First and Last Lines


Philo Vance was drawn into the Scarab murder case by sheer coincidence, although there is little doubt that John F.-X. Markham—New York’s District Attorney—would sooner or later have enlisted his services.

He is still with Meryt-Amen and Salveter, and I’m inclined to think that his personal love for these two young people is stronger than his national prejudices.

S. S. Van Dine, The Scarab Murder Case

Jesus of Nazareth announced the good news that God was about to redeem the world.

At the end of the day, howsoever defined, “sin” suits its times.

Paula Fredriksen, Sin

She was in her late fifties, I guessed, a tall slender woman with gray hair and eyes the color of cobalt, wearing a pale blue smock stenciled above the breast pocket with the words calusa county jail.

“What’s taking you so long?” she said.

Ed McBain, Mary, Mary

Information, knowledge, and culture are central to human freedom and human development.

That alone is more than enough to justify an embrace of the networked information economy by anyone who values human welfare, development, and freedom.

Yochai Bekler, The Wealth of Networks

When average readers think about how vision works, whey think of it simply as a transparent process that allows us to receive information about the world transmitted through the medium of light.

So, returning to my encounter with the Rice University Student—let’s call her Susan—whom I introduced in the preface of this book, my concluding statement to her now, after almost 25 years of studied hindsight, would be as follows: “No, Susan, to see in the fullest sense of the word, it is not enough to open your eyes; you also must come with an open mind, and don’t forget to come with an open heart.”

Bruno Breitmeyer, Blindspots

How would you like a brief vacation in ideal surroundings—winter sports, pleasing company, and a veritable mansion in which to relax?

Walking out with a smile on his lips, Vance left the two together.

S. S. Van Dine, The Winter Murder Case

The ideal of a free, self-regulating market is newly triumphant.

Everything must not be for sale.

Robert Kuttner, Everything for Sale

Human exhibits on human evolution are a familiar sight.

In evolutionism we see the flip side of this, a scientific culture tempted by the interests of self-preservation to resist any meaningful conversation with the broader world of thought.

Thomas Lessl, Rhetorical Darwinism

There are two reasons why the terrible and, in many cases, incredible Garden murder case—which took place in the early spring following the spectacular Casino murder case—was so designated.

Only One, incidentally, finished a well-beaten second.

S. S. Van Dine, The Garden Murder Case

This is me when I was 10 years old.

It would have been better to just go.

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis

Two years ago, by a series of strange coincidences, I found myself attending a garden party at Westminster Abbey.

And the first step in that journey, in turn, is to accept that in the largest scheme of things, just as no one has the right to tell us our true value, no one has the right to tell us what we truly owe.

David Graeber, Debt, The First 5,000 Years

That sinister and terrifying crime, which came to be known as the dragon murder case, will always be associated in my mind with one of the hottest summers I have ever experienced in New York.

“Not the proper conditions—if you know what I mean, sir.”

S. S. Van Dine, The Dragon Murder Case

It is not true that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet.

And now I may say, Farewell.

Anthony Trollope, Orley Farm

To start with, look at all the books.

And Madeleine kept squinting, as though Mitchell was already far away, until finally, smiling gratefully, she answered, “Yes.”

Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

I have an Iranian friend who is too young to remember Mossadegh, but her parents were in public life and were close to him.

‘What stays is a good name or a bad name.’

Christopher de Bellaigue, Patriot of Persia

The first bullet hit Matthew Hope in the left shoulder.

“I just don’t know,” he said.

Ed McBain, There Was a Little Girl

His children are falling from the sky.

Here is one.

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

America feels broken.

Our task now is to recognize that that struggle is ours.

Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites

Officer Bernadette Manuelito had been having a busy day, enjoying most of it, and no longer feeling like the greenest rookie of the Navajo Tribal Police.

Toward Jim Chee.

Tony Hillerman, The Wailing Wind

While Polanyi’s description of the economic disorder caused by the self-regulating market still has great resonance, his prediction of that same market’s denouement seems precipitous, at least with the benefit of hindsight.

Ideas do this, and this is ultimately why they are important.

Mark Blyth, Great Transformations

The taxi’s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast.

Until it was nothing more than a gray paper moon, hanging in the sky.

