A Contest! Tell Me Your Favorite First Line and Win a Free Book

Here we go! We’ve spent enough time agonizing over whether Literature Is Dying. Let’s put that on hold for now. Instead, let’s celebrate the greatest geniuses and most powerful books we can imagine. And let’s do that by focusing on the Greatest First Lines of all time.

What’s the criteria for a great first line? It’s up to you! It could be the line that inspired you in some way, the one you admire, the one that intrigued you, the one that pulled you into a narrative, or simply the one that kicked off what turned out to be your favorite book of all time.

Those are the rules for you: there are no real rules. Just your favorite first line. (Yes, it can be more than one sentence if that’s the best way to make your case..)

And here are the rules for me: I will select one lucky winner (or maybe a few) to receive a free book from me, Jacke Wilson. And no, it’s not one of my books (available now!), but a book of your choice.

How do you enter? You have four options.

Option #1: You can send me an email at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com. Pretty easy! I will keep all your personal information private, of course.

Option #2: You can leave a comment below. Just type in your favorite first line(s). Simple!

Option #3 (preferred). Call the Jacke Wilson hotline and leave a message with the answering service. Why is this preferred? Why will these entries have a slight advantage over the others?  Because I will actually get to hear your voice reading your favorite line. How cool is that!

Look, I’m a sentimental sort of person. I try not to be, but I am. And I think there’s something beautiful about a person’s voice when he or she is saying something out of unselfish enthusiasm. Sharing a favorite first line for no other reason than because it was your favorite – well, that counts. Please do call – I will appreciate it!

I might also use the clip on my podcast as I discuss the contest and its results. But don’t worry, I don’t see your number or name or anything like that. I just get to listen to the message. This is to help us all celebrate literature and to possibly win a free book. No strings, I promise.

The number to call is


Just call me up, tell me the book and author (if you want), your first name (if you want), and the first lines (if you want – but really, why would you be calling if you didn’t want to do at least that? Well, maybe you have some other idea. But it’s your phone call, so do whatever you want!)

For option #4 (also preferred), there is no phone required. All you do is visit the page below – there are no gimmicks or signups, I promise. All you do is click a button and record a message. (You do need to have a microphone, but the built-in one in your computer or phone or tablet should work fine.)

Leave Jacke A Message

You get 90 seconds to identify the book and/or yourself (if you want etc.) and read your favorite first line. I’ve tried this out and it works great. Again, this is a preferred method because I get to hear your voice. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to do, so rich and expressive. I can’t wait to listen.

I’m not going to contact you in any way unless you’re the winner. I’ll be sending you the free book of your choice via Amazon. If you prefer not to use Amazon, we’ll work something else out.

Okay, there you go. Four good options. Let’s hear some favorites!

Onward and upward!

68 thoughts on “A Contest! Tell Me Your Favorite First Line and Win a Free Book

    1. Intriguing! It’s almost like watching the start of a good TV show, except with the bonus of close third narration that gets us inside the guy’s head. Maybe I need to read this book(?)


  1. “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” ― M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth


  2. I know it’s one of these cheesy self-improvement books but this is what really first poppped into my mind because it is so true and it really made a difference in my life… Now I have some way better lines but they are not first lines…


    1. Good entry! I like this… and it could almost serve as an opening to a first novel. “It is a truth universally acknowledged: life is difficult…” (Speaking of which, where are the Austenians? Or the Anna Kareninans? The Ishmaelites? I know you’re out there!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I would have preferred something more poetic but the only other first phrase of a novel that really struck me is from Raymond Queneau called ”Zazie dans le metro” and is goes like this in French: ”doukipudonktan” the first word of the book, the neologism Doukipudonktan, is a phonetic transcription of D’où (est-ce) qu’il pue donc tant ? (“From where does he/do they stink so much?”). In the English version of the novel, this is rendered as “Holifart watastink”; in the movie version the English subtitle reads “Whozit who stinks?”. That would have been my second choice for I never forgot this one even if I was a only 14 years old when I read the book and I am now 48! Maybe it would have been a better choice now that I think of it…. But it’s from a French author and is interesting more to French speaking people precisely because it plays on many French word play…


      2. HAHAHA!! That is precisely why I did not pick it… It would be pointless and we all know that if it takes an hour to explain the <> it is not funny anymore..


  3. This is such a creative and fun contest, Jacke. I have to say that my favorite beginning is often the book that I’m currently reading. The one I’m reading now, “Genesis: Memory of Fire, Volume 1” by Eduardo Galeano (2010), begins with my new favorite five sentences.

    “I was a wretched history student. History classes were like visits to the waxworks or the Region of the Dead. The past was lifeless, hollow, dumb. They taught us about the past so that we should resign ourselves with drained consciences to the present: not to make history, which was already made, but to accept it. Poor History had stopped breathing: betrayed in academic texts, lied about in classrooms, drowned in dates, they had imprisoned her in museums and buried her, with floral wreaths, beneath statuary bronze and monumental marble.” (p. xv)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually one other question about History being lied about in classrooms – do you think that means that historical events were lied about in classrooms? Or that History itself (i.e., History as a subject) was? I think I find the latter more fascinating. Are teachers telling students lies about History, what it means, what it can do, the doors it can open?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have good reasons to believe history is lied about in classrooms, Jacke. Here’s a title from a well-researched book – “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James Loewen (1995). Loewen’s work, along with that of Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States) and Ronald Takaki (A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America) present compelling alternatives that shock and excite students. I remember one of my students who was so upset about being lied to that she sent a copy of Zinn’s book to her former high school teacher urging him to use it in his classes. Many teachers may only be teaching what they learned thanks to textbook censors who want to whitewash the past…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. We read the history of those who won the wars… If all those nations that are now <> could tell their views on the said History.. For sure we would have a very different point of view.. In fact it would be a very good thing to look at ourselves in the mirror once and for all and realise how cruel and greedy we have been. <> -Rust Cohle in True Detective

