Category Archives: First Lines

Taduno’s Song


The morning the letter arrived he was like a man in a shell, deaf to the voices in his head from a distant place, calling him, imploring him with old promises.

-Odafe Atogun, Taduno’s Song: A Novel

The White City


It was the end of winter. Under the sky that had always been there, now dark, the house still looked almost new. It had a sort of shine to it and was surrounded by nothing but silence and snow.

-Karolina Ramquist, The White City: A Novel

The One-Eyed Man


That morning, in an effort to restore some normalcy to my weekend, I left the house and strolled to the coffee shop for a Grande Americano, just like a regular, irrational person.

-Ron Currie, The One-Eyed Man: A Novel

Heritage of Smoke


Davor had been wheezing for days, and he gasped in his sleep and talked about Armageddon, global warming, and the vanished Boeing 777. Even awake, he talked about the 777 as the ascension airplane–all the people onboard went straight to heaven, and the rest remained on the ground, awaiting the wrath of God.

-Josip Novakovich, “When the Saints Come,” in Heritage of Smoke: Stories

We Are Data


We are “well filled with data” in today’s networked society. If you don’t believe me, open your computer and roam the web for five minutes. In a period of time only slightly longer than the average television commercial break, you will have generated, through your web activity, an identity that is likely separate from the person who you thought you were. In a database far, far away, you have been assigned a gender, ethnicity, class, age, education level, and potentially the status of parent with x number of children.

-John Cheney-Lippold, We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves

The Lioness is the Hunter


The receptionist parted her cranberry-colored hair in the middle and showed a gap between her front teeth when she smiled. I’m a sucker for little imperfections like that. I wanted to feed nickels into that slot all day, just to watch her lights blink on. Instead I gave her a card.

-Loren D. Estleman, The Lioness is the Hunter: An Amos Walker Mystery

Locked In


The statistics are as simple as they are shocking: The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. We have more total prisoners than any other country in the world, and we have the world’s highest incarceration rate, one that is four to eight times higher than those in other liberal democracies, including Canada, England, and Germany.

-John Pfaff, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform



Don’t trust anyone who promises you a new life. Pick-up artists, lifestyle gurus, pyramid-scheme face cream evangelists, Weight Watchers coaches: These people make their living off your failures.

-Lindy West, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

Thus Bad Begins


This story didn’t happen so very long ago–less time than the average life, and how brief a life is once it’s over and can be summed up in a few sentences, leaving only ashes in the memory, ashes that crumble at the slightest touch and fly up with the slightest gust of wind–and yet what happened then would be impossible now.

-Javier Marias, Thus Bad Begins: A Novel

Here I Am


When the destruction of Israel commenced, Isaac Bloch was weighing whether to kill himself or move to the Jewish Home.

-Jonathan Safran, Here I Am: A Novel