Haruki Murakami, IQ84

Shadwell, a modest frame house built in a red-clay clearing, stood on the western fringes of settlement in the colony of Virginia.

He explained that “because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”

Noble Cunningham, In Pursuit of Reason

It is nothing if not difficult to know where to begin when you first sit down to trace the story of your life.

So let us begin.

Tim Wise, White Like Me

Through the doorway which led from her receptionist-secretary’s office into her own, Catherine Morris Perry instantly noticed the box on her desk.

“I will take this little fellow home myself,” she said.

Tony Hillerman, Talking God

The image of lost civilizations is compelling: cities buried by drifting sands or tangled jungle, ruin and desolation where once there were people and abundance.

If civilization collapses again, it will be from failure to take advantage of the current reprieve, a reprieve paradoxically both detrimental and essential to our anticipated future.

Joseph Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies

When he was young—seventeen and eighteen years old—Lyndon Johnson worked on a road gang that was building a highway (an unpaved highway: roads in isolated, impoverished Texas Hill Country weren’t paved in the 1920s) between Johnson City and Austin.

But he had done it long enough.

Robert Caro, The Passage of Power

The ancient Greeks imagined the common ancestor of all spiders as a human, a girl named Arachne.

As we find new fossils, conduct more field and lab experiments, and develop more genetic and proteomic knowledge, our longstanding fascination with spiders and their silks may lead us—biologists and nonbiologists alike—to see even more clearly how evolution works.

Leslie Brunetta and Catherine Craig, Spider Silk

Still wearing his cabby’s cap—he ought to put it in his act, this cap, because it looked so unlike what a magician would wear—Johnny was sitting at the gaming table palming cards.

Macalvie took off his coat.

Martha Grimes, The Lamorna Wink

Imagine you live in a town of twenty, or fifty, or one hundred thousand souls—in Indiana, perhaps, or Illinois, or Missouri, or Tennessee—with a colonnaded red-brick city hall at its center a Main Street running its breadth, avenues rimmed with modest bungalows and named for trees and exotic heroes and local luminaries, interrupted at intervals by high-steepled churches.

It was time to close the book.

Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm

Just because my hair is curly…No.

Always leave ’em laughing.

William Kennedy, Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes

David Slate reached across the tiny table in Bistro Bis and handed an envelope to the graying man with the stiff burr haircut.

“In that case, I’ll marry you, providing you help me push this trailer down into the river so we can build a real house here.”

Tony Hillerman, The Sinister Pig

The first time an Ashaninca man told me that he had learned the medicinal properties of plants by drinking a hallucinogenic brew, I thought he was joking.

All things considered, wisdom requires not only the investigation of many things, but contemplation of the mystery.

Jeremy Narby, The Cosmic Serpent

John Pierpont Morgan enjoyed an excellent Civil War.

“You will if you get in,” Ford muttered.

H. W. Brands, American Colossus

“Was there a world outside of America?” the muckraker Ray Stannard Baker tried to recollect his state of mind as an apprentice journalist in Chicago in the 1890s.

Having saved the world, it would not thereafter be easy to imagine that there was still much to learn from it

Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings

Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, retired, stopped his pickup about a hundred yards short of where he had intended to park, turned off the ignition, stared at Sergeant Jim Chee’s trailer home, and reconsidered his tactics.

“And she said, ‘Well, young man, it sure took you a long time to do it.’”

Tony Hillerman, The Shape Shifter

Most humans aren’t naturally monogamous.

Such are the rewards of opening to the realities of our animal nature, and then taking sex to a superhuman level—above the animal, and into the ethereal.

Marianne Brandon, Monogamy

The goblin experience of the world is the cult or perhaps religion of Unggue.

The title of the book was Pride and Extreme Prejudice.

Terry Prachett, Snuff

“Organized labor.”

Which side are you on?

Thomas Geoghegan, Which Side Are You On?

At first, Officer Jim Chee had felt foolish sitting on the roof of the house of some total stranger.

“I need you.”

Tony Hillerman, Sacred Clowns

On roughly the same day every November during the 1960s and 1970s, our neighbor from across the street, Mrs. Zipse, put up her Christmas lights.

There’s too much to do, too many flags to be flown—and since I’m writing this in August, I have to start thinking about this year’s Christmas light display.

Ronald Bishop, More

May 1, 1958, was a fairly quite day in the world.

Peace was not given to him; he won it.

Jim Newton, Eisenhower

The starting point of this book is human blood: the scientific, social, economic and ethical issues involved in its procurement, processing, distribution, use and benefit in Britain, the United States, the U.S.S.R., South Africa and other countries.

Freedom from disability is inseparable from altruism.

Richard Titmuss, The Gift Relationship

Deputy Sheriff Teddy Bai had been leaning on the doorframe looking out at the night about three minutes or so before he became aware that Cap Stoner was watching him.

And he meant it.

Tony Hillerman, Hunting Badger

Raylan Givens was holding a federal warrant to serve on a man in the marijuana trade known as Angel Arenas, forty-seven, born in the U.S. but 100 percent of him Hispanic.

“I don’t know,” Jackie said.

Elmore Leonard, Raylan

Politicians, journalists, laid-off workers, and curious onlookers milled about Washington, D.C.’s Russell Senate Office Building.

That much was clear from the Enron story, even through the dense thicket of Raptors and LJMs.

Loren Fox, Enron: The Rise and Fall

The body of Anderson Nez lay under a sheet on the gurney, waiting.

He’d know more about that tomorrow when the pain began.

Tony Hillerman, The First Eagle

The first few months and years of teaching are all-important.

Not a bad audience indeed!

Wilbert McKeachie and Marilla Svinicki, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips

This book is composed of a series of episodes strung out over two and a quarter centuries.

We may wish to place a value on the well-ordered house, but we must not fail to understand its role in the dynamics of appropriation.

David Sabean, Power in the Blood

In retrospect, a single day often comes to demarcate the transition between eras.

That requires once again seeing the American project for what it has been: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth and immeasurably precious.

Charles Murray, Coming Apart

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

He never saw Molly again.

William Gibson, Neuromancer

Capital theory is renowned for the controversies with which it is associated.

Therefore, if, in this book I have succeeded in setting out some of the issues in a simple and straightforward manner and in restoring, at least a little, senses of proportion, balance and good humour, the book will have achieved all that could have been hoped of it — and more.

G. C. Harcourt, Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital

The little whale first appeared off the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York City.

In vain do they flee before him; his art will transport him to the ends of the earth; they will find no sanctuary except in nothingness.

Richard Ellis, The Great Sperm Whale

The nineteenth century saw in primitive religions two peculiarities which separated them as a block from the great religions of the world.

Therefore we find corruption enshrined in sacred places and times.

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger

This is a book about a handful of men with a curious claim to fame.

We will need that organizing intelligence if we are to understand—and, we hope, to master—the rush of history in our own day.

Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers

Richard Rosenblatt’s heart was pounding with nervous anticipation as he climbed a private staircase on the Fox Studios lot in Los Angeles.

It looks like the future wants to have its own channel.

Julia Angwin, Stealing MySpace

I was invited once to give a lecture to a large audience; the program was to begin at 8:00 in the evening.

For that reason, this is not a classification of binary-choice situations, which may differ as importantly in those other characteristics as in their playoffs, but refers only to the shapes of the binary-choice outcome curves.

Thomas Schelling, Micromotives and Macrobehavior

“All that is solid melts into air, and that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face, with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind,” wrote Marx and Engles in The Communist Manifesto in 1848.

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen sometimes.

Emanuel Derman, Models. Behaving. Badly.

In the nearly twenty years following his resignation from the presidency in 1974, Richard Nixon struggled to reestablish himself as a well-regarded public figure.

But it also stands as a cautionary tail that the country forgets at its peril.

Robert Dellak, Nixon and Kissinger

From where Bill Buchanan sat with his back resting against the rough breccia, he could see the side of Whiteside’s head, about three feet away.

He was loading Maryboy heifers into his camper.

Tony Hillerman, The Fallen Man

On 12 June 2005, a fifty-year old man stood up in front of a crowd of students at Stanford University and spoke of his campus days at a ‘lesser institution’—Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

That font is yet to come

Simon Garfield, Just My Type

Officer Jim Chee was thinking that either his right front tire was a little low or there was something wrong with the shock on that side.

“Would you like to go along?”

Tony Hillerman, Coyote Waits

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This page last modified on 2013 January 1.