December 18, 2013

Opening paragraph of the top selling books

Wikipedia has a page where you can see a list of the best-selling books ever. The list is not 100 percent accurate because it's difficult to determine exactly how many copies an older book has sold. I thought it would be interesting to see how these authors wrote the first paragraph in each book. 

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history. Further information will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of Westmarch that has already been published, under the title of The Hobbit. That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself, the first Hobbit to become famous in the world at large, and called by him There and Back Again, since they told of his journey into the East and his return: an adventure which later involved all the Hobbits in the great events of that Age that are here related.

3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal.

4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in the Times.

5. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality.
Chia Yü-ts'un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

More articles in the same series: Best technical and creative writing resources

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