immediately, and according to custom, the ramparts of Fort Saint-Jean were covered with spectators; it is always an event at Marseilles for a ship to come into port, especially when this ship, like the Pharaon, has been built, rigged, and laden at the old Phocee docks, and belongs to an owner of the city.

    The ship drew on and had safely passed the strait, which some volcanic shock has made between the Calasareigne and Jaros islands; had doubled Pomegue, and approached the harbor under topsails, jib, and spanker, but so slowly and sedately that the idlers, with that instinct which is the forerunner of evil, asked one another what misfortune could have happened on board. However, those experienced in navigation saw plainly that if any accident had occurred, it was not to the vessel herself, for she bore down with all the evidence of being skilfully handled, the anchor a-cockbill, the jib-boom guys already eased off, and standing by the side of the pilot, who was steering the Pharaon towards the narrow entrance of the inner port, was a young man, who, with activity and vigilant eye, watched every motion of the ship, and repeated each direction of the pilot. ”

    Maybe not the best opening but my favorite book nonetheless.

  3. Bookscrounger

    Here’s a reasonable one, from Feed by MT Anderson:

    “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to suck.”

    Fascinating read, BTW, a great allegory about the plugged-in generation.

  4. Ann Dobie

    Here are two openers: one from a very funny memoir, the other from a very serious memoir.

    #1, They say the South is full of storytellers, but I am unconvinced. It seems more accurate to say that it is full of people who are very, very tired. At least this was my childhood experience in Mississippi, where there was very little to do but shoot things or get them pregnant. After a full day of killing and fornicating, it was only natural that everyone grew weary. So we sat around. Some would sit and nap, others would sit and drink. Frequently, there was drinking and then napping. The pious would read their Bibles, while their children would find a shady spot to know one another biblically, or perhaps give birth to a child from a previous knowing. Eventually, though, all the sitting led to talking, which supposedly led to all the stories, or at least the beginnings of stories.
    —from The World’s Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key

    #2. When I was at boarding school, sent away during the war as a little boy, I had a sense of imprisonment and powerlessness, and I longed for movement and power, ease of movement and superhuman powers. I enjoyed these, briefly, in dreams of flying and, in a different way, when I went horse riding in the village near school. I loved the power and suppleness of my horse, and I can still evoke its easy and joyous smell.
    –from On the Move by Oliver Sachs

    • Bookscrounger

      The first is one hoot and a half. I need to go look at some Bailey White…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.