How do you choose a book? Perhaps a friend recommends it, or you've read a review. Maybe it's a series that you're reading one by one, or an author you've liked before. I know somebody who refuses to read books in which bad/sad things happen, another who is the opposite and is suspicious of all books with happy endings.
Me, I read all kinds of stuff but I am a fan of book covers and first lines. I like all of these covers.
Here are the beginning lines, all of them inviting me into the book:
"This is me when I was 10 years old." (Persepolis, a well-known graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi)
"No one had seen her naked until her death." (The Birth of Venus, historical fiction by trash-writer-I-cannot-put-down Sarah Durant. The opening scene to this book, following that first line, is cinematic.)
"Come along, Bill; we'll have to get there, or we won't hear the first of it." (Bill Brown's Radio, a kids' book from 1929 by Wayne Whipple. An irresistible book from my father-in-law's attic.)
"Ancient mythologies have much to do with modern literature." (Bullfinch's Age of Fable, copyright 1898, the precursor to Edith Hamilton's Mythology. Is his first line still true? I think so.)
"You wouldn't think a boy of six would be excited to get an alarm clock for Christmas." (This Is Not A Confession, a recent and excellent collection of memoir-essays and "speculative nonfiction" by David Olimpio.)
I have many beloved first lines, but every summer when it turns to August, there is one that stands out. Really, not just the first sentence but the whole first paragraph of Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit:
The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.
The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless and hot.
It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.
Often at night there is lightening, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain.
These are strange and breathless days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.