10 sci-fi novel opening lines that’ll take your breath away

The opening sentence of a science fiction novel, perhaps more than any other genre, has a lot of work to do. Like all good fiction, it needs to hook you, jolt you into the story and establish the tone. Yet it also needs to get you interested in a whole new alternative world, a place where you’ll live for the duration of the book. It’s a big ask. Nonetheless, there are some masterly examples of opening lines that do that and more. Here are ten that, quite literally, take our breath away.

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10 iconic authors inspired by an animal muse

Literary history is jam packed with women whose charisma has helped fire up writers’ creative urges. Think Zelda Fitzgerald, Louise Joyce and Vivienne Eliot. But not all these magical muses have been women. In fact, many have not even been human. For a broad spectrum of fantastic writers this role has been filled by a furry or even feathered friend. Here’s ten iconic authors whose animals were more than just pets, they were an essential part of their creative process.

Edgar Allan Poe was obsessed with his cat, a large tabby named Catterina, which often “chose a commanding spot to roost, right on his shoulder” while he was writing. Poe considered his darling feline friend his literary guardian who “purred as if in complacent approval of the world proceeding under her supervision.”

Charles Dickens had a beloved pet raven named Grip, who made frequent cameos in the writer’s fiction. In 1841, a few months after swallowing a paint chip, Grip sadly died. Dickens had him stuffed and literary historians believe the bird inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven”.

Despite his manly bravado, Ernest Hemingway also had a soft spot for felines. When he lived in Key West in the 1930s, he lived amongst dozens of polydactyl cats. In Cuba, he played host to over sixty cats on his estate. But it was a black and white kitty called Boise, which he held in highest esteem. So much so, that it appears as a character in Islands in the Stream.

Raymond Chandler’s animal muse was a black Persian cat named Taki. Surprisingly, he also considered Taki to be a useful critic, writing that Taki would spend time “just quietly gazing out of the window from a corner of the desk as if to say, ‘The stuff you’re doing is a waste of time, bud.’”

Ever since reading Henry James’s The Princess Casamassima, Alice B. Toklas, the love of Gertrude Stein’s life, had wanted a white poodle. Eventually her dream came true when the couple got one and named him Basket. Basket was succeeded by Basket I and Basket II, both dogs were later photographed by Man Ray and Cecil Beaton.

Mark Twain once said, “If a man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve the man but deteriorate the cat.” Twain often combined his two loves, cats and pocket billiards, by tucking a pet kitten into a corner pocket while playing. The antics of the cat, as it pawed at passing balls, amused and relaxed Twain, helping him to write later in the day.

William S. Burroughs was a tremendous cat-lover – so much so that he cracked his coarse and often icy literary persona to reveal a gentler, warmer side in The Cat Inside. He adored his “psychic companions,” Fletch, Ruski, Spooner, and Calico.

Flannery O’Connor’s affection for chickens came from a childhood surrounded by poultry. In adulthood, she had a collection of pheasants, ducks, turkeys, and quail. Most famously, however, twenty-something O’Connor mail-ordered six peacocks, a peahen, and four peachicks, which later populated her fiction.

Sir Walter Scott was more a gentleman of his age and a keen horse rider. So keen, in fact, that he composed his poem Marmion while on horseback. Of his writing process, he said, “Oh, man, I had many a grand gallop among these braes when I was thinking of ‘Marmion.’”

French novelist Colette’s bulldog, Souci, helped his mistress’s writing by providing her something to focus on, his fleas. Colette would study his fur with a discerning eye. Then she’d pluck a flea from Souci’s back, continuing the hunt until she was ready to write again.

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The 6 books that turned Roald Dahl into an insatiable reader

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This day, ninety-seven years ago, the legendary author Roald Dahl was born to Norwegian parents in Wales. He went on to become one of the world’s best selling authors. Famed for darkly humorous children’s classics like James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches, he first started writing during the Forties when he was a fighter pilot in North Africa.

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5 reasons why you should read The Great Gatsby

It’s a Jazz Age classic and now a super-long Baz Luhrmann movie, but, more importantly, The Great Gatsby is also a towering behemoth in the American literary canon. This is a book that packs a seriously heavyweight punch. But, lest you be frightened, it’s also eminently readable: Gatsby is a love-story, a mystery, a rags-to-riches account of success and its unhappy fallout, and a snapshot of NYC life before the Depression kicked in. Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Nick Carraway, and Jay himself are the larger-than-life cast in a cautionary tale about money, corruption, desire and deception that’s just as relevant now as it was in 1925. Need another nudge to crack the spine? Here’s five to help you on your way….

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16 reasons why history’s greatest writers loved books

Stephen King has called books “a uniquely portable magic.” It’s probably one reason that Americans still buy approximately five million books a day and that 125 new ones are published in the US every twenty-four hours. In fact, Google estimates that as of August 2010, there were 129,864,880 books in existence. This love affair with the written word has a long and passionate history and, unsurprisingly, its most ardent supporters have often been writers. Here’s why in their own words.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” — Henry David Thoreau

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” — Victor Hugo

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book.” — Marcel Proust

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” — Mark Twain

“Knowing you have something good to read before bed is among the most pleasurable of sensations.” — Vladimir Nabokov

“We read to know that we are not alone.” — C.S. Lewis

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.” — Virginia Woolf

“The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.” — Gustave Flaubert

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” – Franz Kafka

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”  – Ernest Hemingway

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’ Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” — L.M. Montgomery

“I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can’t really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, ‘If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we’ll talk.’ All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”  – Ray Bradbury

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges

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Hemingway on writing: 7 quotes all book lovers should read

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Ernest Hemingway once said “All American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” While many have challenged Ernest’s view, there’s no denying that over a career spanning more than three decades, Papa became a master of his craft.

In his lifetime, he  published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works. His last major work of fiction, The Old Man and the Sea won him the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to the awarding of him the Nobel Prize in Literature a year later. Simply put, if you love books and writing, you should listen to his words of wisdom carefully. Here’s seven of his quotes we find most inspirational.

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5 ways Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club will change how you look at the world

The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club – but where would be the fun in that? Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel – which began its publication career as a short story of the same name in the 1995 anthology, Pursuit of Happiness – has spawned not only David Fincher’s iconic movie, but a whole cult following for Palahniuk and his underground boxing creations.

Tyler Durden, Marla Singer, the Mischief Committee and Project Mayhem – they’ve all entered the hipster vernacular. I am Jack’s Complete Lack of Surprise, as the nameless narrator might say: after all, both book and film are modern classics. If you haven’t already read the book, though, you’re in for a treat, and here’s five teasers to get you motivated.
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5 literary movements that shook the world

It’s not just wars and prime ministers that can change the world. The literary world may seem quiet and remote, sometimes, boxed away in libraries, its practitioners muttering to themselves in tiny box rooms-slash-studies and corners of the public library, but words have power, and their cumulative effect can rattle the world—culturally, politically and philosophically. What literary movements, then, have changed the very way we think? Here’s five to start with:

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5 atheist authors who changed history

Writers: rebels, iconoclasts, spit-in-the-face-of-authority naysayers, the lot of ’em! Well, that’s something of an exaggeration. But many of the world’s most famous authors have been deep and critical thinkers, unafraid to question their society’s staple beliefs, and one of those staple beliefs has often been religion. In their works, the writers we’ve selected below have chipped away at, battered and even blown up the edifice of religion to such an extent that their books have had a huge impact on our cultural and political history. Introducing…

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