Can You Guess the Book by Its Last Line?

By Paulette Beete
Photo of a shelf full of books displayed with their spines vertically aligned

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but there are many a first line that have announced, unassailably, that we were in the presence of great literature. You don’t have to be a Bibliophile to recognize Tolstoy’s "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." (Anna Karenina); Jane Austen’s "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." (Pride and Prejudice); or Zora Neale Hurston’s "Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board." (Their Eyes Were Watching God).

But what about last lines? Those bittersweet sentences that cast us back into real life, oftentimes already missing the characters we’ve sojourned with through coming-of-age-and aha! moments, through literal and metaphoric feasts and famines, through love affairs and other assorted calamities. Last lines announce "mission accomplished" with the reader left to decide if the phrase is accompanied by a question mark or an exclamation point. Yet, with such a critical role to play in the reader deciding whether or not the book in question becomes a beloved favorite or not, we don’t seem to remember them as well as those opening lines that set us off on the journey in the first place.

With that in mind, we’ve selected last lines from 12 of the titles in our Big Read Library. Can you guess the book from the last line?

Don’t worry there’s an answer key at the bottom of the page. Visit to learn more about these books and all of the titles in the Big Read Library!

Text over row of books: Can you guess the Big Read book from its last line?

1. “Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”

2. “Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish.”

3. “She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously.”

4. “For now, he starts to read.”

5. “So there was nothing to do but cross the water, and bring her home.”

6. “He drew in a breath, broke off in the middle of it, stretched himself out, and died.”

7. “And the other one quickly answers, ‘Mwen la. Right here, brother. I’m right here.’”

8. “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”

9. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

10. “I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story.”

11. “And when at last he was inside again he composed himself soberly to await the morning sun.”

12. “Through the canopy of trees that line the walkway cutting through the middle of the circle is a store, one that is neither broken nor perfect, one that, regardless of everything, I’m happy to claim as entirely my own.”

1. My Antonia by Willa Cather
2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
6. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
7. Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
8. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
11. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
12. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu