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First Lines from Non-Fiction Best Sellers


“First Lines from Non-Fiction Best Sellers” by Joan Y. Edwards

Wow! I did a bunch of research to help me put in my mind what the Non-Fiction Best Sellers Authors wrote for the first lines of the text and the first sentence of their pitch summary (as described in the Book Descriptions on Amazon.com). I thought it would impress upon myself and other writers the importance of that elevator pitch in selling a non-fiction book. Some of the books on Amazon didn’t let you look inside. I noted those cases for you. I only wrote the first sentence of the book description.
Some books had an introduction chapter. I didn’t know whether to count that as the first page, or the next chapter as the first page. In these cases, I put the first sentence for the introduction and the next chapter, too.

Some of these are children’s books; most are adult books. All of the books were listed on the New York Best Seller List for Non-Fiction or the Amazon list of Best Sellers for Non-Fiction.

I put the total number of words that were in the book description. I also put the number of words in the first sentence of the book description. If you would like to read the whole pitch, click on the link for the book. It’ll take you to Amazon. I make no money from these links. I put it for your convenience. Amazon, authors, and publishers will appreciate any purchases.

1. Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam Prep Seventh Edition: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam by Rita Mulcahy

First Sentence of text is unavailable on Amazon.

Book Description: 171 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 17 words
“Can you imagine valuing a book so much that you send the author a Thank You letter?”

 

2. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, Elaine Bruner

First Sentence of text is unavailable on Amazon.

Book Description: 237 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 12 words
“Is your child halfway through first grade and still unable to read?”

 

3. Separation of Church & State: What the Founders Meant by David Barton

First Sentence of text is unavailable on Amazon.

Book Description: 89 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 22 words
This new book is very timely for one of the most frequently debated issues in America: the separation of church and state.”

 

4. The Daily Five by Gail Boushey, Joan Moser

First Sentence of text, Chapter One, Introduction:
“The typical teacher has children doing a lot of  ‘stuff.’”

First Sentence of text, Chapter Two:
“What beliefs influence the decisions you make in your classroom?”

Book Description: 200 words

First Sentence of Book Description:
“Do you love teaching but feel exhausted from the energy you expend cajoling, disciplining, and directing students on a daily basis?”

5. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow

First Sentence of Text:
“Thomas Jefferson was a lifelong and habitual fretter.”

Book Description: 235 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 17 words
“‘One of my favorite ideas is, never to keep an unnecessary soldier,’ Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1792.”

6. Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov, Norman Atkins

First Sentence of Text, Introduction:
“Great teaching is an art.”

First Sentence of Text, Chapter One:
“One consistent finding of academic research is that high expectations are the most reliable driver of high student achievement, even in students who do not have a history of successful achievement.”

Book Description: 179 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 23 words
Teach Like a Champion offers effective teaching techniques to help teachers, especially those in their first few years, become champions in the classroom.

 

7. The CAFE Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literary Assessment and Instruction by Gail Boushey, Joan Moser

First Sentence, Chapter 1, Introduction:
“A confession: even though this is a research-based guide and system, we didn’t create it while we were in school.”

First Sentence, Chapter 2:
“We have tried as many different methods for keeping anecdotal notes as we have had shoes in our closets.”

Book Description: 267 words

First Sentence of Book Description:
“All readers of any age need instruction and support that helps them become more independent and self-reflective in their work.” – Gail Boushey and Joan Moser

8. Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion by David Barton

First Sentence of text is unavailable on Amazon.

Book Description: 67 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 21 words
“An essential resource for anyone interested in our nation’s religious heritage and the Founders’ intended role for the American judicial system.”

 

9. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Mealsby Michael Pollan

First Sentence of Text:
“Air-conditioned, odorless, illuminated by buzzing fluorescent tubes, the American market doesn’t present itself as having very much to do with Nature.”

Book Description: 99 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 33 words
“A national bestseller that has changed the way readers view the ecology of eating, this revolutionary book by award winner Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner?”

 

10. The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents–The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2) by F. A. Hayek, Bruce Caldwell

First Sentence of Text, Introduction:
“Contemporary events differ from history in that we do not know the results they will produce.”

Book Description: 319 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 30 words
“An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century.”

11. Heaven for Kids by Randy Alcorn and Linda Washington

First Sentence of Text:
“Is Heaven a real place?”

Book Description: 146 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 19 words
“In a language kids can understand, Randy Alcorn explores Biblical answers to the questions kids often have about heaven.”

12. The Boy’s Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU (Boys World Books) by Kelli Dunham and Steven Bjorkman

First Sentence of Text:
“It seems like it could be nature’s joke that just when boys’ sweat glands begin to work overtime, boys often develop what looks like an allergy to bathing.”

Book Description: 142 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 13 words
“As boys reach adolescence, everything changes: their bodies, their feelings, and their relationships.”

13. Heaven is for Realby Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

First Sentence of Text:
“The family trip when our nightmare began was supposed to be a celebration.”

Book Description: 177 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 15 words
“A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.”

14. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

First Sentence of Text:
“My brother is eight years older than I am.”

Book Description: 158 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 37 words
“Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher.”

15. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

First Sentence of Text:
“When people as—and seems like people always be akin to where I can’t never get away from it–I say, Yeah, that’s right, my mother names was Henrietta Lacks, she died in 1951, John Hopkins took her cells and them cells are still livin today, still multiplyin, still gorwin and spreadin if you don’t keep em frozen.”

