Good books have great opening lines. Here are some of my favorite opening lines from books, poems, short stories, and (in one case) a newspaper.

“Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James

“You know more than you think you do.”
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, by Dr. Benjamin Spock

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,
by Judith Viorst

“When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”
The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

“Perl is a language for getting your job done.”
Programming Perl (aka the Camel Book), by Larry Wall

“It was a dark and stormy night.”
A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeline L’Engle

“Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work—the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside—the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within—that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.”
–“The Crack-Up,” by F.Scott Fitzgerald

“When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too.”
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“This all happened, more or less.”
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

“Before proceeding to the ordinary business of our paper, we beg to observe, that we have not chosen the name of SCOTSMAN to preserve an invidious distinction, but with the view of rescuing it from the odium of servility.”
— opening text of the first edition of The Scotsman newspaper, published in Edinburgh January 25, 1817

“All my life I have had an awareness of other times and places.”
The Star Rover, by Jack London

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.”
Howl, by Allen Ginsberg