First Month, First Line

Can you identify these well-known books by their openings?

First Month, First Line

New year, new reading list — but what about the books you’ve enjoyed in the past? Let’s start 2018 with a literary brain-teaser: For each book listed here, see if you can identify its opening line. (And don’t peek at the answers until you’re absolutely desperate!)


TITLE AND AUTHOR                                                                                

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston                        
  2. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan                                      
  3. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin                                  
  4. The Long Good-Bye by Raymond Chandler                                          
  5. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler                                                 
  6. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt                                                         
  7. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov                                                                       
  8. The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson                                            
  9. The Sellout by Paul Beatty                                                                     
  10. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor                                                                          
  11. The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster                                                       
  12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury                                                            
  13. American Gods by Neil Gaiman                                                              
  14. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett                                                                      
  15. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis                                                     
  16. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro                                            
  17. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls                                      
  18. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett                                                     
  19. The Color Purple by Alice Walker                                                            
  20. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells                                                             
  21. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison                                                                


  1. I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.
  2. I looked at my notes and I didn’t like them.
  3. I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.
  4. Shadow had done three years in prison.
  5. The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving show, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand.
  6. Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee.
  7. All that you touch
    You change.
  8. It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.
  9. This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything.
  10. It was a pleasure to burn.
  11. It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days.
  12. Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
  13. I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.
  14. The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers.
  15. I am an invisible man.
  16. My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born.
  17. It’s years beyond the worst of it, and it’s your time, Mom, a time of head starts and new starts and starting and going and not stopping — of re-dos and fixes, of gazing at full moons and quarter-moons and seeing what before were phantasms forreals.
  18. When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.
  19. The small boys came early to the hanging.
  20. I powered up the transporter and said a silent prayer.
  21. You better not never tell nobody but God.


1-L; 2-H; 3-C; 4-N; 5-G; 6-P; 7-B; 8-Q; 9-I; 10-T; 11-F; 12-J; 13-D; 14-R; 15-M; 16-K; 17-A; 18-S; 19-U; 20-E; 21-O

Tara Campbell can’t believe it’s already 2018, which means she’s halfway through her MFA at American University, and her collection, Circe’s Bicycle, is due out this spring. If you can’t believe it, either, you can do further research at

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