"I am Ishmael" from the book "Moby Dick" has always been considered just about the best first line ever. However, if I was to pick up a book that started something like "I am Brian ... " or Bob, or Shirley, I don't think I would consider it a marvellous beginning.
The bible of course has "In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth", a line that even today would be considered a great opening in any science fiction novel.
About forty years ago I came across the best beginning ever.. It was from the book "Lady Sings the Blues", the biography of blues singer, Billie Holliday: "Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three." But it just doesn't seem to have an impact nowadays when illegitimacy and under-age mothers barely rate an eyebrow raise.
However, I have a new Great Beginning. It's from the book "Vampyres of Hollywood" by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott. It reads:
"It took an x-ray and an autopsy to confirm that Jason Eddings had been killed with the Oscar he'd won for Best Actor just six hours earlier."
What a first line! Short, to the point. A murder for mystery buffs... an Oscar for entertainment fans ... an x-ray and autopsy for medical officianados. And the title of the book betrays the fact it's about vampyres. (yes, the classy 'vampyres', not the over-used pedestrian 'vampires'). Nothing else is needed in my opinion. I took the first line to the writers' group that I belong to, and we marvelled over it for hours.
Now, as my four readers know, I will be holidaying in America later this year. By sheer amazing coincidence I note that Vampyres of Hollywood co-writer and ex-'Maude' actress Adrienne Barbeau will be selling her books exactly where I'm going to be. I will try to stalk-er-sorry-talk to her.
Here's the cover of the book "Vampyres of Hollywood" Don't bother to click on the words "Click to look inside" - though I know you will, it will be like trying not to finger a 'wet paint' notice, yes? - because it only works when you're on an Amazon website, sorry.