Books, First Lines, & An Ever-growing TBR

We have all heard about judging a book by its cover, and while that is largely contentious, judging a book by its first line might cause an uproar. I understand the rationale behind giving every book a chance, and I support it—believe it or not—but, oftentimes, the first line & chapter determines the whole reading experience.

Were you drawn in immediately? Investigate your feelings and it’s probably got something to do with the first chapter. Did you already know that you were going to DNF it? Might have something to do with the hook.

For a notorious DNF-er like me, I only need to get to the 25% mark before deciding that a book isn’t working, and, needless to say, the first chapters are a huge contributors to any decision to DNF a book.

This post is inspired by a fellow blogger, Kristin, who made a whole TBR based on the first line alone. I was rightly impressed, sought permission, and here I am: digging through the ol’ TBR for content to replicate her post.

In order to remain as unbiased as possible, I didn’t look up the blurbs/synopsis of the any of the books mentioned in this post. I decided that the only way to remain as neutral and as honest as possible was to judge them only on the merit of their first lines.


The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim
The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim

Nobody can dispute that Korean Kimchi is art, and if you’re a Kdrama fiend like me, then you probably know all about the dramatic pause. This sounds like a fun ride. The writing seems easy + conversational and I can’t wait to finally read it! 


The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani
The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

This sounds so good! I’m thinking about blood diamonds and crime syndicates already. Who is at the mountain and how do these seemingly priceless rubies play into the central idea of the book? I already know that this is one book I will read!


The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward
The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward

The narrator sounds jaded and sarcastic, and I already love that. The writing style is also conversational, which is something I always appreciate in fiction. That said, I’m glad I stumbled upon this title while gathering material for this post because it just got bumped up my very very very long TBR.


Patience Is A Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji

Patience Is A Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji
Patience Is A Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji

As I mentioned in the intro to this post, I deliberately restricted myself from reading the blurb/synopsis of the books I picked, in order to maintain an unbiased opinion of the first sentence.

That said, I’m super pumped to read this because the author is African—Nigerian, to be precise—and I cannot explain the enormous guilt I carry around because I haven’t made even a tiny dent in my African literature TBR stack.

I am already sensing some family issues, so maybe an inheritance scuffle, and I know it’s going to be deliciously chaotic.


Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Kaikeyi is a title that has been gaining a lot of traction and I have seen floating around my Twitter timeline since its publication date. From the first lines, I already know that its storyline is going to be intriguing and with a dauntless protagonist.


Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez

Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez
Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez

While I don’t necessarily gravitate towards thrillers, this sounds positively intriguing. What are the family dynamics? Why does the narrator sound wary but, in a way, unable to move away from the source of their wariness?


Our Little World by Karen Winn

Our Little World by Karen Winn
Our Little World by Karen Winn

This sounds spooky, gothic, and like a thriller that I’ll eventually regret not reading. I’m sensing some supernatural or otherworldly plot/subplot, and I’m eager to see how this plays out. The narrator sounds rightly petrified and the mild alarm in their voice sends shivers down my spine.


Everything Must Go by Camille Pagán

Everything Must Go by Camille Pagán
Everything Must Go by Camille Pagán

I feel this first line properly sets the stage for an upbeat romcom, where the narrator leaves a relationship and learns different parts of herself. She might meet someone that challenges her to break out of her shell and grab everything she wants with both hands. In other words, it’s exactly my type of book.


The School For German Brides by Aimie K. Runyan

The School For German Brides by Aimie K. Runyan
The School For German Brides by Aimie K. Runyan

I never knew that choosing to create a TBR based on their first sentence would lead to a trove of treasure, but that’s what I found. I’m utterly captivated by this excerpt, and I already know that it’s going to be an insightful read.


The Patron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon

For one, this book has an older protagonist, which is something we don’t see too often. In other books, we usually get scattered mentions or sporadic scene-time for the older characters, and it’s somewhat rare to see an older character having their own book.

Needless to say, I’m already amped about the opportunity to read this book! The protagonist’s tone is almost sardonic with a teeny weeny tinge of reluctant humour and I’m sure that I will enjoy it!


What did you think? There’s an awesome article from Penguin—the publishers, not an actual penguin—where they listed some of the very best first lines in fiction. The list features amazing works like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Colour Purple by Alice Walker, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and others.

The first lines are propulsive with some leaning towards a jocular tone, and others parsing together the plot of the book in a few words. Their overarching influence over the reader’s experience cannot be over-emphasized.

What books have you picked up or DNFed because of the first lines or chapters?

About the Author

Preye

My name is Preye and I am a time-travelling 15th-century scholar moonlighting as a law student. I'm just kidding—obviously. When I'm neither making boring dad-jokes nor reading, I'm probably watching Korean dramas, and daydreaming. I read across the genres, and, as far as I'm concerned, the only activity marginally better than reading is talking about books.

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