The opening line of a book needs to catch a reader's attention. It's vital. The author wants you to feel compelled to read on, interested in what happens next and even surprised.
But we love it when writers choose to make that crucially important opening line funny – and what a feat when they have only a few words to play with. In fact, you have to be something of a literary great to get it right.
There aren't many genuinely funny opening lines, but we've done the hard work for you, selecting 32 of the most humorous, bizarre and mirth-filled opening lines of books from literary history. Not only do we hope that these lines will brighten up your day, they might compel you to pick up some of these literary masterpieces, too.
The funniest lines in books
1. The Restaurant At The End Of The UniverseBuy now from Amazon
Author: Douglas Adams
"In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
2. The Crow RoadBuy now from Amazon
Author: Iain Banks
"It was the day my grandmother exploded."
3. Breaking UpBuy now from Amazon
Author: WH Manville
"I don’t know how other men feel about their wives walking out on them, but I helped mine pack."
4. The Lost ContinentBuy now from Amazon
Author: Bill Bryson
"I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to."
5. The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The SoulBuy now from Amazon
Author: Douglas Adams
"It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.'"
6. The Princess BrideBuy now from Amazon
Author: William Goldman
“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.”
7. Seven UpBuy now from Amazon
Author: Janet Evanovich
"For the better part of my childhood, my professional aspirations were simple–I wanted to be an intergalactic princess."
8. Machine ManBuy now from Amazon
Author: Max Barry
“As a boy, I wanted to be a train.”
9. MatildaBuy now from Amazon
Author: Roald Dahl
"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."
10. Sideways Stories From Wayside SchoolBuy now from Amazon
Author: Louis Sachar
"We’re going to tell you about three of the children in Mrs. Jewls’s class, on the thirtieth story of Wayside School. But before we get to them, there is something you ought to know. Wayside School was accidentally built sideways. It was supposed to be only one story high, with thirty classrooms all in a row. Instead, it is thirty stories high, with one classroom on each story. The builder said he was very sorry."
11. ChokeBuy now from Amazon
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
"If you're going to read this, don't bother."
12. Into Your Tent I'll CreepBuy now from Amazon
Author: Peter De Vries
“It wasn’t until I had become engaged to Miss Piano that I began avoiding her.”
13. The Day Of The TriffidsBuy now from Amazon
Author: John Wyndham
"When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere."
14. The Fifth ElephantBuy now from Amazon
Author: Terry Pratchett
"They say the world is flat and supported on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle."
15. A River Runs Through ItBuy now from Amazon
Author: Norman Maclean
"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing."
16. Patient ZeroBuy now from Amazon
Author: Jonathan Maberry
"When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world. And there’s nothing wrong with my skills."
17. Thank You For SmokingBuy now from Amazon
Author: Christopher Buckley
"Nick Naylor had been called many things since becoming the chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, but until now no one had actually compared him to Satan."
18. Clown GirlBuy now from Amazon
Author: Monica Drake
”Balloon Tying For Christ was the cheapest balloon manual I could find."
19. WaitingBuy now from Amazon
Author: Ha Jin
"Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu."
20. I Capture The CastleBuy now from Amazon
Author: Dodie Smith
"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."
21. Sacred GamesBuy now from Amazon
Author: Vikram Chandra
“A white Pomeranian named Fluffy flew out of the a fifth-floor window in Panna, which was a grand-new building with the painter’s scaffolding still around it. Fluffy screamed.”
22. Captain Stormfield’s Visit to HeavenBuy now from Amazon
Author: Mark Twain
“After I’d been dead about thirty years, I begun to get a little anxious.”
23. Pride & Prejudice & ZombiesBuy now from Amazon
Author: Seth Grahame-Smith
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
24. Charlotte's WebBuy now from Amazon
Author: E.B. White
"'Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."
25. MiddlesexBuy now from Amazon
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."
26. Wild WoodBuy now from Amazon
Author: Colin Meloy
“How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.”
27. Still Life With WoodpeckerBuy now from Amazon
Author: Tom Robbins
“If this typewriter can’t do it, then f*** it, it can’t be done.
28. I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About AlanBuy now from Amazon
Author: Alan Partridge
"When I was 8 years old, I suffered a nosebleed so profuse and generous I bolted from the schoolyard and sought solace in the first class countryside of Norfolk."
29. The Metamorphosis And Other StoriesBuy now from Amazon
Author: Franz Kafka
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."
30. The Princess DiariesBuy now from Amazon
Author: Meg Cabot
"Sometimes it seems like all I ever do is lie."
31. The Westing GameBuy now from Amazon
Author: Ellen Raskin
"The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east. Strange!"
32. An Abundance Of KatherinesBuy now from Amazon
Author: John Green
"The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the 19th time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath. Colin had always preferred baths."
33. Wake In FrightBuy now from Amazon
Author: Kenneth Cook
"He sat at his desk, wearily watching the children file out of the room, reflecting that, this term at least, it was reasonable to assume that none of the girls was pregnant."
- Enjoyed these opening lines? Read our guide to literature's greatest opening paragraphs.