It is a truth universally acknowledged—to steal a line—that good writers are well-read. Fellow writers (and readers) see if you are able to match the first lines with their titles and authors. The first lines are numbered; the authors are lettered; and the answer key is at the bottom. In the interest of full disclosure, some of the selections were inspired by the famous question on the quiz show You Bet Your Life: “Who was buried in Grant’s tomb?” It was hosted by Groucho Marx who also said,
Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.
- “Where’s Papa going with that axe” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
- You better not never tell nobody but God.
- Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
- A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
- It was a pleasure to burn.
- He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
- Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.
- Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
- You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.
- I am an invisible man.
- It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
- Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
- Call me Ishmael.
- It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
- Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
- In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
- I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.
- Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
- The pretty little Swiss town of Mayenfield lies at the foot of a mountain range, whose grim rigged peaks tower high above the valley below.
- If you are interested in stories with happy endings you would be better off reading some other book.
A) E.B.White, Charlotte’s Web. B) JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. C) George Orwell, 1984 D) Graham Greene, The End of the Affair. E) Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 F) Nabokov, Lolita G) Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea. H) Lemony Snickett, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I) Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote. J) Charles Dickens, David Copperfield. K) Alice Walker, The Color Purple. L) Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. M) Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. N) Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man. O) JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit. P) Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway. Q) Herman Melville, Moby-Dick. R) Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game. S) Johanna Spyri, Heidi T) Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca (Bonus question: Who played Rebecca in the movie of the same name?)
1-A; 2-K; 3-B; 4-D; 5-E; 6-G; 7-I; 8-J; 9-L; 10-N; 11-C; 12-F; 13-Q; 14-M; 15-T; 16-O; 17-R; 18-P; 19-S; 20-H. (No one. She was dead before the movie began.)