Book Description: 436 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 11 words
“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa.”

16. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

First Sentence of Text:
“In the fall of 1993, a man who would upend much of what we know about habits walked into a laboratory in San Diego for a scheduled appointment.”

 Book Description: 412 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 7 words
“A young woman walks into a laboratory.”

17. Outliers:The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

First Sentence of Text:
“One warm spring day in May of 2007, the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Vancouver Giants met for the Memorial Cup hockey championships in Vancouver, British Columbia.”

Book Description: 125 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 30 words
“In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful.”

 

18. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

First Sentence of Text:
“Bob Dylan looks bored.”

Book Description: 247 words
“Did you know that the most creative companies have centralized bathrooms?”

19. Mrs. Kennedy and Meby Clint Hill

First Sentence of Text:
“It was with great trepidation that I approached 3307 N Street in Georgetown on November 11, 1960.”

Book Description: 337 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 10 words
“He called her Mrs. Kennedy. She called him Mr. Hill.”

20. The LEGO® Ideas Book by Daniel Lipkowitz

First Sentence of Text, Introduction:
“Building with LEGO® bricks is huge fun and endlessly creative.”

First Sentence of Text, Brick Tips:
“Every LEGO® builder has his or her own way of doing things, but here are some useful tips to get you started.”

Book Description: 166 words

First Sentence of Book Description:
You have what it takes! Did you ever wonder what you can do with all of those LEGO® bricks after you have created the project they came with?”

21. The Planets in Our Solar System by Franklyn M. Branley (Author), Kevin O’Malley (Illustrator)

First Sentence of Text:
“We all live on a planet.”

Book Description: 158 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 12 words
“You live on Earth, so you already know a lot about it.”

22. The Big Book of Girl Stuff by Bart King, illustrated by Jennifer Kalis

First Sentence of Text:
“Babysitting is Fantastic!”

Book Description: 152 words

First Sentence of Book Description: 27 words
“The Big Book of Girl Stuff shares everything a girl needs to know—from sleepovers to diaries to makeup to boys to shopping, and everything in between.”

I hope you enjoyed studying these first sentences. Perhaps they will lead you to create a great first sentence for the text of your non-fiction book or for a pitch that will intrigue readers from all over the world.

Please list your favorite non-fiction book and the first sentence of text and/or the first sentence of its pitch.

4RV Publishing will release Joan’s Elder Care Guide in June 2015. Hip Hip Hooray! It’s getting closer.

Celebrate your love of writing today!
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards


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8 Responses

  1. Wow, Joan, thanks for the great job organizing all this. I must say, based on these descriptions, I’d pass on many of these books. Some of them are really good. Loved the descriptions on the Boys’ Body Book (had to laugh at ‘aversion to bathing’ — we raised four boys), and “How Creativity Works.”

    Like

    • Dear Margaret, Thanks for commenting. You’re welcome. You’re right, it wasn’t the first line that got the interest of most of them. You have to remember I only took the first sentence. It’s just a slice from the book. But the first line of the description is supposed to be the hook, line, and sinker for the book. That’s the one you sell with. The meat is in the rest of the description or in the book.

      Dream! Love! Laugh! Never Give Up. Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  2. Joan,
    It impressed me that some books listed are written in a very formal voice while others speak in everyday language. No one way is the “right” way.

    Like

    • Dear Linda, Thanks for leaving a comment. It is impressive that some books listed are written in a very formal voice, while others talk in everyday language. That’s a good observation on your part.

      Dream! Love! Laugh! Never Give Up. Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  3. Hi Joan,
    This was fun to read. I read about the “Snowflake Method” of writing yesterday and the first step is to condense your idea into one sentence to get to the essence of your story. It was good practice because when someone asks me what my book’s about I usually stutter! So, I had a good time with that. Today, to read all these great one line descriptions, was the icing on the cake! Thanks!
    Carole

    Like

    • Dear Carol,
      Thanks for writing. Thanks, also for liking my Facebook Author page. It’s good to hear from you. I’m glad you believe the “Snowflake Method” will work well for you. Indeed it is good to get your pitch for your story into one sentence. That’s why I suggest to writers that they write their pitch before they write their story and revise it as their story evolves. One sentence telling the essence of your story in a nutshell is not always an easy thing to do. I believe studying those who are best sellers is a way to learn. I’m glad you enjoyed reading my blog post. I hope you’ll read others and leave your comments often.

      Dream! Love! Laugh!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  4. Hi Joan – Thank you for sharing so many different first sentence ‘hooks’ and I especially appreciated Clint Hill’s first text sentence, and first line of book description in ‘Mrs. Kennedy and Me’. This exercise is a great reminder of how much can be said in so few words to hook the reader’s attention. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. And Congratulations on a publishing date for your elder care book – so happy for you. Claire

    Like

    • Dear Claire, It’s good to hear from you. You’re welcome for my sharing so many different first sentence “hooks.” I’m glad you especially appreciated Clint Hill’s in Mrs. Kennedy and Me. It’s a very simple title. We know a lot about Mrs. Kennedy, it makes us want to know more about Clint Hill and his relationship with her. Thanks for being happy about the publishing date for “Joan’s Elder Care Guide.” It is exciting to note that a year of waiting has gone by. I add new things to my manuscript as I think of them. They’ll edit my final manuscript in January 2014 or sooner. Dream! Love! Laugh! Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

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