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sorry its missing the quote at the end: I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight – brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal. -Rust Cohle in True Detective

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I fully agree with Carol. The lies in history class are epic. My boys and I review and correct the things they’re taught on a weekly basis. The falsities come in a few basic flavors:

        1) Catastrophic incompetence – Textbook errors carried on through edition after edition. Failure to correct even the most basic items.
        2) Legend as fact – Tongue map, anybody? They still teach this.
        3) Proselytization – I live in Georgia and this is a serious issue.
        4) Malfeasance – Intentional insertion of incorrect facts to promote an agenda.

        Another very good book highlighting some of these is “The De-Textbook” (http://www.amazon.com/The-De-Textbook-Stuff-Didnt-Thought/dp/0452298202). It’s sad when you can generally get more historically accurate information from a comedy website than you can from a text book.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, very good. Reminds me of John Cheever’s sample Hemingway sentence “That year we lived in a house on a hill.” It wasn’t an actual Hemingway sentence, I don’t think – just Cheever’s way of exemplifying the Hemingway rhythm and cadence. The first half of Du Maurier’s sentence starts out that way, then unfolds into Manderley, giving it a certain mystery, just in the syllables.

      There is so much here! Another book I should read, I suppose. Especially since one of my heroes made a film out of it…


  4. My favorite first line is from a book I loved as a kid.

    “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.
    Of course, Tally thought, you’d have to feed your cat only salmon-flavored cat food for a while, to get the pinks right. The scudding clouds did look a bit fishy, rippled into scales by a high-altitude wind.”
    -“Uglies,” by Scott Westerfeld

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve hardly got the voice for recital, but here are the first few lines from my favorite book, Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. They encapsulate the novel’s most critical themes: a connection to the ancient world, and it’s subsequent undoing.

    “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested
    on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honour to his
    village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years
    was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the Cat because his back would
    never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men
    agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild
    for seven days and seven nights.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am ashamed for asking. 52 years old and I still have to check and make sure it had not been spirited away somehow! p.s. I like this contest because I’m seeing books I should be reading that I haven’t

        Liked by 2 people

  6. The Rice mother. From one of my favourite books jackie.
    It was on my uncle the mango trader’s knees i first heard of the amazing bird’s nest collectors.


    1. That’s pretty good. “My uncle the mango trader” is one of those tossed-off descriptions I love. It’s like the reader says, “wow, amazing bird’s nest collectors, that sounds great, can’t wait to hear more…wait, what!? Your uncle the mango trader!? Let’s hear some more about him too!”


    1. Another one I haven’t read! How did Martians get there and how did they get such English names? Maybe they are Earth explorers/colonizers like Matt Damon? I would definitely read the second sentence of this book to find out!


      1. Here’s another opening line from him:

        “We need you to kill a man.”

        Robert A Heinlein, “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls”

        As I said, a Grand Master of the opening line.


  7. I chose the first line of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I left is as a voice message, but here it is for anyone who may be interested.

    “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind; Paul Newman and a ride home.”

    Fun contest, thank!


  8. I looked into the green and brown flecks in her eyes and felt a warm glow spread through me.
    Another line from. The Rice Mother. by Rani Manicka


  9. You said you’ll give me one chance to defend myself, and if I tell you the truth, the whole truth, you’ll believe me that I didn’t want to kill myself. The whole thing is so absurd, that I will do it without hesitation. It all started with the Turqois Book, more precisely with the photograph.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. She will live-those were the first words my parents were told about me. Not-it’s a girl-but-she will live. I have come to think this is why I feel different, because I started it all wrong.


  11. I know that I’m coming to this too late, but I wanted to add one of my favorites — Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn”:

    “The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night.”

    Thank you for the opportunity to share!


  12. First line I thought of after reading the book:
    “We have a consideration, a responsibility to think and rethink, to evaluate and weigh and make honest and careful decisions. We have a responsibility to pursue the truth, and be the truth, yet we know we can never be perfect.”
    Book: A Moment of Silence III


  13. “It was a dark and stormy night.” (Snoopy) Okay, it’s not really from a book but rather from someone stuck writing a book. Like Snoopy, I was stuck for many years on what I wanted to write. As for a book: “Emily Elizabeth opened the newspaper.” I love it because I wrote it in the recently published Kindle Short, “The Not So Secret Life of Emily Elizabeth.”


    1. I like both of these! I think Snoopy borrowed that line from an actual novelist, which often appears on some “so bad they’re good” lists. “Emily Elizabeth opened the newspaper” is excellent – plain, simple, matter-of-fact, with a Mrs. Dalloway ring to it! Every word is in place: I would expect to be in good hands with the author of that sentence. 🙂


      1. Thanks, Jacke. I am thrilled to receive my first 5 star review and also thrilled that the other project I am working on is taking me to China. I’ll be going to the village where my father was born for more research. Yeah!


  14. Hi, Jacke, I am starting the next story and realized that I absolutely love the first line. They have guided me for 23 years. Oddly enough, they are the first words I heard from Lily, the first past life that I remembered. “What is there to feat of death, but rather fear not living.” It’s time to tell her story.


    1. Sounds good. The “it’s time to tell her story” would be good as a first line too. Maybe for an introduction of some kind, or a phrase on the cover… in any case, good luck! 🙂


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