Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Year of Books: Best First Lines of 2013

If, as Ursula K. LeGuin has said, "First sentences are doors to worlds," then I turned a lot of great doorknobs this year.  My favorite lines are those which pack a lot of information and pack a hefty linguistic punch, but don't send me packing.  The best first sentences keep me in the book, demand I read the next sentence and the next one after that, and so on until--five hours later, I look up from the page and realize the house is burning down around my ears.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite opening lines from books published in 2013 (or ones which I first encountered this past year):

The hookers were slap-fighting a Hare Krishna up at the intersection when the bullet came through the windshield.

The camp at Auschwitz took one year of my life, and of my own free will I gave it another four.
The Thief of Auschwitz by Jon Clinch

The ward was never the same after that February afternoon when Zelda Fitzgerald stumbled into the psychiatric clinic with a stack of papers clutched to her chest, eyes darting this way and that, at once pushing from and pulling toward her husband like a spinning magnet.
Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck

I was on my second bag of Doritos and my lips were stained emergency orange when my best friend, Phillip, said he knew a bar in Hallelujah Junction that didn’t card, and maybe we should go there.

When I was twelve years old I was best friends with a baby.
Saguaro by Carson Mell

Tonight I went from my wife's bed to the open window and pissed down blood on Royal Street.
The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom

There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.
Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

The night before my father would beg me to kill him, I sat alone in a hotel room across the street from his hospital, rereading old newspaper articles about my mother's suicide.
The Cost of Living by Rob Roberge

The intern from the edit house is so drunk she is trying to take her skin off.
The Deep Whatsis by Peter Mattei

Four days before the bomb that is supposed to obliterate Bombay and kill us all, I stand in the ruins of Crawford Market, haggling with the lone remaining fruit seller over the price of the pomegranate in my hand.
The City of Devi by Manil Suri

When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.
All That I Am by Anna Funder

Nurse Thornton dropped into the long-term-care ward a little before eight with a hot bag of blood for Charlie Manx.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.

I am a woman with no fingerprints.

A little over thirty years ago, on a June day just before sunset--alone on a mountain in Marin County, California--a man came toward me with a length of piano wire stretched between his hands, and the intention of ending my days.
After Her by Joyce Maynard

I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K.
Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

On an April day in 1970, when most of his fellow architecture students were taking their spring break, Frank Joyner drew a Gillette razor blade across his left wrist with one express purpose in mind: he wanted to see if, when the blood appeared, he was willing to let it flow, or if, in fact, he wanted to live.
Fractures by Lamar Herrin


My Year of Books is the annual backward glance of my literary life.  All this week, I'll be posting lists of the best things I read in 2013.  Be sure to visit the rest of the series (links posted as they're published):

Monday:  By the Numbers
Tuesday:  Best First Lines
Wednesday:  Best Cover Designs
Thursday:  Best of the Backlist
Friday:  Best Fiction of 2013
Saturday:  Publisher of the Year

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