By Charles Dickens
When stories become iconic, you sometimes forget what made them so special in the first place. They can become the punch line to a joke. But A Tale of Two Cities not only has the best first line ever written—"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"—it's got everything! The novel has wine, guillotines, revolution! It has the storming of the Bastille! It has Madame Defarge, one of the best villains in any literary novel. At the end, it's got a little romantic switcheroo: One man stands in the place of another and dies for the woman he loves. The first line is fitting right now. It's a very have and have-not time. It's certainly the most hopeful period for our country but also a very bleak one for a lot of people.