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Celebrity special: opening lines from books

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The Best 100 Opening Lines From Books remains stylist.co.uk’s most popular piece of content ever. In homage to that fact, we asked former Stylist contributors to share the opening lines that mean the most to them.

Click here for the reasons behind their choices

Exclusive illustration: Quentin Blake

  • No Woman, No Cry: My life With Bob Marley

    Chosen by: Vicky McClure

    “I was an ambitious girl child. I knew even then that I had to be, in that environment of thugs, thieves, killers, prostitutes, gamblers – you name it, you’d find it in Trench Town.”

    No Woman, No Cry: My life With Bob Marley, Rita Marley

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Brighton Rock

    Chosen by: Julie Burchill

    “Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.”

    Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • The Year Of Magical Thinking

    Chosen by: Miriam González Durántez

    “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity.”

    The Year Of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • I Capture The Castle

    Chosen by: Liz Jones

    “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

    I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • The Siren And Selected Writings

    Chosen by: Manolo Blahnik

    “With everyone, I think, memories of early childhood consist of a series of visual impressions, many very clear but lacking any sense of chronology.”

    The Siren And Selected Writings, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Still Life With Woodpecker

    Chosen by: Davina McCall

    “If this typewriter can’t do it, then f*** it, it can’t be done.”

    Still Life With Woodpecker, Tom Robbins

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales

    Chosen by: Miranda Hart

    “Once upon a time…”

    Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Many Lives, Many Masters

    Chosen by: Jennifer Aniston

    “The first time I saw Catherine she was wearing a vivid crimson dress and was nervously leafing through a magazine in my waiting room. She was visibly out of breath.”

    Many Lives, Many Masters, Dr Brian Weiss

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

    Chosen by: Dawn O'Porter

    “Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle: it didn’t matter what. She was in the white corner and that was that.”

    Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

    Chosen by: Leona Lewis

    “In case you hadn’t noticed, you have a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. Have you ever wondered why it talks in there? How does it decide what to say and when to say it?”

    The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael A Singer

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • A Tale Of Two Cities

    Chosen by: Clare Balding

    “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.”

    A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

  • Eureka Street

    Chosen by: Clémence Poésy

    “All stories are love stories.”

    Eureka Street, Robert McLiam Wilson

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • The Catcher in the Rye

    “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

    The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Rebecca

    "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

    Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Moby-Dick

    “Call me Ishmael.”

    Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun."

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • The Metamorphosis and Other Stories

    “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

    The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Franz Kafka

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

    “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 Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

    “It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. Its eyes were closed.”

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • The Time Travellers Wife

    “Clare: It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.”

    The Time Travellers Wife , Audrey Niffenegger

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • Wuthering Heights

    "1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.”

    Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

    "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis.

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • Vanity Fair

    "As the Manager of the Performance sits before the curtain on the boards, and, looks into the Fair, a feeling of profound melancholy comes over him in his survey of the bustling place."

    Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    "Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the riverbank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book', thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?"

    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Caroll

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • Little Women

    "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug."

    Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • Lolita

    "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins."

    Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

    "The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn."

    The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • Charlotte's Web

    "'Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."

    Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • A Clockwork Orange

    "'What’s it going to be then, eh?'"

    A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • Matilda

    "It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful."

    Matilda, Roald Dahl

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • Atonement

    “The play – for Which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper – was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.”

    Atonement, Ian McEwan

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • Where the Heart Is

    "Novalee Nation, seventeen, seven months pregnant, thirty-seven pounds overweight - and superstitious about sevens - shifted uncomfortably in the seat of the old Plymouth and ran her hands down the curve of her belly.”

    Where the Heart Is, Billie Letts

    Create and edit your own book list on Stylist here

  • American Psycho

    “ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE is scrawled in blood red lettering on the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street and just as Timothy Price notices the words a bus pulls up, the advertisement for Les Miserables on its side blocking his view, but Price who is with Pierce & Pierce and twenty-six doesn't seem to care because he tells the driver he will give him five dollars to turn up the radio, ‘Be My Baby’ on WYNN, and the driver, black, not American, does so.”

    American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • The War Of The Worlds

    “No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

    The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • This Side Of Paradise

    “Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.”

    This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

  • The Thief of Always

    “The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”

    The Thief of Always, Clive Barker

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • The Exorcist

    "Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men's eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all."

    The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty

    Click here to see our selection of the 50 best children’s books

  • The Grapes of Wrath

    "To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth."

    The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

    Discover our list of the top 50 movies ever made here

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