Submitted by CobaltCrusader123 t3_11boxt2 in books

I've been searching online for what people believe are the best fiction chapters of all time are. The most consistent pick I've seen in "The Grand Inquisitor" from The Brothers Karamazov, with the "My mother is a fish" chapter from As I Lay Dying also being popular.

I would also contend that >!Anna's death!< in Anna Karenina is up there. In modern fiction, I also really like >!The Red Wedding!< in A Storm of Swords.

Also, if we're expanding out to non-novel fiction, the last scene of Hamlet is pretty great.


What are you favorite chapters? My book preferences are pretty Eurocentric, so I would love to get your opinions on this.


Also, don't forget to cover spoilers!



You must log in or register to comment.

GRCooper t1_j9z95sh wrote

“The reverse movie version of World War 2” in Slaughterhouse 5


jwelshuk t1_j9zoqr1 wrote

Catch-22 chapter 39 - The Eternal City. Yossarian's journey through a hellish vision of night-time Rome which ends with him discovering that The Maid has been murdered by Arfy and being arrested by the MPs he thought had come for Arfy.


fallllingman t1_ja1lxom wrote

I love how completely different it is from every other chapter, even it’s writing style. It’s nearly jokeless, almost completely lacks satirical punch, it’s just really sad and powerful and Heller’s attempt to give us something real. Without it I don’t think Catch-22 would be remembered as such a masterpiece.


cheesepage t1_ja092bd wrote

At the end of the "Fish" chapter in As I Lay Dying I literally threw the book across the room.

The reverse movie scene in Slaughterhouse Five made me cry as hard as I ever have over a book.

So let me nominate a few more:

The end of the first section of The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy.

The first scene of Underworld, by Don Delillo. (Some of the clearest writing I've ever read.)

The next to last chapter of Ulysses (my favorite) and the last chapter of Ulysses (most critics favorite and my second.)

The first chapter of Beloved by Toni Morrison.


dllh t1_ja1dnvt wrote

+1 to the Underworld opener.


cheesepage t1_ja1hyqv wrote

What a bottle rocket eh? I remember thinking about forty pages in that there was no way he could maintain that level of intensity for the whole book.

Unfortunately I was right. Still an astonishing work, and now I need to go read some more of his stuff.


Shaw-Deez t1_ja04w4z wrote

There’s a chapter in “A visit from the goon squad” where two friends go out swimming in a river and one watches the other drown that is some of the best writing I’ve ever personally read. Either that or the chapter in “The Wind-up bird chronicle” when the general tells the story of being caught by the enemy and tortured in the desert.


IskaralPustFanClub t1_ja1gjb9 wrote

The violence in that Murakami chapter caught me completely off-guard at that point in the novel.


RogertheAlien86 t1_ja91ap5 wrote

“Murakami’s style always lulls me to sleep even if the content is off-putting sometimes, I’ll read a chapter before bed” - Me, about to approach that chapter in the Wind-Up Bird Chronice after having finished and enjoyed 1Q84


Binky-Answer896 t1_ja1bxk8 wrote

“The Symphony” chapter of Moby-Dick.


Cease_Cows_ t1_ja1ln59 wrote

I mean, pick any chapter of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The hurricane chapter is probably my favorite though.


RndmBrutalLoveMaster t1_j9zatk0 wrote

I tend to read books as a whole and don't consider the individual chapters, although maybe this is my sign to start looking at the chapter as its own thing.

I don't know about best of all time, but I remember being really moved in Rabbit, Run by John Updike, when we finally see his wife's perspective. Throughout the whole book, we kind of hear from every character, but we only see Jan through Rabbit's eyes (and it's not flattering). Then when we see her on her own and the terrible climax of the book happens, I felt like I understood exactly how she had ended up in that spot, and felt empathy for her.


MyOwnRobot t1_ja1e8ch wrote

I reread this literally just last week and I was struck the same way by that section. It was empathetic and humane and terribly believable.


selloboy t1_ja0f0gk wrote

Chapter 33 - East of Eden

There are very few specific chapters that I can remember so vividly. I can remember general events and such but no one chapter has stuck in my mind like this one. Tom Hamilton is a minor character in the overall novel but this chapter goes very in depth on him in a way that I still think about.

>!The last line of the chapter, “He was a gallant gentleman.”, makes me sad every time I remember it.!<


IskaralPustFanClub t1_ja17iop wrote

Chapter one of One Hundred Years of Solitude.


