They say the first line is one of the most important parts of a book*. Get it right and the readers’ eyes are all yours, get it wrong and they’ll start looking around, distracted by the feet of strangers or two birds fighting over a sandwich.
Over on our Instagram account (here, follow it here) we’ve been asking people for the first lines that have grabbed them. So, along with a few of our own personal favourites, and a pleasingly alliterative title, here are fourteen fantastic first lines.
One of my favorite moments in recent memory happened when I made the long trek from Houston to New Jersey in my slightly worse-for-wear 10-year-old Mazda Protege. I was moving because I had, once again, quit a job I hated and felt the only way to get certain influences out of my life was to physically move on. So, despite my parents complete opposition to the idea, I packed up my car and hit the road with my pup for a two-week long journey.
There were a lot of scary moments on that trip, moments that made me question why I would put myself through this when I could have easily just hopped on a plane, and even moments when I thought, “just great, this is how I am going to die.” But, the thing that kept me going was this inexplicably powerful feeling that this was something I had to do. The moment I decided I was going to make this big sweeping change in my life (again), I knew I wanted to take a long road trip and it had to be by myself.
I’m not sure what epiphany I thought I was going to come to on the trip or if I really even expected to come to one. Somewhere in the back of my brain I knew there was a reason why I had to do it, but that just wasn’t anywhere near as important as just doing it. It felt a bit like knowing the answer without knowing the question — like 42.
Anyway, New Orleans was first, then Birmingham, and then Asheville, Richmond, and finally, New Jersey. But Asheville. That was the city I was most excited about visiting, though, I have trouble calling it a “city” because I think I walked the entire thing in my first hour there.
The moment I’m talking about technically didn’t happen in Asheville, but rather on the way there. You see, I’ve never really spent much time in the mountains, we’re a beach family. So when the road began to twist uphill and the view to my left began to change, I almost swerved into oncoming traffic with what I saw.
I know it’s cliche, but they were just so impressive and powerful and majestic. But it wasn’t over yet. As I struggled to keep an eye on the twisting road and an eye on the incredible view, Fleet Foxes “Blue Ridge Mountains” came on my iPod and suddenly it was one of those crystalized moments where you really start to wonder about fate. What were the chances? (Pretty good, actually, it was on a small playlist, but destiny tells a better story).
Hats off to Fleet Foxes. It really is a perfect tune for the mountains. It’s slightly sweet, softly powerful, haunting, and full of nostalgia. I felt like one of those full-circle moments where you’re absolutely right where you’re supposed to be at exactly the right time. Everything’s OK. You did it right and you don’t have to wonder.
The mountains are there, as they’ve been for longer than we can fathom, just observing. And looking out at something so impossibly huge, that’s been there for so long, I felt small. But small in a good way. Small in that I should never really worry about what is going to happen because it doesn’t really matter. The people and the jobs and the meaning of life and everything in it. It will be how it will be and the mountains will still be there when it’s over and that’s monumentally more important.
For the rest of my time in Asheville, it felt like I was being both watched and looked after. The mountains, in some lights, looked quite threatening, looming in the distance, waiting for you to come just a bit closer. But most of the time, they appeared cool and quiet and lovingly stern, like a parent that had all of its ducks in a row and would like to keep it that way thank-you-very-much. That’s how it felt, anyway.
I felt a shift inside while in the mountains. I felt grounded and put in my place and it felt good in the way relief washes over you when for better or for worse you realize an absolute and knowing is better than not knowing. And it stuck with me all throughout the rest of my journey and even now, months later.
The Blue Ridge Mountains were at the heart of my journey and I missed them and that middle ground as I continued home. I always thought I would find an ocean in my heart, but after that moment, I know it’s a mountain. And it’s made me stronger.
Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, became a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.