Top Ten Favorite Beginnings/Endings In Books

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly feature of The Broke and the Bookish. A full list of instructions and future themes can be found here. This week’s theme is Top Ten Best Beginnings and Endings. I’ve done half and half, with an honourable mention for each.


1. The Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao.” One of the best, most memorable opening lines of all time.

2.  Fragments of Isabella, by the late Isabella Leitner, née Katz. “Yesterday, what happened yesterday?”

3.  Dancing on the Bridge of Avignon, by the late Ida Vos. “Rosa de Jong dreams during the daytime.” Though her books would be classified MG in today’s market, I’ve always loved her writing. It appeals to both adults and people of the intended age bracket, for different reasons. Her books are also among the most unforgettable I’ve ever read, able to recall so many details years later.

4.  Volume II of The GULAG Archipelago, “Rosy-fingered Eos, mentioned so often in Homer and called Aurora by the Romans, caressed, too, with those fingers the first early morning of the Archipelago.”

5.  The Divine Comedy!

Midway life’s journey I was made aware
That I had strayed into a dark forest,
And the right path appeared not anywhere.
Ah, tongue cannot describe how it oppressed,
This wood, so harsh, dismal, and wild, that fear
At thought of it strikes now into my breast.
So bitter it is, death is scarce bitterer.
But, for the good it was my hap to find,
I speak of the other things that I saw there.
I cannot remember well in my mind
How I came thither, so was I immersed
In sleep, when the true way I left behind.

Honorable Mention:

The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio. “To have compassion for those who suffer is a human quality which everyone should possess, especially those who have required comfort themselves in the past and have managed to find it in others.”


1.  Steppenwolf, “Pablo would be waiting for me, and Mozart too.” Hermann Hesse was a master at great opening and closing lines, but this one is my favorite. Steppenwolf is the book that most changed my life.

2.  The Painted Bird, by Jerzy Kosinski. Anyone who reads this book will never forget it. I read it over a decade ago, and still vividly remember so much of it in raw detail. I won’t give away the ending, since that would mean giving away the pivotal midway point of the book as well. Unlike a certain other writer, I don’t believe in giving away a book’s ending or pivotal plot points while smirking about it and patting myself on the back for being so clever (coughthebookthiefcough).

3.  Cancer Ward, by my late favorite writer Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. “Just like that…” Just seeing or hearing that line, in any context, has given me chills and made me think of the book ever since.

4.  Fragments of Isabella again. When Fragments was combined with the sequel Saving the Fragments and had some new material added to create Isabella:  From Auschwitz to Freedom, several very emotional lines and passages were inexplicably left out or altered. The last line of the original first volume was among those on the chopping block. “Mama, I make this vow to you:  I will teach my sons to love life, respect man, and hate only one thing—WAR.”

5.  The Divine Comedy again!

To the high force imagination now failed;
But like to a wheel whose circling nothing jars
Already on my desire and will prevailed
The Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.

Honorable Mention:

November 1916, the second door-stopper in Aleksandr Isayevich’s Red Wheel cycle, four novels showing the unfolding of Russian history during WWI and the Revolution, August 1914-April 1917. This particular book ends with a young lady, Zina, going to Confession during a very dark time. The priest reassures her that there’s nothing wrong with how she loved her bastard son or his father, since:

“….You can rarely decide for another that he or she should not do this or that. How can anyone forbid you to love when Christ said that there is nothing higher than love? And he made no exceptions, for love of any kind whatsoever.”


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