Reaching the end of a great read can be a bittersweet experience. You’re happy to finally see how your beloved characters’ storylines wrap up, but you aren’t quite ready to leave their engaging world. The books with amazing last lines that leave you wanting more may be funny, poignant, or heartbreaking. But they are all unforgettable and worth your time.
Reading the last lines will not spoil these books for you in any way, but they may entice you to discover a new favorite author. After all, writers often use their parting words to show off the most poetic and beautiful aspects of their work. By starting at the end, so to speak, you can gain an immediate sense of these writers’ talents.
So if you were wowed by the books that hook you from the first line, chances are you will appreciate these reads as well. These authors are masters of their craft, and you will be sad to see their stories draw to a close. But having the chance to live in these writers’ worlds for a while makes all of these books worth your time. After all, if you are impressed by the last line of a book before you read it, consider how much more impact those words will have in context.
1. 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' by Milan Kundera
Last Line: "Up out of the lampshade, startled by the overhead light, flew a large nocturnal butterfly that began circling the room. The strains of the piano and violin rose up weakly from below."
A lyrical study of two couples' most intimate lives, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera is a book that begs for multiple readings. By the time you get to the beautiful last lines, you'll want to flip back the opening page and begin again. Intelligent and erotic, this cerebral love story will stay with you for years to come.
2. 'Cat's Eye' by Margaret Atwood
Last Line: "It’s old light, and there’s not much of it. But it’s enough to see by."
When she returns to her hometown of Toronto for a retrospective, artist Elaine Risley must confront a lifetime's worth of memories. Mentors and old frenemies alike return to the forefront of her mind. Few authors capture the visceral reality of womanhood as well as Margaret Atwood, and Cat's Eye is no exception.
3. 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak
Last Line: "I am haunted by humans."
The line is interesting enough on its own, but here's a secret: Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is narrated by Death. This is just one reason this story of 1940s Nazi Germany is so compelling — and ultimately hopeful. Follow young Liesel as she steals books to cope with the horrors of war.
4. 'A Good Man Is Hard To Find' by Flannery O’Connor
Last Line: “Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. “It’s no real pleasure in life.”
Flannery O’Connor's short story collection A Good Man Is Hard To Find is a biting look at the rural South and all its contradictions and weirdnesses. Spiritual and sarcastic, these stories will stay with you for years to come.
5. 'Like Water for Chocolate' by Laura Esquivel
Last Line: "How wonderful the flavor, the aroma of her kitchen, her stories as she prepared the meal, her Christmas Rolls! I don't know why mine never turn out like hers, or why my tears flow so freely when I prepare them - perhaps I am as sensitive to onions as Tita, my great-aunt, who will go on living as long as there is someone who cooks her recipes."
Romantic, sweet, and funny, Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel follows the charmed life of Tita on a ranch in Mexico. While she is a born chef, Tita faces hardships when tradition forbids her from marrying the man she loves.
6. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Last Line: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald boasts one of the most beautiful closing lines in all literature. If you haven't read this Jazz Age story about eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby, treat yourself today. And even if you covered this in high school, it's worth a revisit now.
7. 'The Accidental Apprentice' by Vikas Swarup
Last Line: "I don't believe in lotteries: I believe in myself. Life does not always gives us what we desire, but eventually it gives us what we deserve."
Combining crime fiction and a hard look at the realities of India's backstreets, Vikas Swarup's The Accidental Apprentice is thrilling and engaging. This offering from the author of Slumdog Millionaire looks at the disparities of wealth and the allure of crime.
8. 'Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight' by Alexandra Fuller
Last Line: "It's Life carrying on. It's the next breath we all take. It's the choice we make to get on with it."
If you love memoirs, then this is a must-read. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller portrays the reality of life in 1970s Africa. It examines race relations, poverty, politics, and everyday life in a poignant and humorous manner.
9. 'Love In The Time Of Cholera' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Last Line: "'And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?’ he asked. Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights. ‘Forever,’ he said."
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love In the Time of Cholera is a rich meditation on the many forms of love. Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall in love, but over fifty years intervene before they can realize their relationship.