books that start with a bang!
July 4, 2012 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Looking for (clean) books that grab you from the first page.

I'm an impatient reader and hate to slog through slow starting books to finally get to the good stuff that starts half-way through. I never make it that far. I want the good stuff from the beginning!

Louis L'amour is good at this. But I don't care what genre--western, fantasy (my favorite), suspense, non-fiction, children's books, young adult, classics, memoir, thrillers, drama--anything. My only criteria is that it is clean (my definition of clean is no graphic sex or gore and no strong language)
posted by luvmywife to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Anything by Donald E Westlake. Start with The Hook or Smoke or any of his Dortmunder books. He did good short stories, too.
posted by tilde at 7:50 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:24 AM on July 4, 2012

Watership Downs
posted by notned at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Johnny Tremain
posted by notned at 9:44 AM on July 4, 2012

Herman Wouk and Ken Follett are both fairly quick to start up and not terribly racy, as I recall.
posted by BibiRose at 9:49 AM on July 4, 2012

Teresa Edgerton/Madeline Howard are good for clean fantasy.
posted by spunweb at 10:22 AM on July 4, 2012

Philip Pullman - His Dark Materials. Bonus - it's a trilogy!
posted by ZipRibbons at 10:47 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you like suspense with female heroines, check out Lisa Scottoline. Her books are fast paced and get going quick. But get a few at once -- i can easily zoom through one in a weekend. Her heroines are all somehow involved in the legal world, but the central conflict of the book rarely is the actual legal case.

Another excellent novel I read recently is Room by Emma Donoghue. There's no rough language or explicit sex, but it deals with a very adult situation -- it's about a young woman who was abducted and has been living in a single room with her young son, locked in by her captor. The starting point -- that they are captives -- is unpleasant, of course, but the story is told from the voice of her young son, for whom this is the only "normal" way to live that he has known. It's really remarkably well told, and it just keeps you turning pages.

FYI, those two links I just posted are to Goodreads, a great social network for readers. You might want to consider joining -- it's a great place to get book recommendations. :)
posted by leticia at 11:01 AM on July 4, 2012

Raymond Chandler.
posted by adamvasco at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Steven Brust does this for me, in particular the Vlad Taltosh novels. Roger Zelazny's first Amber series grabs you by the throat on the first page as well, but Zelazny has great openings in general:
“His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.” -from Lord of Light
Both authors were heavily influenced by Chandler
posted by bonehead at 11:33 AM on July 4, 2012

With the caveat that I've been teased for being a snob when it comes to suggesting thrilling books: I really, really enjoyed (and was gripped by) The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
posted by morninj at 12:13 PM on July 4, 2012

Confess, Fletch
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2012

Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming (ostensibly a YA novel, but awesome for everyone) gets into the story right away, with just a little bit of flashback to set things up. If you like it, there are seven or eight other related books.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:00 PM on July 4, 2012

Seconding Donald E. Westlake, and adding P.G. Wodehouse. Heavy they ain't, but those books move right along! I was also immediately swept up in Stephen King's latest "11/22/63" -- I've found his later books not worth finishing, but this one is one of the best time travel books I've ever read. And speaking of time travel, "A Bridge of Years" by Robert Charles Wilson is marvelous.

And deserving his own paragraph: Thomas Perry. Open the book, start reading, you're hooked. He has two series, one featuring Jane Whitefield and one The Butcher's Boy, which work even better in read in order, but they're all great. Start with "Metzger's Dog" if you can't decide.

I don't consider myself an "impatient reader" but an older reader well aware of more books every year and fewer years to read them. I get my books exclusively on request from the library, and I stop reading most of them in the first dozen pages. I may be missing a gem, it's true, but my time is too precious to wade through poo hoping there's a pony in there somewhere.

Have fun finding new authors!
posted by kestralwing at 3:12 PM on July 4, 2012

Old adventure stories are good for this. Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, that sort of thing. Maybe Somerset Maugham if you want something a little more refined. More recently Michael Chabon has done a bunch of stuff in that vein. (I can't guarantee Chabon's books are utterly clean; there's non-graphic sex, no gore, but there may be strong language that I'm not remembering in some.)

Some of Balzac's books are good for this too, but then there are some where he drinks a little too much coffee and gets a little too enamored of his own powers of description and spends fifty pages describing the inside of an old pawnshop or whatever.

For strong beginnings in particular, I've noticed Neil Gaiman really has a knack. I mean, he writes pretty plot-driven books in general, but the beginnings of his stories always strike me as especially elegant in terms of getting the plot up and running with minimal fuss and gimmickry.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:25 PM on July 4, 2012

Wool by Hugh Howey. I'd read the Omnibus edition. The book was originally published in 5 parts, but if you like the first part you'll probably want to read all of them.
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:32 AM on July 5, 2012

Thirding Donald Westlake and adding Rafael Sabatini. Yes, I know - old. But he was a best seller for a reason. Lot of free ebooks of his stuff out there.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:38 AM on July 5, 2012

This was fun and it only costs 0.01 on amazon.
posted by adamvasco at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2012

I second Philip Pullman's "Golden Compass" (called "Northern Lights" in some places). I think it's an excellent example of a fantasy story that begins in a compelling way - revealing the special characteristics of the book's protagonist and universe without being at all tedious.
posted by sindark at 10:09 AM on July 5, 2012

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