Beiez t1_ja2xie0 wrote

Don’t know man, those last few sentences are even pretty amazing as well. I held my breath those last few paragraphs


Endless_01 t1_ja1o4ve wrote

In 1984, when shit goes south and we learn what happens inside Ministry of Love in Room 101. That was an intense climax.


Fine_bobby t1_ja1e5hw wrote

The Major Major Major Major chapter of catch-22 is the best and most entertaining thing I've read. I love catch 22 but I read/listen to that chapter on its own frequently.


Dunlea t1_ja2ddpl wrote

Chapter 4 of Blood Meridian.

A legion of horribles....


Cobra52 t1_j9zfi8z wrote

Anna's death is great, but I would argue the chapter where she finally gives into Vronsky at Princess Betsy's is greater. There's so much tension in the will they won't they, and everyone knows that the moment she commits to him theres no turning back. Her death scene is amazing as well, but I felt pretty miserable about Anna by that point. She was a completely ruined woman which made it difficult reading through her sections, compared to the person she once was. Her suicide feels inevitable and ties up nicely with when she met Vronsky, but it was just so depressing.


CliffGarbin t1_ja132it wrote

I also have some other Karenina moments I prefer to Anna’s death - Levin mowing with the muzhiks, Nikolai meeting Kitty for the first time on his deathbed, and Kitty’s labor all just completely took me in in their own way. I couldn’t pick a single favorite moment. I just finished my first Anna Karenina read and I’m raving to anyone who will listen about it


Cobra52 t1_ja2eovx wrote

It's been years since I've read it but my mind keeps going back to it, its really one of the best novels ever written


princessoflatin t1_ja1n6sz wrote

Quentin Compson’s monologue in The Sound and The Fury is up there


Mobork t1_ja3kaog wrote

"The Scholar's Tale" in Hyperion.


dragon-snapple-01 t1_j9ze0yx wrote

Most memorable for me is chapter 5 of The Grapes of Wrath.


Fine_bobby t1_ja1eccy wrote

Chapter 14 also sticks out as super anti-capitalist


Maleficent_Sector619 t1_ja16oqv wrote

For those who have read Anna Karenina, I really enjoyed Levin in the wheatfields


dllh t1_ja1dzh2 wrote

There's a really great section in Gass's The Tunnel about a grasshopper swarm. Sounds weird, but it really knocked my socks off.


fallllingman t1_ja1lbj0 wrote

Could you remind me of what it was? I read it maybe a year or two ago and I can’t remember it. I loved the chapter on his affair with Lou and the literary tirade in chapter 2.


dllh t1_ja1ohn4 wrote

It was the "Uncle Balt and the Nature of Being" section roughly 1/5 of the way in (around page 117 of my 600+ page edition). It may not be the best of all time, but it sure hit me right when I first read it.


fallllingman t1_ja1ovyx wrote

I loved the descriptions of childhood in small town America (and how the familiar setting creates a sort of uniquely American evil). What I remember most, I think from that section, is his description of driving with his father, which is word-for-word what I experienced.


Indotex t1_j9zlvn5 wrote

The first chapter that comes to mind is the first one in Ian Fleming’s “Goldfinger.” I’m pretty sure that it’s called “Reflections in a Glass of Bourbon” where Bond reflects on how he just killed a man while drinking bourbon.


NascantNeptune t1_ja0l22x wrote

So I'm not sure about putting this up against Dostoevsky or some of the beautiful writing of Nabokov for instance, but there's a chapter towards the end of The Peripheral by William Gibson that I've always respected which is just a conversation between two characters - but what I love is that it's direct dialogue (between speech marks, line by line) but with no need for indicators of who is speaking (e.g. X said... Y replied). He doesn't even introduce who is talking. You just get the dialogue alone.

It's just not necessary by that point to say who it is because he's developed the voices of the two characters so well that you instantly know, and the context is clear too.

I just always felt that it was evidence of a writer who had made the effort to make distinct characters with clear voices - you had really got to know these people. A bit of a writerly flex too I guess.


fallllingman t1_ja1mjaw wrote

The final 200 pages of In Search of Lost Time (which count as basically a chapter in a book that big) are told like a book-length essay and grapple with the meaning of life itself. It is truly something life-changing.

Like another commenter has said, the final two chapters of Ulysses are serious contenders, as is the third chapter and Oxen of the Sun (?), where Joyce chronicles the birth of modern language through prose describing a birth. Ulysses, in general, is the best book ever written so really anything from it except the Wandering Rocks could count.

