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The Best Closing Lines From Books

A while ago Mark did a series of posts on the best opening lines in fiction. Around the same time there was this excellent piece in The Atlantic by Joe Fassler where he interviewed *coughcough* Stephen King *coughcough* about the art of writing opening lines, who then also gave a fairly extensive sample of his own favourites.

Considering that, and the fact that Mark covered science fictionfantasy and horroropening lines, I decided to turn to closing lines.

What makes a good closing line?

If done right, I think it can influence the entire reading of a book. Similar to a title, in how it establishes so much forethought and anticipation for a reader, speculating about what might come, a closing line can redefine so much of a reader’s impression. One or two in the list below completely overhauled my feelings about what I had just read.

In the article above, it mentions how a good opening line invites the reader in, says to them ‘you want to know about this.’ In conjunction, a great closing line can work magic on the reader, can propel the story from just words on a page to an experience that lives on beyond the covers of the book.

So, some of these are science fiction, some of them aren’t. Hopefully none give away anything about the plot, or detract from the joy of reading them for the first time. I’m not going to go for any of the obvious, time-honoured choices here though because, well, where’s the fun? We’ve all had our boats back against the current, loving Big Brother, and leading on into a heart of darkness. We know how they all end. Here are some others.


“I feel…what’s the word? Happy. I feel happy.

Shots outside. I’m going to look.”

– The Passage by Justin Cronin


“If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boy and his dog and his friends. And a summer that never ends. And if you want to imagine the future, imagine a boot… no, a sneaker, laces trailing, kicking a pebble; imagine a stick, to poke at interesting things, and throw for a dog that may or may not decide to retrieve it; imagine a tuneless whistle, pounding some luckless popular song into insensibility; imagine a figure, half angel, half devil, all human… slouching hopefully towards Tadfield… forever.”

 Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman


“Then the music takes us, the music rolls away the years, and we dance.”

– 11/22/63 by Stephen King


“‘And then what?’ said her daemon sleepily. ‘Build what?’

‘The republic of heaven,’ said Lyra.”

– His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman


“I never saw any of them again – except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say good-bye to them.”

– The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

9780340993781 “From long habit, Smiley had taken off his spectacles and was absently polishing them on the fat end of his tie, even though he had to delve for it among the folds of his tweed coat.

‘George, you won,’ said Guillam as they walked slowly towards the car.

‘Did I?’ said Smiley. ‘Yes. Yes, well I suppose I did.’”

– Smiley’s People by John LeCarre


“Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.”

– Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


“He sprung from the cabin window, as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.”

– Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


“It makes no difference whether I write or not. They will look for other meanings, even in my silence. That’s how They are. Blind to revelation. Malkhut is Malkhut, and that’s that.

But try telling Them. They of little faith.

So I might as well stay here, wait, and look at the hill.

It’s so beautiful.”

– Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco


“Why? and automatically answering, out of the blue, for no reason, just opening my mouth, words coming out, summarising for the idiots: ‘Well, though I know I should have done that instead of not doing it, I’m twenty-seven for Christ sakes and this is, uh, how life presents itself in a bar or in a club in New York, maybe anywhere, at the end of the century and how people, you know, me, behave, and this is what being Patrick means to me, I guess, so, well, yup, uh…’ and this is followed by a sigh, then a slight shrug and another sigh, and above one of the doors covered by red velvet drapes in Harry’s is a sign and on the sign in letters that match the drapes’ color are the words THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.”

– American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis


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