The final section of Tristram Shandy has the best joke in literature, and the chapter in The Recognitions that describes a party as a jungle should count for its amazing prose. Under the Volcano’s carousel chapter is great for its description of an alcoholic losing everything in his life before his eyes.


NegativePraline7351 t1_ja1qvb0 wrote

The penultimate chapter of Faulkner’s Light in August—the one charting the entire life of Reverend Hightower. Still haven’t encountered a chapter so perfect.


The_Red_Curtain t1_ja2bym1 wrote

The last chapter or Hadji Murad by Tolstoy


vbcbandr t1_ja2dg89 wrote

The Grand Inquisitor was my first thought. From a literary standpoint, I am sure there are better but it amazingly combines religion, philosophy, literature and the human condition into one 17 page chapter...quite incredible.


librician t1_ja2ij3h wrote

First chapter of White Oleander by Janet Fitch.


PrimalHonkey t1_ja2lemu wrote

“Snow”, The Magic Mountain


SetiabistariAlpha t1_ja2vz4j wrote

Ralph chapter in James Agee’s A Death In The Family.


Mehitabel9 t1_j9z0266 wrote

I don't have a copy of it near at hand, so I can't tell you exactly which chapter it is, but in Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate there is a chapter in which one of the main characters >!attends an anti-nuke protest, and at the protest a priest gets up and makes an impassioned speech that just takes my breath away every time I read it.!< (You said no spoilers, although the chapter I'm talking about here is not key to moving the book's plot forward so there's no harm in peeking).


natalielynne t1_ja3k12u wrote

Chapter 42 of The Portrait of a Lady, when Isabel is hit with the realization of who her husband truly is.

I read it on the beach on a tab of acid and it blew me away. Then once I finished the book I read that it’s regarded as the best prose in the novel.


Sumtimesagr8notion t1_ja6md6a wrote

Things you learn in a halfway house section in Infinite Jest

Suttree's fever and near death

Chapter one of Unlimited Dream Company

The chapter at the hotel/beach at the beginning of part 2 of Gravity's rainbow

The cruise ship chapter in Ada or Ardor

Chapter 2 of The Corrections


Retropepe234 t1_jace616 wrote

Beware of pity- Stefan Zweig. 🙂


fckuse t1_jadmqe1 wrote

I'd also add Levin mowing the wheat in Anna Karina and the Wolf hunt in War and Peace


fckuse t1_jadnlzm wrote

the opening of Don DeLillo's Underworlds - which recreates the National League pennant match in which the New York Giants defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers is one of the most riveting pieces of writing I've ever read. The book didn't live up to the promise, but WHAT an opener!


BobTheTalkingSkull t1_j9zdpta wrote

The Last Battle in A Memory of Light, the last book in The Wheel of Time.


jodofdamascus1494 t1_ja0wrls wrote

That’s cheating, it’s the size of a small book in of itself(for those who don’t know, it’s like 300 pages, or 9 hours on audiobook). It is awesome though.


TheNerdChaplain t1_ja1rjtr wrote

So many scenes I could pick from that series. But if I could only pick one, I'd say "Weep for Manetheren. Weep for what was lost."


Dizzle85 t1_ja05jrj wrote

"The Bloody Nine" in "the blade itself". We finally meet him, or maybe he finally let's us see who he is. You have to be realistic about these things.


safeb0x t1_ja03rdz wrote

"The Dragon and the Dog" in Rhythm of War by Sanderson.


IskaralPustFanClub t1_ja17lmo wrote

You really think the best chapter of fiction of all time came from Brandon Sanderson?


safeb0x t1_ja1jbs8 wrote

>What are you favorite chapters?

Mine. Doesn't have to be yours. Thanks!


narvuntien t1_j9yy74q wrote

The last chapter of Mistborn/The Final Empire.


VrinTheTerrible t1_j9yyefq wrote

Funny, I was thinking Kaladin vs. Szeth in Words of Radiance. Kelsier vs. The Lord Ruler is great too!


narvuntien t1_j9z4ybr wrote

Well, Vin Lord Ruler in my case. Kelsier vs Lord Ruler hit like a truck though

I started the last chapter but then I had planned to go out that night and I had to put it down but... I couldn't enjoy myself out knowing that there were people in the book that needed me to know how it was resolved.

Storm light archive books are far more of a slow grind compared to Mistborn ones


VrinTheTerrible t1_j9zon91 wrote

Sanderson has said that Stormlight is where he wanted to take his time and just let the story go super deep. It shows.

The last 200 pages of every Stormlight book has been fantastic though.